Who likes Block Altitudes?

Discussion in 'Cleared for the Approach' started by FORANE, Nov 2, 2013.

  1. FORANE

    FORANE Pattern Altitude

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    I am instrument rated and current. I fly on the days when just about nobody else is out there, but I have never requested a block altitude and was just wondering about it.

    Just wondering what situations you guys use block altitudes for, do you file for it or request after airborne, any tips, etc...
     
  2. poadeleted20

    poadeleted20 Deleted

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    I've used block altitudes for air-to-air refueling, Alpha Strikes, and other large formations of military aircraft. Those were all preplanned and prefiled via an Altitude Reservation (ALTRV).

    We once used it so we could roll an A-6 Intruder upside down to retrieve a pencil that had dropped into the bottom of the cockpit where it could hang up in the flight control linkages. In civilian life, I've used it only a few time, mostly for instrument training purposes, e.g., to allow doing an unusual attitude recovery in IMC. Those things were done on the spot with a request to ATC, and termination of the block within a couple of minutes.
     
  3. Walt

    Walt Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I request block altitudes to stay between layers or on top when ice is likely. Sometimes use it for descents when it seems the controller is planning a turbine descent profile for me.
     
  4. frfly172

    frfly172 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Works real well if there is ice in the clouds,Atc very understanding. Also in moderate turbulence.
     
  5. d.grimm

    d.grimm Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I use block altitudes when going for max range in our Lear 45.
    I usually get a block 450 to 470 and climb to 460 for about 45 minutes
    To burn enough fuel to get to 470 and maintain a decent speed.
    Dave
     
  6. FORANE

    FORANE Pattern Altitude

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    ok, Ice in clouds...I get that. When conditions are such that temps are below zero and clouds are present where I intend to fly, I will typically scud run VFR. Sometimes though I will encounter ice; in those situations I typically have an out planned ahead such as descent. I see that requesting a block might have utility in that situation.

    And Ron, I am disappointed. I thought you military types were capable of rolling inverted in IMC while maintaining ATP flight standards.:wink2:
     
  7. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    The main time I use block altitudes is to keep as low as possible over icy clouds to minimize headwinds, or to prepare for a descent. I've also asked for block altitudes when it's really bumpy out for passenger comfort (lets me roll with the waves rather than try to maintain a specific altitude), and did it once in Canada when the controller wouldn't give me a wrong direction altitude, but would give me a block altitude that amounted to me flying at the same altitude. That had to do with staying over an icy cloud layer and passenger comfort.

    Summary: They're a great tool, use them.
     
  8. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Mostly military stuff. As Ron said air to air refueling. Given quite a few ALTRV clearances to KC-10s with chicks (F-18s) in tow. Sometimes emergencies require it. Had a Hornet request it to dump fuel because of an engine failure right after take off. RC-12 guys will do it ocassionaly while doing their orbits.

    Civilian side, not as common. A lot of times VFR on top will suffice. If you need it for some reason just request it. If it's a lightly trafficked airspace it'll most likely get approved.
     
  9. Everskyward

    Everskyward Administrator Management Council Member

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    I used block altitudes for mapping, also block airspace.
     
  10. FORANE

    FORANE Pattern Altitude

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    Thia will have to be next. I have never requested it either.
     
  11. Alexb2000

    Alexb2000 En-Route

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    I use them all the time.

    For example:

    Crossing a front I want to be able to change altitude at will.
    Mountain wave
    Variable cloud heights with icing
     
  12. airguy

    airguy Cleared for Takeoff

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    Only once, VFR with FF fighting mountain waves. I called center and advised them I was unable to maintain altitude at 10,500 due to mountain waves and they immediately gave me a BIG block, 8000-14000 if I remember right, but that was a long time ago.
     
  13. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Done it only once as a pilot to get on top and then cancel. Knew my destination was VFR so no need to retain the IFR.

    As a controller only seen a few use it enroute. You'll see something like OTP/55 in the remarks. I suppose the biggest reason is just not wanting to fly IMC (maybe icing) for a long duration and not wanting to climb another 2,000 ft (if applying direction of flight) to stay VMC. Or possibly a particularly good ride at a VFR altitude.

    Did it a bunch at Miramar with helos departing. We'd get fogged in a lot but Pendleton was in the clear. Give them a VFR OTP up to 3,000, they'd cancel once on top, then proceed VFR direct to the range.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2013
  14. Immelman

    Immelman Pre-Flight

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    I've requested a block to avoid IMC for passenger comfort. Also when I felt there was a good chance for some serious wave. Ice avoidance is a good reason.

    Block altitudes are also good for playing pretend fighter pilot and cloud skimming. Shhhh, don't tell the FAA: You're not supposed to be allowed to have fun IFR ;-)
     
  15. Captain

    Captain Final Approach

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    Y'all gonna think I'm a sissy, but I do it on the few times I've had a differed auto pilot. I can hand fly just fine and hold altitude to ATP standards, but for peace of mind I request a thousand above and below. It's free and ATC almost always approves it. Now I don't have to sweat if I or my copilot drift off altitude.
     
  16. Approach_controller

    Approach_controller Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I've issued it for military traffic, typically heavies in non standard formation, I've also issued it to part 135 EAS guys doing maneuvers during checkout/recurrent.

    As a pilot I/my CFII requested it so my long cross country could be done chasing clouds to stay in actual as much as possible.

    Military tankers tend to make the request for a block. Everyone else just asks after departure.
     
  17. CRAFT

    CRAFT Pre-Flight

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    I also like and use block altitudes for all the reasons stated, except refueling and flying my Piper inverted.:hairraise:
     
  18. 3393RP

    3393RP En-Route

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    At first glance I read "napping". :D
     
  19. Everskyward

    Everskyward Administrator Management Council Member

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    Could be that too. :D

    Although with mapping you are usually more engaged with what you are doing than, say, in cruise.
     
  20. Speed

    Speed Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I request block altitudes on long flights when we are trying to maximize the performance of the airplane. Typically above FL450, climb a few hundred feet as we can until getting to 490 or 510, then cancel the block. Works like a charm.
     
  21. FORANE

    FORANE Pattern Altitude

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    ok. A couple of you kerosene guys have mentioned this. I had no idea. Is this because ATC wants to see a 500 fpm minimum climb rate? Do any piston guys do this when unable to maintain 500 fpm through requested altitude or just report unable to climb at 500 fpm?
     
  22. Speed

    Speed Pre-takeoff checklist

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    It's also due to just not being able to make the climb, and above RVSM your altitudes for your direction are separated by 4,000 ft instead of 2,000. That's a big jump. We will typically go up in 500ft increments after getting a block altitude, and it might take an hour at 45,500 before we can go to 46,000, and so forth. I do trips from China back to the MidWest, and if we can do that we can usually make it back non-stop (14 hour flight). If we get stuck down at 410, we'll end up having to stop in Fargo.

    The only time I can remember using a block altitude in a light aircraft was instructing in the Dallas area, and wanting to stay in thin layers of clouds with my instrument students while getting vectored around for approaches. The controllers were quite accommodating to that when I explained my request.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2013
  23. Captain

    Captain Final Approach

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    In this situation I don't do the block altitude, instead ill just request a 'slow climb' and climb at 100 or 200 fpm. With that said, if I can't do the 500 fpm then I probably don't have any business going up another 2K. If its a super long flight, fuel is tight, AND my airspeed / pitch attitude combo are okay (ISA dependent) then I may go the slow climb route. It's pretty rare though.
     
  24. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down

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    Haven't really needed one. I do like cruise clearances in the middle of the night though going to Podunk nowhere.
     
  25. Hank S

    Hank S En-Route

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    I've asked for block altitude in IMC fighting updrafts. The first time ATC was holding me in the soup at 7000, and I hit a large updraft; pulled throttle back to 15", gave her 10 degrees nose down and was climbing > 1000 fpm. This was near Columbia, SC, so mountain wave was not an issue. The clouds were pretty dark, though. They cleared me 7000-9000, but not the 10,000 I had filed until I reported scattered blue visible from 9000 and requested my filed altitude again. Then into smooth air and clear, bright sunlight.
     
  26. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    I've never done that, I've just advised when I'm unable to maintain 500 FPM. If it's 400 I don't usually say anything, and they never have, either.

    Just curious, what type of plane?
     
  27. Speed

    Speed Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Gulfstream 550
     
  28. EvilEagle

    EvilEagle Cleared for Takeoff

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    Formation of civilian planes, allows you to cloud chase and be legal. :) it's fun.
     
  29. coma24

    coma24 Line Up and Wait

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    ice and cloud avoidance. VOT not so great for cloud avoidance due to cloud separation requirements.

    I cancel the block as soon as I'm done with it.
     
  30. Soldier64

    Soldier64 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I've only ever used block altitudes in combat but they are very useful there to make sure you can focus on the fight and a little less on the air traffic.
     
  31. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    I figured it was probably one of those G-planes.

    How do you handle the Fargo stop if needed? Just call in-flight if you realize you won't be able to make it the whole way home?
     
  32. Speed

    Speed Pre-takeoff checklist

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    You wouldn't believe the amount of planning that goes into these flights... Most of the time we don't make the call until we coast in. Our solution is to call the customs office in Fargo a day or so in advance to talk to them and let them know we might be dropping in short notice, and get an after-hours number if we need it. They are pretty easy to work with which is why we use Fargo. Anchorage, not so much.
     
  33. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    I would suspect that it's pretty substantial on the planning side, given the number of countries you're crossing, distance and winds, etc.

    Honestly those sorts of trips are fascinating. I'd love to get the experience of flying jump seat sometime just to get an idea of what's involved. Whole 'nother level, even from my travels.
     
  34. Speed

    Speed Pre-takeoff checklist

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    You'd have loved my last one. I visited 9 countries in less than two weeks. Course most of all I saw was inside customs and inside the hotels. :rolleyes:
     
  35. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    That sounds like my typical trip as well. Went down to Belize last December. Got to my destination around dinner time. Had a good meal, slept, had a crappy breakfast, back in the plane and on my way back to the States.
     
  36. W. Stewart

    W. Stewart Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I have been issued a block altitude when dealing with mountain waves. That was helpful to preserve some semblance of airspeed--I hate watching cars on the interstate below passing me!

    Wells