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Pilot Decision Making


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

The Bay Tour

Now that the spring weather is almost here, (Here Now), the “Bay Tour” is on many pilot’s flight agenda. The Bay Tour is a great way to see the entire peninsula and is a real treat for out-of-town guests.  So what is the Bay Tour?


First the disclaimer, the following Bay Tour information summarizes one possible route and procedure available to pilots. Each pilot’s flight situation may vary. It is highly recommended that a pilot who is not familiar with the Bay Tour consider dual flight with a CFI who is familiar with the routes, airspace, and communications.


Let’s follow a typical Bay Tour departing from SQL.


Before the Flight –

Start by briefing passengers regarding the intended route and encourage them to bring sunglasses and a camera.


The Route –

We will depart SQL and fly northwest into SFO Class B airspace (with a clearance) remaining southwest of highway 101.  We will cross the departure corridor for SFO runways 28L and 28R just northwest of SFO, then continue north over San Bruno mountain and directly toward downtown San Francisco and Angle Island beyond. At Angle Island we will turn right and head towards Emeryville and Berkeley. We will continue southeast along the East Bay, over the Oakland Coliseum, over OAK runway 29 numbers, and mid-span San Mateo Bridge back to SQL.


The Pre Flight –


Let’s start our preflight planning with weight and balance calculations, weather briefing (with TFRs), and familiarization (study the chart) including the SFO class B, SFO/OAK airspace, and expected communications frequencies.


The Flight –

After loading the aircraft, hop-in and let’s go).

·       Listen to the ATIS and pay special attention to the remarks section at the end. At SQL the ATIS remarks section may contain “San Francisco is NOT accepting any VFR transitions”, then use Plan B below.

·       Call SQL ground and request to taxi and append your taxi request with either Plan A or B. Plan A is “Request a Bay Tour (101 transition)” or Plan B¸”Request a Bay Tour with NorCal”. SQL ground will respond with taxi instructions plus additional instructions for the Bay Tour including  SFO Tower 120.5 (plan A) frequency, OR  NorCal 135.x (plan B), and a squawk code. Taxi over to the run-up area, complete the run-up checklist, then switch to SQL tower 119.0 and ask for a takeoff clearance.

·       Shortly after takeoff, usually abeam Bay Meadows, SQL tower will say “Skyhawk 1234 remain outside of SFO class B and contact (Plan A) San Francisco tower 120.5, OR (Plan B) NorCal 135.x”. Switch to the appropriate frequency (KSFO tower or NorCal) and say (Plan A) “San Francisco tower, Skyhawk 1234 just off San Carlos 1000’ for the Bay Tower” OR (Plan B) “NorCal, Skyhawk 1234 just off San Carlos 1000’ for the Bay Tour”.

·       We will receive the following instructions, (Plan A) “Skyhawk 1234, San Francisco tower, cleared into class B at or below 2000’ remain southwest of highway 101 (or keep 101 on your right)”. Our read-back would be “Skyhawk 1234, cleared into class B, at or below 2000’, remain southwest of highway 101”.

·       Then we fly southwest of 101 (i.e. 101 on our right side) at or below 2000’, crossing the SFO 28L/28R departure corridor and continue north across South San Francisco, downtown, and Angel Island.

·       We turn right at Angel Island and fly towards Emeryville/Berkeley where we turn right again and continue south east towards Oakland. In the vicinity of Berkeley/Emeryville, we call NorCal and say “NorCal, Skyhawk 1234, over Berkeley, request transition Oakland, landing San Carlos”. NorCal says “Skyhawk 1234, NorCal, cross the Oakland coliseum at 2500’ for an OAK transition“. Our read back would be “Skyhawk 1234 cross the Oakland Coliseum at 2500”.

·       Before we reach the Coliseum, NorCal usually calls us “Skyhawk 1234, NorCal, contact Oakland north tower on 118.3”. Our read back is “Skyhawk 1234 contact north Oakland tower on 118.3”. We call Oakland tower “Oakland tower, Skyhawk 1234 with you over coliseum at 2500’ “.  Oakland tower responds “Skyhawk 1234, Oakland tower, cross the 29 numbers (i.e. fly over OAK runway 29 numbers) at 2000’, then proceed to the mid span of the San Mateo Bridge. Contact Oakland south tower on 127.2” Our response “Skyhawk 1234 cross the 29 numbers, then mid span San Mateo Bridge, contact Oakland south tower 127.2”. 

·       Shortly after crossing the OAK 29 numbers, Oakland tower says “Skyhawk 1234, Oakland tower, cross the  San Mateo Bridge at or below 1400’, keep your squawk code, and contact San Carlos tower on 119.0”. Our read back is “Skyhawk 1234, cross the San Mateo Bridge at or below 1400’, keep the squawk code, and contact San Carlos on 119.0”.

·       At this point we contact San Carlos tower “Skyhawk 1234 mid span San Mateo bridge at 1400’, landing with information G  …)

Simple, just a lot of communications AND a beautiful scenic flight… Enjoy.