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Is the UK transition altitude ignored by GA?

Wasn’t sure whether to add this to UK may be going for 18000ft transition altitude

Flying to Perranporth EGTP and back VFR at FL 45 and FL55 I had to confirm altitude/level repeatedly with Farnborough, Exeter and Newquay radars, to the point I felt I was doing something wrong. I checked the AIP at home, and transition is at 3000’ unless in or under named CTR/CTA/TMAs, where it’s 5000’ or 6000’. Ideally I’d have flown higher but there’s a bit of class A over Exeter at FL65 (it’s my choice to fly semicircular even if not required) – does anyone know why the semicircular rule isn’t used?

My question: do UK VFR pilots not fly on 1013.25? I asked a couple I know and didn’t really get a straight answer. Or have I missed something?

Perranporth is ok, with not much going on. The town with its big beach is within folding bike range, although downhill will drastically shorten the life of your brakes and uphill is at least 50% walking. Also close by are beautiful small coves, cliffs and beaches which you see taking off and landing.

EGHO-LFQF-KCLW, United Kingdom

Transition altitudes are a bit messed up here. It’s 6000 here, 3000 there, etc. It’s not the operational norm to have it all memorised.

When operating outside controlled airspace and not in receipt of a service, I don’t think many fly on 1013, unless you become aware you’re getting closer to the base of controlled airspace…….

Last Edited by James_Chan at 03 Jul 11:22

I occasionally go high enough to be theoretically using 1013 but if I ever report a FL, the ATSU tends to (a) give me a QNH or RPS and (b) sound confused that I am using a FL. Even crossing the channel recently where the Class A boundary above me is defined by a FL, the London FIS person tried to give me a QNH before apparently realising and using FL. Perhaps they just assume (with some justification!) that light aeroplanes run around under 2000 feet. It is one of the reasons that I get above 3000 whenever practical, I feel a lot safer from traffic.

strip near EGGW

I use 1013 when en route and above the transition level. For me, this usually means up and down the east coast of the UK using the RAF provided LARS services. It seems to me that the service is better i.e. “flight level 55” elicits a different style of response to “2,000 ft”. However, I think it depends on what the transition level is for the airspace that the unit is controlling, so FL55 probably wouldn’t be well received by Farnborough radar, for example.

Top Farm, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom

Thanks for the info – I feel happier about it now and will keep using the flight levels

EGHO-LFQF-KCLW, United Kingdom

I use the flight levels. However, the first part of any cross country flying I do is over the sea, so the transition altitude is low there (I prefer to go over the sea as high as practical!)

Andreas IOM

UK pilots tend to fly at all kinds of levels, mostly disregarding the semicircular levels.

Those who follow their training tend to fly at 2000ft, or 1000-1500ft for a better view, and many of those are non-transponding. The rest fly as high as they can. Personally I fly at 3300 3700 4300 4700 5300 etc.

However, as regards QNH v. FL (QNH=1013) this must depend on what the CAS base is.

If it is defined as altitude (which most UK CAS is, below ~6000ft, and you have to reference the VFR chart) then you are supposed to use the QNH of whichever airport owns that CAS, and that is true everywhere, not just the UK. So if flying past say Gatwick EGKK you should dial the EGKK ATIS and get their QNH, or in practice if you are Shoreham based you just use that. And allow a margin of say 200-300ft. In many cases you will be talking to that airport anyway and they will give you the QNH.

If it is defined as a FL then you set 1013.

This is a bit like the UK post CAS bust tutorial / fake exam process but really there is no question about what the altimeter subscale should be set to for CAS avoidance.

If I was flying in Class G in places like Scotland where you can go high, I would fly at FL if above about 6000ft, but in Class G nobody cares if you are at 14567ft…

Never use the “regional pressure setting” as issued by e.g. London Information. That is good for terrain clearance only and you can bust CAS with it, and the CAA won’t give you any credit

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

The regional pressure setting is always 5mb lower than the actual pressure setting, too, so if you use it you’ll always be at least roughly 150 feet higher than if you were to use the setting that’s on the ATIS from the nearest airport.

Andreas IOM

It could be more than 5mb. It depends on the pressure gradient within the altimeter setting region – a truly bizzare idea. I am pretty sure I have seen 10mb or more.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I’ve been told to use Lossie QFE when in contact with Lossie Radar, although not near their MATZ. Some operators believe VFR civilian traffic in Class G are under their control.

EGPE, United Kingdom
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