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Dead iPad Contributes To Class B Airspace Violation... What Would You Do?

Do you have a backup plan in case your EFB fails? Here's what happened to one pilot as he approached busy Class B airspace in Chicago.

NASA Report - Class B Violation

We pulled the following NASA ASRS report, detailing a worst-case scenario for a pilot relying on an EFB for navigation around busy airspace:

I departed from DPA, DuPage airport, for a return flight home. It was my first time flying into or out of Chicago Class B airspace. I requested flight following while on the ground at DuPage Ground and was denied the squawk code and told to ask for flight following once in the air from Chicago departure. DuPage tower gave me a right traffic clearance (southwest) and set up a gentle climb to 3,900 feet.

During climb, my iPad screen went dead. I lost all iPad visuals. At the time of the power loss, my screen showed my geo-referenced mini airplane just approaching the Class B airspace ring. I was radioing in for my flight following squawk code and had just received it. I was in the process of tuning my code into the transponder. Unnerved with the loss of my iPad, I tried to power up the unit when I got a call from a Chicago Center controller yelling at me, which did nothing but make the situation tense for me. At that time I was most concerned with flying the airplane due to thermals and choppy air during the climbout. There is no excuse for penetrating the 4,000 foot Class B Airspace ring. I made a mistake. I was rattled due to the loss of my VFR Direct iPad screen. I honestly thought I was beyond the Class B ring but evidently, I was very wrong.


Class B Airspace Is Highly Monitored

Class B airspace protects some of the busiest commercial airports in the world. You'll find a constant flow of airliners and regional jets arriving and departing, and, no matter what the weather, Class B airspace is always busy.

Add to the mix corporate jets, cargo operations, and personal aircraft on both VFR (Visual Flight Rules) and IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) flight plans, and you've got a busy mess. To accommodate all of these flights, Class B airspace has some of the strictest equipment and communication requirements of any airspace.

Andres Nieto Porras

Air Traffic Control makes Class B airspace possible by constantly monitoring and separating each flight in the airspace; that's also why it has some of the most relaxed weather minimums because ATC always has eyes on you. Approach and departure control transitions aircraft into and out of the airspace and tower controllers sequence them in for landing and takeoff.

ATC controls everything you do in Class B airspace. As you're learning about the airspace and its requirements, keep in mind that they're in place so that you and ATC remain in constant communication. ATC is always aware of where you're at and what you're doing.

Sam Chui

Don't Forget To Use Pilotage Skills

When you're flying VFR in a busy terminal environment, do your best to give adequate space between you Class B airspace. If you plan to fly through Class B airspace, make sure to call ATC as soon as you can for clearance, to avoid situations where you're approaching an airspace boundary and can't get a word in over a busy frequency.

One of the best things you can do is to compare landmarks to charted airspace. Giving yourself a ground-based, visual reference for where airspace boundaries intersect is a tried and true method.

What Would You Do?

Many pilots rely on electronic flight bags (EFBs) for navigation. They're excellent tools for complex route planning, weather briefings, chart storage, and much more. But like any electronic device, they can have glitches, software problems, or dead batteries.

What would you do to avoid a situation like this? Would you use paper charts? Would you carry a spare EFB? Or would you have descended/turned around entirely? Tell us in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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