A few weeks ago I posted something to my Instagram story about “Dating by Airspace”. From that post, I received close to 30 questions about it. That may not seem like a lot, but it made me wonder if the story should come forward.
As many of you know, I am a CFI, which for those that don’t work in the industry means I am a Certified Flight Instructor. I do see the professionalism in it but I do have to still giggle at the “certified” part. It sounds as though it should come with stickers and maybe, just maybe, some fireworks. A CFI can teach someone how to fly a single-engine airplane. I can also teach people to fly in and out of the clouds, (called instrument flying) and multiengine airplanes, and now also single-engine seaplanes. I have been flight instructing for 15 years now, since 2002.
Flight instructors are known for drawing analogies and parallels to make the unknown relatable to that which you already are familiar with. There is one humorous lesson I have taught since I was in my early 20’s called “Dating by Airspace” which relates personalities to airspace. Many of you may have taken the Briggs-Myers or Jung’s personality tests and “Dating by Airspace” is really my take on applying the fundamentals of airspace rules and creating different personality types based on them. It’s not meant to discriminate, demean, or insinuate that one airspace is better than the other. Everyone is different and diversity is what makes living such a wonderful thing. How boring life would be if we were all the same!
So, because I did promise to write about it, the following is a CliffsNotes 101 version of the now infamous “Dating by Airspace” by yours truly, Marissa Colclasure. It is by no means to be used as sole instruction but is instead purely for comical relief.
Below is a glimpse of what airspace looks like depicted on an aeronautical chart. Looks confusing for those who do not fly right? Charts, like maps, are what people used for aerial navigation before all of the gee-whiz automation. While this is one piece of paper, it is actually three dimensional, which makes “Dating by Airspace” more difficult unless you really examine and understand where you are. If you looked at the chart and thought you were in one airspace you might, in reality, be in another completely. So let me break down each class for you.
This photo is really the foundation and reference for this lesson using the K.I.S.S. method (Keep It Simple Sassafrass).
Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived barefoot children that ran through the fields, hopping fences and staying out until the sunset and the sounds of the night filled the air. They looked to the sky with wide-eyed wonder. They dreamed, laughed, wished and hoped under that big sky. These children were the rarest of all as they did not fit in with the rest. They were the outcasts, the dreamers, the high school drop-outs. All diverse, from different backgrounds, different ethnicities, and different faiths, but the sky was always what bonded them. And so these wanderers were called the Gypsies. There was not a name for this airspace, in the beginning, it was just the wild blue. Runways were any field, road, a piece of earth to land on or take off from. Navigation was organic and simple, watching for concrete arrows on the ground pointing to large cities, and water towers from which to read the name of what magical town they happened to be over.
As the diagram lists above, no communications are required to enter with the Gypsies. This airspace, boys and girls, is what we call Gypsy airspace. Once it was all we knew and now is hard to find. With any airspace, if you never venture out of what you know, like the barefoot child that never pushed themselves out of Gypsy, you could be reckless. Change and growth in perspective is always a good thing.
As time grew on, more and more Gypsies took to the skies. Flying became less and less from the heart but for a hobby, a box to check or ego to boost. The next airspace that grew into existence was Elementary airspace. The Gypsies of the fields, barefoot and free started to learn rules with others. People from all other walks of life and those with money began intermixing in this ever-changing airspace known as Elementary School…I mean, airspace. This is where egos clash and can feel a lot like a childhood drama. Elementary school, oops, I keep doing that, I mean airspace, still very much exists today. While the sky is free from prejudice, sometimes these pilots cannot play well together when left alone and many times being in their presence can feel like dealing with Elementary childish games. They may or may not play well with others.
As time went on more and more pilots came to the skies and busier airports were born. The airspace to protect that busier airport was called Daily (Joes and Janes). Now, these Daily folks are the 9-5ers. They typically have a 9-5 job, own a man or woman cave. They turn on the tv when they get home and after the tower closes become E airspace. It’s a daily routine and while the sky speaks to them it’s channeled in a very unique way for them in their life. In ways, they may speak to the sky more than the sky speaks to them. To enter into Daily airspace there can be an acquaintance type relationship. Tower really doesn’t need to know your name when establishing communications and when you leave the airspace the Daily’s life continues own same as it was before in the comfort level they are accustomed to. As long as their world remains in Daily, life is perfect. It’s within the box, organized. I have many dear family and friends that are Daily’s and the world needs people like this.
Passengers began traveling on planes and airports grew even bigger in more congested cities. Another airspace needed to be born and this airspace is the most fun airspace to date. This my friends is the date zone. The Charlies of the world. Charlies are fun. They aren’t trying to be a bigger airspace than what they are, they are comfortable with the level of traffic that comes. They know everyone by name who enters and they pay attention to you. In fact, they want to know who you are so much that they want you to have a transponder so they can see you and call you by your unique name. Charlie guys and gals are fun. They love and appreciate anyone willing to play and help out. Even if transitioning through they would like to talk to you and share the air together regardless of when your last date was…I mean…flight. Charlies are charismatic to everyone and can make it hard to go the distance with. Big fish, small pond, but again, a lot of fun.
As airline passenger flying continued to grow so did the need for larger planes into even larger cities. And so was born the Business airspace. Business pilots are fun to be around because they know all the high-end things in life. It’s fun to be dressed to the 9s and go to Broadway. The hard part with Business airspace is that it just never relaxes. It’s always controlling, it always required knowing where you are. Like having a transponder with altitude encoding. You are cleared into the airspace or literally left out. Sure there are exemptions for flying in without a transponder but typically nothing was done on the fly. Everything is as planned out as can be. They tend to freak out with deviations and have to know everything you are doing at any given point. Controlling…you get the picture.
Now comes the final of all …. the Assistance (or asshole) airspace. Pick your adventure on that one. This airspace only exists above 18,000-60,000 feet. Now, the label may seem general but it is how the airspace should be treated. Airplanes and pilots that enter above FL180 (flight level 18,000 feet) are typically airlines or charter aircraft carrying passengers. This is not an airspace that Elementary kids can go in. One must be trained and qualified, but please please please keep the perspective that this is a service, it’s not a right. This airspace should be impossible to stay in this state all the time. One has to land and this airspace, while it makes up much of the personality of someone, eventually all pilots must land. But unfortunately, you can get an ass that continues to puff up their chest after they have landed, mix that with another airspace and you can get quite the concoction. You can either be an Ass or someone who Assists. Not everyone is up there in the Flight Levels comes with a giving heart.
The charted airspace really is a good indicator of how rare some personalities are. One can be a Business – Gypsy, Assistance-Charlie-Gypsy, and so forth. The rarest of all though is the barefooted Gypsy that takes Gypsy as their lifeline in everything they do. it’s leaving Gypsy airspace and taking the air in their heart to the others. It’s the one with the unbridled spirit, the one that can never be broken. The gypsies that dream with tanned bare feet planted in the grass and that bring that love to everything they do. They are the Lindbergh’s, Bessie Coleman’s, the Amelia Earhart’s. Willing to put their passion for life before the material. Rare, daring, fleeting, those we read about in stories, but rarely ever know.