Aviate. Navigate. COMMUNICATE!

Memorial Day weekend rewarded the State with gorgeous weather conditions: light winds and a stable atmosphere. It seemed like everyone with access to a boat or an airplane was out there on the water or in the air. Honolulu had to switch runways to suit the south-southwesterly sea breezes and not everyone had memorized the details of Kona wind VFR approaches and departure procedures. ADS-B revealed aircraft and helicopters like swarms of bees converging on Koko Head hoping to score the KONA SIX arrival clearance. By mid-day the winds had shifted to south-west putting cross-wind landing skills to the test.

For some reason, a large number of VFR aircraft crowded the airspace south of Maui which, of course, included a fair number of tour helicopters. One aircraft in particular traversed the Kahului ILS approach at an altitude that created potential traffic conflicts with IFR arrivals. The identity and type of aircraft was obvious from ADS-B but the pilot remained silent. The voice pitch of the Maui approach controller alerting traffic to the presence of the aircraft in an increasingly congested airspace indicated his frustration with the situation.

There is no regulation that compels VFR aircraft to talk to ATC outside controlled airspace, neither is there a specific rule or guidance in the area notices of the Pacific chart supplement AF/D. However, for experienced pilots with an understanding of the traffic flow and the procedures around busy Hawaiian airports it should be obvious that it is more than just a matter of courtesy to communicate with the appropriate controlling agency. Pilots ought to communicate their intentions to give the cognizant controller the ability to vector other traffic around VFR aircraft or make routing and altitude assignments.

The airspace around south Maui is dominated by the Class C sector that protects a number of IFR approach procedures, including the ILS Runway 02 approach commonly used by commercial airliners. Aircraft that are assigned this approach coming from Honolulu will arrive via the LNY VOR on an easterly course before intercepting the localizer to Kahului runway 02 in the vicinity of CAMPS intersection. The VFR sectional does not show this intersection since it is does not define a major airway. However, HARPO is shown which is just 5 NM east of CAMPS. Aircraft arriving via this route will likely be descending from their enroute altitude and level off at an altitude at or above 3000 ft to intercept the glide slope of the instrument landing system. Note that while these intersections are still outside the Kahului Class C airspace, they are within Class E airspace as defined by the airways and are thus subject to VFR meteorological minimums to allow visual separation of VFR and IFR traffic.
An additional factor contributing to congestion is VFR traffic arriving from the south-east via the reporting points  Makena, Molokini and Kihei. below the 2000 ft floor of Class C airspace, or leaving Kahului on a southerly course. There is also a VFR practice area east of Kihei.

Controlled airspace around Kahului showing Class C and associated airways, and VFR reporting points.

Kahului ILS Rwy02 approach

The bottom line is, if you are transiting through the airspace between Lanai, Kahoolawe, and south Maui, it behooves you to contact HCF (Maui) approach on 120.2 and state your position and intentions. You will be assigned a transponder code and in return provided with radar advisories. If you were using ‘flight following’ you are likely to be handed off to this frequency.

Fly your airplane, watch for traffic, and COMMUNICATE!

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