By Johannes Smit 1395377
#515096 Could someone please help me fly this approach, especially how to read the altitude restrictions and the altitude recommendations. According to me the restrictions are fly FL010 at BOLDR but the recommended altitude is 6000

Here's the chart I use:

Can someone maybe give me a complete walkthrough of the approach descending from FL230 and using the MENLO transition to land at runway 28L

Any help is much appreciated

Thank you
By Bradley Grafelman 1242018
#515098 EDIT: I didn't see Josh's reply until I finished typing this rambling monstrosity and hit submit. Figured I'd throw caution to the wind and re-submit it anyway... I'm sure Josh can and will provide any necessary corrections. :)

Johannes Smit 1395377 wrote:According to me the restrictions are fly FL010 at BOLDR but the recommended altitude is 6000

Couple of things:
  1. Throughout the US, altitudes below FL180 are no longer described as "flight levels". "FL180" means 18,000 ft. using a standard altimeter setting (29.92 inHg), whereas "10000" means 10,000 ft. using the local altimeter setting. So, the restriction is 10,000 ft., not "FL010".
  2. Where did you get the term "recommended altitude" ? Between SKUNK and BOLDR (as well as between BOLDR and MENLO), 6000 is the minimum enroute altitude. It's not "recommended" to fly all the way down there; in fact, quite the opposite.

    The MEA is used to ensure you don't lose signal from any necessary navaids (a.k.a. MRA - minimum reception altitude) and that you don't run into an obstruction such as land (a.k.a. MOCA - minimum obstruction clearance altitude). Think of it as a "if I'm deviating from my clearance and in a dive for some weird reason, here's the altitude where I really need to start getting nervous."

Johannes Smit 1395377 wrote:Can someone maybe give me a complete walkthrough of the approach descending from FL230 and using the MENLO transition to land at runway 28L

Again a bit of nitpicking: there is no "MENLO transition" on the BSR3 STAR. In fact, that STAR has no transitions at all; the procedure begins at BSR and ends once you've become established on the 330 heading departing MENLO (presumably waiting for vectors to final from an APP controller who is busy and/or forgot about you if you got that far).

For a contrasting example, the BDGEA2 STAR has 5 transitions. So, that procedure either begins at the common fix, LOZIT (noted in the top left and bottom left corners of the chart as well as the "common instructions" at the bottom starting from that fix), or it begins at the start of one of the five possible transition legs.

Having said all of that... actually flying the BSR3 arrival with ATC is easy. Here's the complete walkthrough:

  1. Follow ATC instructions/clearances.

:) I cheated because you picked an easy example. The BSR2 has zero altitude or speed restrictions. It has expectations, sure, but no restrictions. Thus, ATC can't simply say something like "descend via the Big Sur Three arrival" and expect you to formulate an elaborate vertical profile to follow.

Instead, you'll get manually-assigned step-down altitudes as you descend from cruise into the terminal area. Oakland's CTR<->NorCal LOA suggests that Center issues a "descend and maintain FL200" and hands you off to NorCal for further descents and sequencing.

If you're asking what to do without ATC... I don't know what to suggest. Find some way to make up your own sequencing with the traffic around you (with the added challenges of not having a radar scope and not being able to issue control instructions to anyone but yourself) and fly whatever path (laterally and vertically) is most efficient and safe for you.
By Johannes Smit 1395377
#515100 Very interesting thank you very much :D
Thats what happens if you're a private pilot wanting to to fly a 737 on vatsim :mrgreen:

Just another quick question, will ATC give me clearance to descend and maintain 10 000ft to meet restrictions at SKUNK and BOLDR or are they expecting me to do this on my own ?
By Simon Kelsey 810049
Johannes Smit 1395377 wrote:will ATC give me clearance to descend and maintain 10 000ft to meet restrictions at SKUNK and BOLDR or are they expecting me to do this on my own ?

As Bradley says, there are no restrictions -- that's why the plate says expect -- a very important word. The actual descent clearance will be as directed by ATC.

The altitudes on the plate are there as a guide to what you can expect ATC to give you so you can plan ahead, but there is no guarantee this will actually be the case.

On a STAR where there are actual charted restrictions (not "expect!") - ATC may instruct you to "descend via the STAR" which means you follow the charted vertical profile, unless they want to cancel the restrictions in which case they will instruct you to "descend and maintain xxxx".

Note also that this is one of many areas where there is a difference between FAA phraseology and the ICAO standard. "Descend via the STAR" means the same for both, but outside the USA the phrase "descend unrestricted" cancels all level restrictions or, if ATC only want to lift one particular restriction, the phraseology is "descend via the STAR, cancel level restriction at XXX".

Further reading: ... ia_FAQ.pdf ... s%20v2.pdf
By Bradley Grafelman 1242018
#515102 In a more general sense, you should always and only do what you were last cleared/instructed to do. Way back in the initial part of your flight when you departed your starting airport, at some point you were likely cleared up to your cruising altitude via "climb and maintain FLxxx". That instruction overrides anything your cleared STAR may say - including altitude restrictions.

Until you receive a new instruction (ex. "descend via the XYZ arrival", "cross <fix> at and maintain <altitude>", "descend and maintain <altitude>", etc.), that cruise instruction still prevails (specifically, the "maintain" part) -- even if it was issued hours and numerous frequency changes ago. So, yes, even if you were cleared on a STAR that did have restrictions, you would await further descent instructions.

If you believe you're approaching your calculated Top of Descent and haven't heard from ATC (or can't remember if you have or not), you should definitely speak up and request descent instructions from ATC. It's possible they forgot about you or got busy and accidentally didn't issue your first descent instruction before your ToD (I'll admit to being guilty of that last part more than once...).
Last edited by Bradley Grafelman 1242018 on Tue Jun 20, 2017 6:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
By Johannes Smit 1395377
#515103 I see...
Thank you very much and apologies for the confusion, when I was flying this approach the other day the controller vectored me to final because I was unable to meet the altitude restrictions at BOLDR (descent from FL230 to 10 000 ft in about 3nm). Thats where the confusion comes in. And especially me with virtually no knowledge on SIDs and STARs I thought I was in the wrong by not reading the charts correctly
By Bradley Grafelman 1242018
Johannes Smit 1395377 wrote:(descent from FL230 to 10 000 ft in about 3nm).

Was OAK_CTR online? My guess would be that you either missed a descent instruction from CTR, or CTR wasn't online and NorCal Approach was the first controller online (in which case you'd have to play that challenging game I mentioned above - pretend to be your own controller and use the "expect" altitudes as starting points for planning your own descent from cruise into APP's airspace).
By Johannes Smit 1395377
#515105 OAK_CTR and NorCal approach was online at the time, the last clearence I got before hand over (to approach) was descend and maintain FL230, I'm also assuming I missed something important along the line preventing the approach from going smoothly
By Josh Glottmann 1275389
#515108 Brad covered the majority of it. What happens is that we give a descent at pilot's discretion ("at pilot's discretion descend and maintain FL200"). Norcal then either steps you down to 10000 or you might be told to "cross BOLDR at and maintain 10000, 250 knots".

In order to calculate what the appropriate time to descend is, you should input the expected crossings into your FMC (or calculate it manually). The controller may not necessarily give them to you, but you are at least at the right altitude that they could hypothetically give them to you without an issue.
By Johannes Smit 1395377
#515110 Aahhh and that's where the issue came in then...
I would like to apologise then :? , I'm not saying they did anything wrong here, they are there for our help and I do appreciate it extremely

He probably (and I do think he did) cleared me to descend at my own discretion and I didn't hear that coming through the radio. That left me flying at FL230 without knowing I was cleared lower and eventually ending up at me being vectored to final :D

OK so I understood the charts, just some pilot error I guess, ATC was greqt although they might not like me that much :D .Luckily there was ATC to provide assistence 8)

Thank you all for the help it's much appreciated. Again apologies for the controllers if I might have offended (which was not my intention)

Safe flying gents and see you in the skies
By Lindsey Wiebe 1101951
#515113 No need to apologize to them Johannes, believe it or not they may have enjoyed helping you. They wouldn't want everyone doing that but it does change it up a little. Besides in real life ATC has to deal with people all the time that aren't just following a perfect arrival.