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There are some misconceptions about where we can an cannot fly as Hang / paragliders, which tells me that there are still a lot of pilots who have not written their HAGAR. Actually, the skies are pretty open to us and I hope this article encourages many more of you to write your HAGAR and to start making more and better use of FIC and Tranport Canada System Safety's services in Canada.

I would like to thank the following individuals for their assistance in writing this article: Real examples of the Civil Service in Canada, with the emphasis on the word "Service."

  1. Geoff Graham, Civil Aviation Inspector for Transport Canada, Air Navigation Services and Airspace
  2. Dave Dixon, Transport Canada Civil Aviation, Recreational Aviation Branch

There have been a few noteworthy airspace changes in Canada (Transport Canada is accomodating increasing numbers of VFR and IFR air traffic) that may affect your flying sites, so its a good time for a review and some pleasant news.

As examples I will identify a few sites near my home in the Okanagan. Since I do not know the precise location of your flying sites, it is important for each and every club in Canada to obtain a copy of

  1. the VFR Navigation Chart for your area; and
  2. a copy of the current Enroute Low Altitude Chart for your region.

These two charts combine to provide you with all the information you need. You might also find the Designated Airspace Manual useful, download at NAV Canada's website.

You can buy VFR and En route charts from local airport flight schools or from a fellow pilot - Roger Nelson at Maptown Toll Free 1-877-921-6277

The VFR Chart is important
a) for us as we investigate Airspace changes and classification; and
b) for all pilots in general because it shows the base of Class E (HAGAR Required) airspace (where applicable); where the VFR Air Routes, IFR Victor Airways and Airports are; and CYA "Special Use Airspace" areas (many of which are designated for our use.)

The En Route Chart provides information we need about Victor Airways: the MEA's (Minimum Enroute Altitudes used by IFR air traffic. To find Victor Airways which affect your flying sites (Class "E" below 12,500', Class "B" airspace above 12,500' ASL) look for the black box marked "V' with a two or three digit number following. To find the MEA of these Victor Airways, look along the Victor airway and you will see a number printed along the line: Example: 9,000' is the base altitude.

So I will talk about sites here at home in the Okanagan Valley and use them as an example of what to look for.

Sicamous used to be completely uncontrolled airspace. That meant Class G (uncontrolled airspace) went all the way up to 17,999' ASL. The new base for Class E airspace at this flying site is now 8,000' ASL.

More Importantly.
Just south of Sicamous is the Okanagan's famous Mara flying site. Its just north of the Enderby VOR (the turnpoint used by virtually all air traffic flying to or from Vancouver and all other BC Airports.) So it's a busy place.

The Enroute Low Altitude Chart states that the MEA of the Victor Airways (Class B Airspace) is 9,900' ASL. That means the HIGHEST we can fly at Mara is 12,500' ASL feet and flying above 9,900' is "risky business" albeit permitted - IF your have filed your HAGAR. (These are aviation's "highways in the sky" for VFR and IFR traffic.) (Note: The law requires a transponder to fly in class B, C, and D airspaces in designated areas, and requires aéronautical radio contact in class B, C and D. Unless a prior agreement and a NOTAM in our favor was issued.) Furthermore, Class E airspace applies from 2200' AGL, following land contour, up to 12.,500' AS. IMHO: anyone who flies in Class E Airspace without filing their HAGAR puts our entire Insurance Program at risk. Anyone who flies up above the MEA (Minimum Enroute Altitude) of a Victor Airway (Class E) without filing their HAGAR is likely to be paté on someone's windscreen. IFR traffic is separated by altitude, distance and speed by Air Traffic Control. They are NOT looking out the window for jarrheads and space cadets. If the unthinkable happened, who, having not filed your HAGAR, would then then be 100% responsible? If the unthinkable happened, what sort of federal regulations and restrictions (not to mention Public Relations fallout) do you foresee for the sport?

We have let a slack attitude slip into the "Safety Culture" of our sport. "It's never happened before so therefore it will never happen in the future, least of all to me, so its A-OK to fly in controlled airpace without filing your HAGAR (our "flight itinerary.")" Either we step up to the plate as a group and absorb HAGAR as one of the fundamental components of our flying culture, or accept that we may one day pay the consequences via heavy handed government intervention. YOUR help raising awareness of this at YOUR sites is what's needed to get this message across.

One of my favorite stories was that of a "name" (biggie) in aviation, who, a number of years ago, was flying IFR back to Victoria from the States on a Victor Airway that goes smack over the top of Saturna launch. The MEA is 4000' and just maybe he was pushing the safety envelope (buffer margin.) Anyhow, he was on autopilot, reading a map or Terminal Control Chart. He went to turn a page and saw a (USA) paraglider filling his entire windscreen. He gasped and turned hard left in a dive only to see "Holy SH-double-hockey-sticks!" another PGer smack in front of him! He made a hard climbing right turn... and you guessed it... ANOTHER one! Needless to say he was pretty shook up. Didn't file a near miss report thank heavens... Just reamed me out top to bottom as the nearest living target... and thankfully everyone since has flown safely there. The bottom line is, IFR traffic is not looking for VFR traffic in their "highways in the sky"... let alone gaggles of gliders which is often the way we fly. (Did "Gag" in Gaggles derive from "something to choke on?")

A few years ago again, a commercial passenger jet pilot took one of his favorite flying holidays... paragliding in the Squamish / Pemberton region. 4:30 in the afternoon he looked down at his watch and went "Hmmm. Right about now I would be right about here, at right about this altitude, on final into Vancouver International Airport. Looked to the right and... !!! Quote from another pilot: "I could count the "F'n" rivits!"

So its not just foreign pilots (unfamiliar with Canadian Aviation Regulations) that are screwing up. Its commercial-pilot-insured-members and everybody in between. Its endemic within our (slack attitude driven) Safety Culture... and its a Front-Page-Headline making disaster on a national scale waiting to happen. The countermeasure is situational awareness and filing your HAGAR.


  1. As these Victor Airways approach their intended airports, the base of these Victor Airways descends. (That's logical.) So, remembering that we are allowed to climb up through the MEA to 12,500' ASL, the ceiling of Class E Airspace, we need to be keeping a particularly sharp eye out above the MEA's:
    1. at Faulkland (Bolean launch) the MEA is 8,000' ASL
    2. flying Hulcar and Stoney and going XC east from Boleen or Stoney, over the western side of the Okanagan valley the MEA is 6,100' ASL
    3. Same for Blue Grouse. (Same V302 airway.) MEA into Kelowna Airport is 6,100' ASL.
    4. The MEA on the eastern side of the valley (King Eddie and Vernon Mt.) is 9,400' ASL. (The base of V354 is 9,400' by the time it gets down to Vernon.)
  2. The base of Class E Airspace in the North Okanagan is 700' AGL following land contour.
  3. FIC is quite happy if one person files HAGAR for a group (although there is nothing in policy to say that.) They are busy people and we don't need to waste their time.

    "On an airway, airspace above 12,500 ASL is class B, 12,500 ASL down to 2200 AGL is class E, except a transition area (such as where there is an approach) and then class E goes down to 700 AGL. Below 2200 or 700, other than control zones, it is class G." Geoff Graham.

    "FSS's and the FIC provide a service in MF areas, if transiting an MF the Hang Glider is required contact the appropriate site and advise intentions.So If you are operating inside an MF you must contact the appropriate FSS on aircraft radio,?the FSS or FIC has no requirement to advise other traffic.? You are simple another VFR aircraft. If there is extensive hang glider activity (such as a competition) this activity should take place inside a CYA, even if a temporary CYA has to be created." Dave Dixon. Note: Since all aircrafts in a MF zone are listening and transmitting their intentions in the mandatory frequency, all pilots know where are and where are going all the others. Dangers of collision are minimal. The MF zone is not becessarily maintained by a FSS. In Golden for example, no one is in charge of the traffic. Each is responsible of adapting to the traffic and avoid collisions. No need to contact a FSS nor a FIC in this case.

  4. What about the requirement to maintain "cruising altitude" in Victor airways? Hang and Paragliders go up and down in lift and sink! "Nav Canada's FICs and FSS's?have no authority to allow or disallow VFR traffic?in Class E airspace.? The cruising altitude reg only applies when above 3000' AGL and for glider type aircraft is ambiguous enough that any enforcement action would be in doubt." Geoff Graham

CYA 122 (H / A) Lumby area
Lavington east past Lumby to Cherryville and north to Mable Lake is CYA "Class F Special Use Airspace" to 6,200' ASL designated for Hang Gliding and Aerobatics. So Class "G" airspace rules apply. No HAGAR required. Bonus... If the day looks good, you can (aircraft) radio / phone into FIC 1-866-WX-BRIEF and ask to have the ceiling raised on a moments notice.. or with 60 days "Special Aviation Event Order" notice, raised for the duration of an event. (FIC is where you get free "Advanced Aviation Weather Briefings" and where you file your HAGAR, in addition to letting your nearest FSS know.) FYI the ceiling of a CYA (and / or vertical extention) is limited to 1000' below the lowest MEA of a Victor Airway whose boundaries include the CYA, as a safety margin for wake turbulence.

If you have a CYA allocated for other user groups, one which includes one of your heavily used flying sites, you can easily apply to have Hang Gliding included as a user group. Just contact your regional Superintendent of Personell Licencing at Transport Canada's Civil Aviation Recreational Aviation Branch. (He or she is ICO of Recreational Aviation) and your Civil Aviation Inspector, Air Navigation Services and Airspace. "?Upon application, each site would be considered separately, generally this would not be a problem." Dave Dixon.

Don't assume that just because Hang gliding CYA's are Class "G" airspace, that all CYA's are. "I believe all (H) are uncontrolled however (S) is not necessarily uncontrolled." Geoff Graham.

These are just examples from the Okanagan. You need to look up your flying sites and see if anything has changed.

If you want to see for yourself, I 've put pics of the charts on the website. Bigger is better to read the fine print.

600k Okanagan Enroute Low Altitude Chart 100k
600k Okanagan VFR Navigation Chart 100k
If that does not convince you to buy a VFR and LE chart... well... I throw in the towel.

It is important that pilots use imperial measurements when flying. Do NOT set your vario to metric measurements. (Airspace world wide is designated in imperial measurements.) That way you avoid "metric to imperial conversion tables" when flying. (Read Hang Gliders & Controlled Airspace.) It is important to stay well clear of higher levels of controlled airspace (Class C and B in particular and to fly in Class E airspace only after filing your HAGAR, which is simple, easy and fun via FIC 1-866-WX-BRIEF.

FIC? What's this? CARs still require us to phone into our local FSS, but all 1-800 numbers for FSS now automtically redirect to provincially centralized FIC. Secondly, 1-866-WX-BRIEF is the same phone number used all across Canada. (French Service 1-866-GOMÉTÉO) FIC will give you your "Advanced Aviation Weather Briefing" and then give you the local number of your FSS, especially if you intend to go XC near to, or through it.

Andre Nadeau has done a bang up job developing the HAGAR Exam Study Guide. Study the guide materials, take the exam. Its a blast! (-: You'll really enjoy it. As you will talking to and finding out about all the aviation support services at FSS and FIC. Nice example here.

Aug 1 2013   Top Top