How to Box Climb

17 Replies

How to Box Climb

Posted by Gary Palmer on Aug 3, 2018 10:47 am

So I get different responses from different pilots and instructors.  That means I am look to see what a majority of pilots do for a box climb.  What I currently believe makes best sense is this.  Take off and begin climb, fly the upwind, crosswind, downwind, and base legs while continuing the climb.  While on the base, reverse perspective and think of it like the crosswind for the other end of the runway and just continue flying crosswind and downwind and then base at which point reverse perspective again.

Another way to think of this is like this (assuming normal left pattern and runway 09/27):  Takeoff 09, upwind, crosswind, downwind for left traffic 09, then turn base for 09.  Continue on base as if crosswind for 27, then fly downwind left traffic 27. 

I feel this sounds complicated, but the idea is to fly the pattern and climb up over it.  While at or below pattern altitude it is normal patter traffic, as I transition to traffic for the other end I should be at least 500 above and climbing.  So that feels right and safe!  Opinions?

Re: How to Box Climb

Posted by Nicole Applegate on Aug 3, 2018 5:22 pm

Very interesting Gary.
I haven't heard of a box climb before. Do you know if there is another name for it?
Let me know and I will ask some of the pilots in the Air Safety Institute their thoughts.

Re: How to Box Climb

Posted by Gary Palmer on Aug 3, 2018 9:49 pm

I have only heard it called a box climb.  I fly out of KTOA and to get to the LAX VFR corridor altitudes we take off and box climb over the airport, up and out of their airspace.  The tower knows it as a box climb and that is what they respond to.  It is not in the pilot-controller glossary.

Re: How to Box Climb

Posted by Dave Rice on Aug 6, 2018 8:56 am

I, too, am puzzled at the use of this term, "Box Climb".  I've been flying since 1995 and have never heard the term before, so I looked in the AIM and it does not show up there either.  Is this perhaps a term invented by some local FBO there in LA in order to describe a climb used to avoid a particular airspace?

Further, I'm assuming you wouldn't be doing this in an actual runway traffic pattern, as this would be a fairly uncommon use of a traffic pattern.  If you intend to execute this type of maneuver within a specific runway's traffic pattern, I might suggest you announce this intension on the CTAF, so as not to introduce unnecessary risk.

Re: How to Box Climb

Posted by Gary Palmer on Aug 6, 2018 9:59 am

The airport is towered.  The climb is intended to get altitude over the runway environment where the airspace is safe.  For the specific question it is to get to the correct altitude to transition the LAX Bravo space in one of the approved corridors which does not require bravo clearance.  Maybe another example would trigger a though of what else this could be.  The climb is in the traffic, so I go with the flow of traffic in the pattern, but I do not stop at TPA, I continue the climb and as I ascend above the pattern I keep going.  Another use, I was at an airport (William J Fox) which is in a large valley.  I was departing at night and wanted to be altitude to assure mountain clearance.  So I box climbed (a squared circle?) over the airport until I had the altitude I desired.  For this one, it was late and the tower was closed.

Re: How to Box Climb

Posted by Tony Cacciarelli on Aug 6, 2018 11:42 am

I did my training at KTOA also and always thought the box climb was a standard maneuver, but never found it in the AIM. As it was taught to me, you fly the normal upwind, crosswind, downwind but then continue to climb past TPA and make a ‘base’ turn at the numbers on the approach end of the runway while continuing the climb. Then turn to align with the runway [slightly offset so you can see any departing traffic] and continue to climb. At this point it’s sort of like a go-around but at a higher altitude and with tighter crosswind and base legs aligned to the runway numbers. You continue to follow the pattern until you are high enough to enter the LAX Bravo VFR transition [which is 4500’ for northbound traffic].
Alternately, if you’re using the ‘Mini-Route’, which is at 2500’ and requires ATC clearance, you can ask for a ‘right 270 departure’ [assuming runway 29R, which has right traffic]. This is the same maneuver you just don’t realign with the runway after the ‘base’ leg and just fly north to enter the Mini-Route. That’s usually enough to get to that altitude.
As I understand it, the purpose is to fly a known circuit so ATC can anticipate where you’ll be and where you’re going. It does seem to be specific to the LA area, as far as my experience has shown. I’ve used it coming out of Hawthorne [KHHR], which is right up against LAX airspace and they were familiar with the request as well.

Re: How to Box Climb

Posted by Ronald Levy on Aug 6, 2018 12:44 pm

Add this 45-year veteran CFI to those who've never heard of a "box climb".  It's not in the current Airplane Flying Handbook, and I don't recall ever having seen it in any other document.  And I'm not seeing the purpose of the maneuver, either.  So if I had to say "what a majority of pilots do for a 'box climb'", my answer would be "shrug".  My only guess is that this is a maneuver peculiar to KTOA due to the airspace surrounding that airport.

Re: How to Box Climb

Posted by Brennan Callan on Aug 6, 2018 12:59 pm

Hi Ron, et al.,
my background in aviation only goes to 1981, but I never heard of the box climb either.  That said, I am understanding that it allows the pilot the "safety option" to gain altitude over the known space (safe area of the airport) to then deal with the unknown terrain outside of the known airport.  Then he transitions to other air spaces at the required Class B altitudes.  The box climb is not necessary/required/familiar to the majority of us who are not working within the tight confines of where the other pilot was flying. 

If someone is just a SPORT PILOT and only flying VFR with a Light Sport Plane, they would likely never encounter the issues that were originally discussed as the need to do the box climbing. 

As we talk about POWERED PARACHUTE GLIDERS and similar non-powered para-gliders, they often will stay near a portion of the ridge of cliffs because that is where they parked their cars.  They are just "sailing" and if they can built altitude, they still need to stay near where they launched.  A few days ago on Public TV, I saw a show about the para-gliders at La Jolla, CA doing the cliff jumps and if these pilots managed things right, then they could land back up top of the cliff.  If not, they had to convey their equipment hundreds of feet back up the cliff.  Instead of a box climb, it was more of a crazy-8 or rectangular climb.


Re: How to Box Climb

Posted by Robert Gardner on Aug 6, 2018 1:38 pm

Looks like "Visual Climb Over Airport," except that VCOA is an IFR procedure.

Bob Gardner

Re: How to Box Climb

Posted by Chris Erickson on Aug 6, 2018 5:56 pm

Started flying in 1977 out of Lakefront in New Orleans and have never heard of a " box climb". It seems logical to assume it is what others have said; climbing as you stay above an airport. 
In 1981 started flying gliders and learned the term " boxing the wake " while climbing.  When a glider is being towed aloft the tow plane's Wings and particularly it's propwash creates a wake that the glider can maneuver above, to the right of, down and under the wake and continue to the left side of and back above the wake. Therefore, creating an imaginary rectangle behind the tow plane as your climbing. Maybe the two terms got mixed up together?