I-6 Rating



SID from KLAX then full ILS RWY 20R approach at KSNA, sans vectors.

Learning objectives

  • understand and comply with a Standard Instrument Departure (SID)
  • understand and comply with Climb via SID instructions, including the need to communicate “climbing via SID” with each controller
  • understand the feeder, initial, intermediate and final segments of an instrument approach
  • learn how to request an approach other than the one that is in use
  • learn how to fly a course reversal, in this case a Hold in Lieu of Procedure Turn (HILPT)

Flying the Rating

To successfully complete this rating you must accomplish the following tasks:

  • Inform ATC on initial contact at KLAX that you are performing the I-6 Rating
  • Copy and read back the IFR clearance to KSNA
  • Conduct IFR flight from KLAX to KSNA, complying with the SID
  • Report to Socal Departure your current altitude and that you are “climbing via the SID” upon initial contact
  • Prior to reaching SLI, request to commence the ILS RWY 20R approach at SLI
  • Meet the I Ratings Practical Test Standards

Rating Description

Fly from KLAX to KSNA and fly a full approach from SLI, without vectors to final. Using our newfound knowledge of TEC routes from the previous ratings, we know that we should file as follows:

  • LAXX1.SLI for jets at 5000,
  • SLI8.SLI for turboprops at 5000,
  • SLI8.SLI for good ol’ pistons at 4000.

Note: the version numbers for the SIDs will change over time.

Where possible, ATC usually provides vectors to the final approach course, culminating in the familiar phrase “5 from the marker, fly hdg 220, maintain 2500 until established, cleared for the Easy Peasy ILS RWY 20R approach,” or something along those lines. There are times, however, when ATC will not provide such vectors, leaving the pilot to navigate themselves from the enroute structure (airways) to the various segments of the approach.

Prior to SLI, you’ll be cleared for the ILS RWY 20R approach and will be expected to fly the FULL approach as published. This is the same approach as the one used in the I-1 rating, however, this time, you will not be vectored to the final approach course by ATC.

There are 4 radials identified out of SLI. Which one should you fly? All of this, and a lot more is covered below in more detail than one would think was possible.Or, if you prefer, it’s all available in video workshop form at the bottom of the page in the Related Materials section. Take your time, this is a crucial skill for IFR flying.

Climb via SID

The altitude assignment in the IFR clearance from LAX will likely contain, “climb via SID except maintain 4000” (or 5000 for turboprops/jets).

The ‘climb via SID, except maintain…’ instruction implies that the SID has published crossing restrictions. Review the SLI SID and notice there is an ‘at or below 3000’ restriction based on the SMO crossing radial.

This means you would takeoff and remain below 3000 until crossing the radial, then continue the climb to the assigned altitude. An exception to this would be if you receive an amended altitude from ATC (such as the Socal Departure controller after checking in with them). So, if Socal says, “radar contact, climb and maintain 4000” then the 3000ft restriction is removed.

Secondly, pilots are required to advise ATC when they are climbing via a SID when making initial contact with the controller. So, all of these other candidate calls are incorrect:

  • “1500 climbing 4000” (this is ambiguous, are you stopping at 3k or not?)
  • “1500 climbing 3000” (this is not true, you’re climbing to 3k until the SMO R-154 radial, then climbing higher)
  • “1500 to cross SMO R-154 below 3000, then climbing 4000.” (Great job, but the controller just died of old age)

The correct call would be: “1500 climbing via SID except maintaining [4000/5000]” depending on the actual altitude assignment.

Fun fact: the 3000ft restriction is there to provide separation with the VFR aircraft ploughing through the Bravo at 3500 in the Special Flight Rules Area without any communication with ATC.

Full Approach vs Vectors

Being vectored to the final approach course is certainly the most common way to be cleared for a precision instrument approach (eg. ILS). There are a number of cases, however, where vectors cannot be provided, and the pilot is expected to fly the ‘full approach’.

This cases include:

  • lack of ATC radar coverage due to terrain or equipment failure (not typically a factor with online flying)
  • ATC not having a final approach course depicted on their scope for that particular approach. This usually happens at smaller fields in remote areas covered by Enroute facilities (ARTCCs) rather than TRACON airspace
  • pilot requests full approach for training purposes
  • ATC just feeling busy, mean, lazy, or an unfortunate combination of all three

Instead of being vectored to final, ATC will clear an aircraft for the approach. It the aircraft is on a random route (ie, not on a published airway), ATC must include an altitude to maintain until established on a segment of the approach. Otherwise, if established on an airway, no altitude needs to be given in the clearance and the pilot may descend to the MEA for that segment at their discretion.

Let’s take a close look at the ILS RWY 20R approach at John Wayne (KSNA) and find out exactly how to fly the full approach in absence of being vectored to the final approach course. Incidentally, one benefit of becoming proficient at flying full approaches is that you can safely execute these approaches without ATC assistance, even practicing them offline if you wish.

Feed me now!

ATC can clear you for an approach if you are established on a route that will overfly an Initial Approach Fix (IAF). Many IFR flights take place within the low enroute structure on Victor airways. IAF’s are most often not located on these airways, so the question becomes, in absence of being vectored to the IAF, how do you safely transition from airways to the IAF?

Specially charted instrument approach segments called feeders have been developed for precisely this case. They lead from the enroute structure to an IAF, providing terrain separation and navigation reception, much like an airway, except considerably shorter. They are found on instrument approach charts, such as our ILS RWY 20R chart for KSNA.

SLI is a feeder on our approach plate. This means that if your route of flight (either what you originally filed, or as a result of a route amendment in the air) has you going SLI, then ATC can say “cross SLI at or above xxxx, cleared approach”, and you’re on your own from that point on.

How do we know that SLI is a feeder? It has a route segment length and minimum enroute altitude depicted. For SLI, it’s 18.9nm at or above 4000ft to SAGER.

Notice the medium thickness of the line associated with feeder routes compared to the thin lines associated with the radials used to simply identify a fix, such as the SLI R-063 to identify SNAKE, or SLI R-075 to identify LEMON. Do not confuse those with feeder routes. Other than the thin line, there’s also no associated altitude, or route segment length, so that rules them out immediately.

We now find ourselves approaching SAGER, the IAF. Now what?

Course reversal? You gotta know when to hold ’em.

Instrument approaches often call for a course reversal, either via a procedure turn, or a hold in lieu of a procedure turn (HILPT). Procedure turns won’t be covered in detail here since the this approach specifically calls for a HILPT, so we must fly the hold entry instead. If a course reversal is depicted, it MUST be flown, UNLESS:
*you are receiving vectors to the final approach course, OR
*the feeder route on specifically says NoPT

Since many pilots are used to receiving vectors to final, they have learned to ignore the published holds, and often wonder why they’re having difficulty flying a full approach.

The purpose of the course reversal (be it a hold, or a procedure turn) is to align the aircraft with the approach and/or to descend an aircraft down to a more reasonable altitude for the approach while remaining clear of terrain.

Flying the approach from SLI

We’ve dealt with high level terms about how to read the chart, and when we do or do not need to fly a course reversal. Let’s now deal with the specifics of how to efficiently fly this approach. Let’s assume we’re direct SLI, approaching from the west and we receive our approach clearance, “cross SLI at or above 4000, cleared ILS RWY 20R approach, report SAGER inbound.”

Departing SLI, we fly heading 049 (as depicted on the chart), tracking towards SAGER. Thinking ahead, we see we’ll need to join the I-SNA localizer outbound, so on the other NAV radio, we set the freq to 111.75. Over SAGER, we make a left turn to heading 014 and join the localizer outbound.

Approaching SAGER, we need to fly the HILPT. This will be a parallel hold entry, so we continue outbound on the localizer for 1 minute past SAGER, then initiate a left 225 degree turn (180 + 45) then join the localizer inbound again. We can descend to 3500 in the hold entry, as depicted on the bottom of the chart.

With the HILPT completed, we’re now coming up on SAGER, inbound on the approach, and we’ve flown the hold entry. Notice we haven’t flown a full lap of the hold. It is not required, as the goal of this procedure is to have us become established on the final approach course, which we have now done. See the I-6 video (bottom of page) for a visual depiction of how to fly the hold.

Quick aside, you might wonder why the depicted hold at SAGER shows RIGHT turns, whereas we primarily made left turns during the course of the parallel hold entry. This is because the hold serves two different purposes:

1) It is a “hold in lieu of a procedure turn”, which facilitates the course reversal necessary to complete the procedure when arriving over SAGER from awkward angles (such as SLI R-049).

2) It serves as a holding point if ATC needs to essentially park airplanes over SAGER as they await their turn for the approach. This would typically only be done in a non-radar environment. Since KSNA is a radar facility, they can have multiple aircraft conducting the approach at the same time, so this point is somewhat academic at KSNA in terms of daily operations.

The course that is depicted is for the full holding pattern (case #2). In our case, we used it for case #1, just to turn the boat around. When we finish the course reversal, we’re approaching SAGER, inbound. Think about it, a full lap of the hold from that point would add precisely no value. It would have us arriving, 4 minutes later, over the same point, at the same altitude.

We report to ATC, “SAGER, inbound.”

Continue on the localizer towards SNAKE. We formally intercept the glideslope at LEMON and begin our descent to decision height. Alternatively, priot to LEMON, we can track the glideslope so long as we comply with the minimum altitudes at SNAKE and BONKE. The lightning bolt depicts the minimum glideslope intercept altitude. Reaching 255’, the decision height for this precision approach, we must either have the runway environment in sight, or execute the missed approach procedure.

Flying it without a glideslope, the LOC RWY 20R approach

If we were unable to receive the glideslope, or if it was out of service, we would execute a localizer only approach from SAGER. Cross SNAKE at or above 3400, BONKE at or above 2800, LEMON at or above 2200, DYERS (I-SNA 4.1 DME) at or above 1040 and then maintain 440’ until the field is in sight and we have passed the Visual Descent Point at 2.2DME if we’re able to identify that point. If the runway environment isn’t in sight upon reaching the missed approach point, we execute the missed approach.


Cockpit video of KLAX to KSNA flight.


  1. KLAX is in east operations, a rare condition resulting in east facing departure.
  2. this was recorded prior to the introduction of “cilmb via SID phraseology”


N132KT: Los Angeles Clearance, Piper 132KT, IFR to John Wayne with Bravo.

LAX_DEL: Piper 2KT, Los Angeles Clearance, cleared to the John Wayne airport, Seal Beach Five departure, direct, climb via SID except maintain 4000, departure frequency 125.20, squawk 1730.

N132KT: Piper 2KT cleared to John Wayne, Seal Beach Six Departure, direct, climb via SID except maintain 4000, departure frequency 125.20, squawk 1730.

LAX_DEL: Piper 2KT, readback correct.

Switch to ground.

N132KT: Ground, Piper 132KT, at Atlantic, taxi with Bravo.

LAX_GND: Piper 2KT, Los Angeles Ground, runway 25L taxi via Alpha, Foxtrot.

N132KT: 25L via Alpha, Foxtrot, N2KT

Reaching the runway, we contact the tower.

N132KT: Los Angeles Tower, Piper 132KT, ready at 25L, IFR

LAX_TWR: Piper 132KT, tower, wind 240 at 13, rwy 25L cleared for takeoff

N132KT: cleared for takeoff, 2KT.

LAX_TWR: Piper 2KT, contact departure, good flight.

N132KT: so long, 2KT

Switch to Socal 125.20…

N132KT: Socal Departure, Piper 132KT 1400 climbing via SID

LAX_DEP: Piper 2KT, Socal Departure, radar contact

In lieu of any other climb instructions, we must follow the published restrictions on the SID, which says to cross SMO R-154 at or below 3000, then turn left hdg 200 for further vectors and continue the climb to 4000.

LAX_DEP: Piper 2KT, turn left direct SLI, contact Socal Approach 134.90

N132KT: left to SLI, and 134.90, N2KT

Swap to Socal 134.90…

N132KT: Socal, Piper 132KT, 4000 with Bravo, request ILS 20R full approach from Seal Beach.

SNA_APP: Piper 2KT, cross SLI at 4000, cleared ILS Runway 20R approach, report SAGER inbound, and how will this approach terminate? (since we’re practicing a procedure, the controller wants to know if this is going to end with a missed approach in case he wants to relay missed instructions other than the published missed).

N132KT: 2KT, SLI at 4000, cleared ILS 20R, will report SAGER inbound, and this’ll be a full stop….possibly a ball of flames

We fly the full approach, SLI, hitting SAGER outbound and inbound.

N132KT: 2KT, SAGER inbound.

SNA_APP: Piper 2KT, maintain present speed or greater to LEMON then contact John Wayne tower 126.80.

N132KT: wilco, and 26.80 at LEMON, N2KT.

Keeping our speed up to the extent possible, we reach LEMON and call the tower…

N132KT: John Wayne tower, Piper 132KT, LEMON.

SNA_TWR: Piper 2KT, John Wayne tower, wind calm, rwy 20R cleared to land.

N132KT: cleared to land 20R, 2KT

After landing and rolling out…
SNA_TWR: Piper 2KT, exit left, cross runway 20L then contact ground 120.80

N132KT: cross 20L, then contact ground, N2KT

Swapping to ground after crossing 20L…

N132KT: Ground, Piper 2KT, clear 20L,for transient parking

SNA_GND: Piper 2KT, John Wayne Ground, taxi straight ahead to the ramp.

N132KT: straight to the ramp, N2KT

Required Materials

  • KLAX Airport Diagram
  • KSNA ILS RWY 20R approach plate
  • KSNA Airport Diagram

Related Materials

PilotEdge Workshop: Instrument Approaches Part 1

PilotEdge Workshop: Instrument Approaches Part 2