Tips For Touring Miami Beach By Air

Posted by Eddie Rodriguez | 6/7/18 10:11 AM

Tips for Flying Miami beach by air

One of the things that draws so many international students to South Florida is the beauty of Miami. While it isn’t unique to have such a large city right by the water, ours attracts visitors from all over the world. The glitz and bustle of South Beach is the most popular. While many visitors tour the city on busses and boats, few are fortunate enough to have seen Miami from one of the best views possible--flying over the coastline. Here are some tips for flying over this beautiful coastline. 

What is the airspace like?

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Taking a quick look at the Miami Terminal Area Chart and it becomes immediately obvious that Miami is nestled under some complex airspace. Depending on factors such as weather, generally you’ll be taking off and head eastbound until the barrier islands, then it’ll be a matter of following the shoreline at a safe altitude. 

A close inspection of the airspace near North Perry reveals Class C airspace to the north, Class D airspace to the south, a major sports arena to the south east, and a collection of very tall antennas directly east. So how does one fly through this mess to get to the shoreline for some sightseeing? There is an option to depart toward the east and fly between the towering antennas by requesting a “southeast departure through the antenna farm”. This alerts North Perry tower controllers that you’ll be flying in close proximity to those antennas. Be careful, though--you’ll need to be at least 1000 feet AGL when arriving at the antennas due to noise restrictions. If your aircraft isn’t capable of this climb rate, request an “east departure” and simply stay south of the Class C airspace boundary. 

Once clear of the antennas look for a break in the skyscrapers along the coast just southeast of the airport--that’s Baker’s Haulover. Plan on staying at 1000 feet and fly toward this visual checkpoint. Arriving over Baker’s Haulover use caution and scan very carefully for traffic. The shoreline is a very busy corridor with lots of pilots flying this very scenic route. Fly along the shoreline south at about 800 feet for some spectacular views. Always scan carefully for traffic and keep in mind right of way rules as you’ll encounter a variety of traffic types such as banner towers and helicopters. 

Departing North Perry and Flying North

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Since Ft. Lauderdale’s International Airport’s Class C airspace has a surface area that extends outward beyond the shoreline, you’ll need to transition through the airspace with instructions from Air Traffic Control (ATC). There are two options to head north through this area: fly over the middle of Ft. Lauderdale International, or fly along the coast at 500 feet. Either way you must make contact with Miami Approach controllers requesting a transition and comply with their instructions. 

Departing Opa-Locka

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Flying out of Opa-Locka is a bit simpler. To reach the shoreline, request an eastbound departure and head for Baker’s Haulover. From there just follow the same tips as listed above. Keep in mind Miami’s Class Bravo airspace has a surface area just 2 miles south of Opa-Locka, so it’s best to wait until arriving at Baker’s Haulover before turning north or south. 

Key Sights to See

The most popular scenic route is to fly along the Miami Beach coastline. Here are some must-sees along this famous route:

  • The Fontainebleau Hotel is a curved building near 41st street. This famous hotel has hosted some of the biggest names in entertainment such as Frank Sinatra, Lady Gaga, and Kim Kardashian.
  • South Beach is a district in Miami Beach that is home to Ocean Drive and the historic Art Deco buildings that are featured in movies and TV shows. Located at the southernmost part of the city, it is easily identifiable with the large skyscrapers, colorful buildings, and huge crowds of sunbathers.
  • Government Cut is the man-made shipping channel that is immediately south of Miami Beach and leads directly to the Port of Miami. Built by the US Army Corps of Engineers, this channel is heavily used by enormous ships carrying cargo and cruise passengers to many destinations around the world.
  • Behind South Beach and the Port of Miami is the beautiful skyline of the City of Miami. The towering skyscrapers of Miami are among the tallest in all of the United States.
  • Just north of the Miami skyscrapers on the mainland is the Miami International Airport. It is very common to have incredibly large airplanes overfly the coastline as they depart on their journeys to lands far away. With the right timing it is possible to fly right under the path of a superjumbo Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger jet.
  • The last two islands visible south of Miami Beach are Virginia Key and Key Biscayne. Fly between the two westbound to catch a great view of the Miami Seaquarium, a popular tourist attraction dedicated to marine life. Stay close the island’s westside continuing southbound to see amazing houses and the historic Cape Florida Lighthouse. Afterwards fly northbound and now all the sights previously mentioned will be on the aircraft’s left side.

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Additional Tips

Always check NOTAMs and especially be on the lookout for TFRs. Nestled within North Perry’s Class D airspace is the Hard Rock Stadium and it occasionally hosts games that trigger a sporting TFR. If there is one you’ll need a discrete transponder code issued by ATC to allow departure from and arrival to North Perry. This can be requested from North Perry ground control if you’re departing. If arriving, request a squawk code from Miami Approach and advise them you’ll be landing at North Perry.

 

If you’re planning on following the coastline on a cross country flight northbound, be on the lookout for a presidential TFR over Palm Beach International. Since President Trump visits South Florida often, this whopper of a TFR can pop up with little notice and can be active for several days at a time. Check with Flight Service to make sure you have the latest TFR information available lest you get an impromptu private air show from the United States Air Force.


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President Trump visiting South Florida triggers a huge TFR.

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