Transition Question

Hello forum peeps,

So I had two questions on transion calls while being ATC. Was hoping some fellows herd could break down that wall between me and the answers.

  1. When an Aircraft is calling in for a transition, do you clear them for 3,000 feet or 5,000 feet transition? I’ve heard it several times from people either way and I wanted to make sure I’m doing it right.

  2. When clearing someone for a transition (we’ll use 3,000 feet as an example even if it’s incorrect) do you clear them for an AGL transition of 3,000 feet or MSL?
    For example at KLAX a transition of 3,000 feet would be the AGL level while say in Denver the transition would be about 8000 feet. So do I transition for AGL or do I give them the altitude they”d need to be at in order to clear the airport?


@Infinite.flight MaxSez: IF Airfield ceilings are established. There located in the airport data blocks. Transition heights are routine stated at reasonable levels above the established ceiling, there are no standards. (See the Pilots Handbook, AIM or FAR) Google is your friend. Regards

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No standards but I would clear them for the AGL ceiling? So in Denver I’d clear a transition of 8,000 feet while in LAX I’d clear a transition of 3,000 feet?

Welp thanks for the information, sir. Just slightly confusing on AGL v MSL lol and I’d have requested googl’s services if I knew how to find what I was looking for. It’s hard typing in “Transition altitudes at airports” and find a definite answer. But I do appreciate the “check google”…I think.


Airfield ceilings for every airport, regardless of what is actually depicted on the map and shown in the data block is 5,000ft AGL. @Maxmustang

Transitions are usually approved around 1,000ft above pattern altitude. So if the pattern is at 9,000ft MSL, you’ll get a transition at or above 10,000ft MSL.


If it’s MSL then that means clearing someone in Denver for a transition of 3,000 feet would be like ordering them to die and sending their plane into the ground? Got it. I’ll make sure not to do that lol

I thought pattern levels were 3,000 - 2,500 feet AGL. So wouldn’t transition then be 4,000 feet?

Correct. KDEN is at what, 5400ft? So patterns would be 6,400 and 6,900ft. So lowest transition would be 8,000ft.

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Pattern levels for props are 1,000 feet, jets 1,500. Anyone higher doesn’t know how patterns works.


Yeah haha I don’t know how they work. That’s why I’m confirming how to do them properly instead of living off of my old “knowledge”. Thanks Josh.

If AGL and MSL are really close, then yes. Remember the assigned altitude is in MSL. Also, refer to the above posts for correct pattern altitudes AGL.

Thank you very much. I’ll try to remember the 1k rule. Does that meant if LAX is at sea level pattern work is between 1,000 to 1,500 feet so transition would then be 3,000 feet? If so I think I’m beginning to fully grasp how to handle pattern work.

You all are awesome for educating me :)

MaxSez: FYI… AIM 3-2-4 (a) Generally, that airspace from the surface to 4,000 feet above the airport elevation (charted in MSL)
If you look at chart for the Class C for Colorado Springs (elevation 6,187), the surface area of the airspace goes up to 10,200 ft MSL, approximately 4,000ft above the airport elevation of 6187.
The plus 5000 feet above MSL for IF Transition from my research appears valid.

KLAX airspace is surface to 2,500ft (the first ring). As stated the ceiling for all airports is 5,000ft AGL. Add 1,000 to 2,500 and you get 3,500. Clear them at 3,500ft, unless there is a conflict.

We can’t bring AIMs and other real world stuff into this- it just muddies the waters and ends up confusing people. The 5/5 rule continues to be in effect and will stick for the foreseeable future. We need to maintain an easy point of consistency.


Okay but the general idea is the same


KLAX is at 100ft, so patterns are at 1100ft and 1600ft. So you can clear a transition at 3,000ft or 4,000ft, or deny it.

EPWA is at 400ft. Patterns are at 1400ft and 1900ft. Same transitions apply as above.

SCEL is at 1500ft. Patterns are at 2500ft and 3000ft. You can clear transitions at 4,000ft, 5,000ft or 6,000ft.


2,000 feet of serperation is better than 1,500 feet of separation. That’s just what I do.

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I understand the nitty gritty details I just want to know the overall idea on transitions and I guess now pattern altitudes

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@JoshFly8. MaxSez: “The plus 5000 feet above MSL for IF Transition from my research appears valid.” Seems we have no conflict here Josh.
Appears 5000’ According to the AIM conforms to the IF 5/5 rule. Our opinions conform as well. Just interpretation… Regards

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