Flight Operations in the CAR Era

By Scott Spangler on November 16th, 2020

CAR60-1Many an aviation scribe has described what flying was like in now bygone days. Little did I suspect that the Civil Aeronautics Board was among them, or that Part 60 of the Civil Air Regulations (CAR), Air Traffic Rules, would paint such an effective word picture of what flight operations were like in the 1940s.

The modern offspring of these Air Traffic Rules for flight operations are today enumerated online in 14 CFR Part 91, General Operating and Flight Rules. It, at my count, contains 281 boldface sections in 14 capital letter subparts, A through N, the last of which is dedicated to the Mitsubishi MU-2B special training, experience, and operating requirements. I didn’t count the seven appendixes.

Printed on uncoated paper with the texture and weight of the durable copy paper we fed into manual typewriters in the basic news writing class at Missouri’s J-school, the Superintendent of Documents at the Government Printing Office sold the 10-page document, “Effective October 8, 1947,” for 10 cents. I found it, quarter-folded, in the back of my dad’s last logbook.

CAR60-3It was a quick read, with 29 flight operations regs in four sections: 2 General 60.00 rules; 14 General Flight Rules (GFR, 60.1); 4 Visual Flight Rules (VFR, 60.2); and 9 Instrument Flight Rules (IFR, 60.3). I started in section 60.9, Definitions. Most of them would fit comfortably with today’s CFR 1.1. A number of them were, however, a necessary to understand yesterday’s airspace.

60.913 said a Control Area is “airspace of defined dimensions, designated by the Administrator, extending upwards from an altitude of 700 feet above the surface, within which air traffic control is exercised.” I knew what a control zone was because airports still had them when I learned to fly in 1976. And that was it for airspace. Either you were in it, or you were not, and when you were in it, you followed the ATC instructions.

60.905, Airspace Restrictions, is another example of how flying used to be so much simpler and more enjoyable. Part 60 defines just two types of restricted airspace. “(a) Airspace reservation. An area established by Executive order of the President of the United States or by and State of the United States.” And “(b) Danger Area. An area designated by the Administrator within which an invisible hazard to aircraft in flight exists.”

VFR weather minimums and cruising altitudes is where Part 60 gets interesting.


At above ground level altitudes of more than 700 feet, pilots needed 3 miles visibility in control areas and control zones, and 1 mile everywhere else. In all airspace they needed to be 500 feet vertically and 2,000 feet horizontally from clouds. The same cloud clearances apply below 700 feet in control zones, and pilots still needed 3 miles visibility. “Control areas do not extend below 700 feet above the surface. Therefore the ‘elsewhere’ minimums apply.” Elsewhere, below 700 feet, pilots had to remain clear of clouds and have at least 1 mile visibility.

Cruising altitudes, in 1947, were divided not into two hemispheres, east or west, but quarters! When flying a heading of 360° to 089°, pilots flew at odd thousands of feet, 1,000, 3,000, etc. Between 090° and 179°, they flew odd thousands plus 500 feet, 1,500, 3,500, etc. Continuing around the compass, from 180° to 269° they cruised at even thousands, 2,000, 4,000, etc. And from 270° to 359° they flew at, you guessed it, even thousands plus 500 feet.

Finally, when cruising IFR, 60305, Right-side traffic, required “aircraft operating along a civil airway” to fly to the right side of that airway’s centerline, “unless otherwise authorized by air traffic control.” The reason, I’m guessing, is for the same reason the Strategic Lateral Offset Procedure (SLOP) is always on the right-side of the trans-oceanic routes. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Scott Spangler, Editor


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