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Airspace Classifications

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There are two categories of airspace classification: regulatory and non-regulatory.  Within these two categories there are four types: controlled, uncontrolled, special use and other airspace.

The figure below shows the dimensions of the various classes of airspace.

The next figure gives the basic weather minimums for operating in each class of airspace.

CONTROLLED AIRSPACE

Controlled airspace consists of Class A, B, C, D and E.

Class A airspace is generally the airspace from 18,000 feet MSL (Mean Sea Level) up to and including FL600, including the airspace overlying the waters within 12 nautical miles of the coast of the 48 contiguous states and Alaska.  All flights in Class A airspace must be conducted under instrument flight rules (IFR).

Class B Airspace is generally the airspace from the surface to 10,000 feet MSL surrounding the busiest airports.  Class B airspace is configured to the individual needs of the area, and consists of a surface area and two or more layers.  You must have a minimum of a private pilot’s certificate to operate in Class B airspace.  The exception to this rule is student pilots or recreational pilots seeking private pilot certification can operate in the airspace and land at other airports than specified primary airports if they have received the proper training and had their logbooks endorsed by a CFI.

Class C Airspace generally extends from the surface to 4,000 feet above the airport elevation surrounding those airports having an operational control tower, that are serviced by a radar approach control, and with a certain number of IFR operations or passenger enplanements.  This airspace is generally a 5 nautical mile radius surface area that extends from the surface to 4,000 feet above the airport elevation, and a 10 nautical mile radius area that extends from 1,200 feet to 4,000 feet above the primary airport.  There is also an outer area with a 20 nautical mile radius, which extends from the surface to 4,000 feet above the primary airport, and this area may include one or more satellite airports.

Class D airspace generally extends from the surface to 2,500 feet above the airport elevation surrounding those airports that have an operational control tower.  Class D airspace is tailored to meet the operational needs of the area.

Class E Airspace is generally controlled airspace that is not designated as Class A, B, C or D.  Except for 18,000 feet MSL, Class E airspace has no defined vertical limit, but it extends upward from either the surface or a designated altitude to the overlying or adjacent controlled airspace.

UNCONTROLLED AIRSPACE

Class G Airspace is uncontrolled airspace which is the portion of the airspace that has not been designated as Class A, B, C, D or E.  Class G airspace extends from the surface to Class E airspace.  Air Traffic Control (ATC) has no authority or responsibility over this airspace, but there are VFR minimums which apply as seen in the graphic above.

Listed below are the requirements for operating in each type of airspace classification:

 

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