Pilot Courses of Instruction

Airspace & Related Information

Steve Sconfienza, Ph.D.

Airline Transport Pilot

Flight Instructor: Airplane Single and Multiengine; Instrument Airplane

cell: 518.366.3957

e-mail: docsteve@localnet.com

Class, Visibility & Cloud Clearances, Bases & Upper Boundaries, Clearance, and Communications Requirements

Class Visibility & Cloud Clearances Base & Upper Boundary
(see note * below)
IFR Clearance Required?
(see note ** below)
Communications Required
(for Q codes see Aviation Q Codes)

Notes & References to the Airspace Table:

Reference:

14 CFR 91.126, et. seq., 91.155.

Notes:

*   Airspace definitions are for the continental United States and adjacent waters: airspace over Hawaii and the Alaskan peninsula west of 160 degrees W. longitude have certain variations.
**   All IFR (i.e., any flight in weather less than that prescribed for VFR, even when not operating in IMC) requires aircraft and pilot qualifications as specified for IFR regardless of requirement for flight plan or clearance.
***   Class E airspace over Class A is a somewhat elusive definition, but it is defined in the AIM ( in Chap. 3, Sect. 2, Para. 6(e)(7)) as ". . . that airspace above FL 600[.]").
G < 1200 ft. QFE >= 1200 ft. QFE

day

  • 1 mile
  • Clear of Clouds

day

  • 1 mile
  • +1000 ft.
  • -500 ft.
  • 2,000 ft. horizontal

Base:

  • surface

Upper Boundary:

  • overlying Class E
  • 14,500 ft. QNH
  • other as charted
NO For an airport with an operating control tower, communications must be established prior to 4 nautical miles from the airport, up to and including 2,500 feet AGL (no specific clearance required to enter four-mile ring)

night

  • 3 miles
  • +1000 ft.
  • -500 ft.
  • 2,000 ft. horizontal

night

  • 3 miles
  • +1000 ft.
  • -500 ft.
  • 2,000 ft. horizontal
  • in airport traffic pattern
    within 1/2 mile of runway

    • 1 mile
    • Clear of Clouds

>= 10,000 ft. QNH

(>= 1,200 ft. QFE)

day/night

  • 5 miles
  • +/-1000 ft.
  • 1 mile horizontal
E < 10,000 ft. QFE >= 10,000 ft. QFE
  • 3 miles
  • +1000 ft.
  • -500 ft.
  • 2,000 ft. horizontal
  • 5 miles
  • +/-1000 ft.
  • 1 mile horizontal

Base:

  • surface: red dashed lines
  • 700 ft.: magenta shading
  • 1200 ft.: blue or no shading
  • above B, C, or D
  • above A (over FL 600) [see note *** below]
  • above 14,500 ft. (outside blue shading), excluding < 1500 ft. QFE unless otherwise designated
  • other as charted

Upper Boundary:

  • overlying Class B/C
  • overlying Class A (18,000 ft. QNH)
  • unlimited above Class A
YES For an airport with an operating control tower, communications must be established prior to 4 nautical miles from the airport, up to and including 2,500 feet AGL (no specific clearance required to enter four-mile ring)
C/D/E Surface Area Aloft
  • 3 miles
  • 1000 ft. ceiling
or
  • Special VFR
  • 3 miles
  • +1000 ft.
  • -500 ft.
  • 2,000 ft. horizontal
  • E: see also above

Base:

  • surface
  • as chartered otherwise

Upper Boundary:

  • C: 4,000 ft. QFE
  • D: 2,500 ft. QFE
  • E: see above
YES
  • C & D: Establish & maintain radio communications (no specific clearance required to enter)
  • E: see above
B Surface Area Aloft
  • 3 miles
  • 1000 ft. ceiling
or
  • Special VFR
  • 3 miles
  • Clear of Clouds

Base:

  • surface
  • as chartered otherwise

Upper Boundary:

  • as charted (generally 7,000 ft. to 14,000 ft. QNH)
YES Clearance required to enter (& maintain radio communications)
A All operations
  • IFR Flight Plan
  • Clearance & Communications

Base:

  • 18,000 ft. QNH (excluding <= 2,500 ft. QFE)

Upper Boundary:

  • above FL 600
YES Clearance required to enter (& maintain radio communications)
F

Class F generally:

Class F is generally classified as a type of uncontrolled airspace, like Class G. In Class F airspace, operations may be conducted under IFR or VFR. However, unlike Class G, ATC will provide separation to aircraft operating under IFR, but only so far as practical, and ATC may only provide advisory services. Class F airspace of this nature has been designated in Austria, Germany, Hungary, and the U.K. (see Eurocontrol Airspace Classification).

Class F in North America:

Class F may also be used to designate certain special use airspace: this would be areas reserved for non-standard flight operations or other restrictions. Class F airspace of this nature has been designated in Canada (and is recognized as such by the U.S. FAA): Advisory (A) allows general use with specified limitations; Restricted (R) only allows aircraft approved by the controlling agency responsible for the airspace; Danger (D) designates such areas over international waters. Examples of this airspace are aerobatic (A), flight test (F), hang gliding (H), military (M), parachute jumping (P), soaring (S), and training (T) areas.

Class F in The United States:

Class F has never been designated in the United States.
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Mode C

Note:

Special Airspace: DC SFRA: See below.

Reference:

14 CFR 91.215.

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Speed Limits

Area Speed (indicated airspeed)

Reference:

14 CFR 91.117;

< 10,000 ft. QNH 250 knots
When:
  • < 4 nautical miles of Class C/D primary airport
    and
    <= 2500 ft. QFE
or
  • VFR Corridor through Class B
or
  • Under Class B
200 knots
Holds:
  • <= 6000 ft. QNH:
  • > 6000 ft. QNH & <= 14,000 ft. QNH:
  • > 14,000 ft. QNH:
200 knots
230 knots
265 knots
}
} 1 minute inbound leg
: 1 1/2 minute inbound leg

Note:

Special Airspace:

NY SFRA/Hudson Riverr Corridor: See below.

DC SFRA: See below.

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Oxygen

Part 91 Operations

Altitude Requirement
> 12,500 ft. QNE Required flight crewmembers Flight at those altitudes that is over 30 minutes
> 14,000 ft. QNE Entire flight at those altitudes
> 15,000 ft. QNE All occupants

Note:

Pressure altitudes, not MSL.

Reference:

14 CFR 91.211, et. seq.

Part 121 & Part 135 Operations

These parts are covered in 14 CFR 121.327, et. seq. and 14 CFR 135.89 & 135.157.

Detailed Oxygen requirements

(Excel workbook with two worksheets [navigate with tabs at bottom])

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Hudson River Corridor/New York SFRA

Before operating in the Hudson River Corridor (SFRA or Skyline Route)

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Niagara Falls Part 93 Flight Restrictions

Flight restrictions exist in the area around Niagara Falls. There are two areas: one that amount to a non-flying zone (below 3,500 feet) and one that has specific flight operations procedures. There are two areas: one that amount to a non-flying zone (below 3,500 feet) and one that has specific flight operations procedures. . These areas are not exactly defined as a Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) but are essentially the same, and -- with few exceptions -- all flights below 3,500 feet in the Flight Restrictions prohibited except for those made under an MOU with the Transport Canada.

The restricted airspace is defined as within a line from

  1. The Whirlpool Rapids Bridge (the first bridge to the north of the Rainbow Bridge); then to
  2. The Niagara River Inlet (the significant indent on the north shore of the river immediately east of the trumpet interchange on the Robert s Parkway, just east of Goat Island); then to
  3. The International Control Dam (where it intersects with the international border); then
  4. The United States/Canadian Border west and north to the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge. .

Generally, no flight is permitted below 3,500 feet MSL.

  1. No flight is authorized below 3,500 feet MSL except for
    1. aircraft operations conducted directly to or from an airport/heliport within the area,
    2. aircraft operating on an ATC-approved IFR flight plan,
    3. aircraft operating the "Scenic Falls" route pursuant to approval of Transport Canada
  2. The operations referenced in 1(c) above are commercial air tour operations approved by Transport Canada, which will be conducting a north/south orbit of the Niagara Falls area below 3,500 feet MSL over the Niagara River.

The minimum altitude for VFR flight over the Scenic Falls area is 3,500 feet MSL. The following procedures are mandatory for flights over the area:

  1. Fly a clockwise pattern;
  2. Do not proceed north of the Rainbow Bridge;
  3. Prior to joining the pattern, broadcast flight intentions on frequency 122.05 Mhz, giving altitude and position, and monitor the frequency while in the pattern;
  4. Use the Niagara Falls airport altimeter setting. Contact Niagara Falls Airport Traffic Control Tower to obtain the current altimeter setting, to facilitate the exchange of traffic advisories/restrictions, and to reduce the risk of midair collisions between aircraft operating in the vicinity of the Falls. If the Control Tower is closed, use the appropriate Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) Frequency;
  5. Do not exceed 130 knots;

Also be aware of the following:

  1. Anticipate heavy congestion of VFR traffic at or above 3,500 feet MSL; and
  2. Use caution to avoid high-speed civil and military aircraft transiting the area to or from Niagara Falls Airport.

One noteworthy point is that Part 93 does not describe the ceiling of the "Flight Restrictions Area" whose base is 3,500 feet. Clearly, transient flights at 10,000 feet should not have a limitation on them; however, is five thousand above the circuit? One might assume that most traffic would be right at 3,500, maybe up to 4,000, so then what? So what is the minimum altitude for VFR flight that simply crosses through this airspace? Goat Island is at about 550 feet, while both cities (U.S. & Canada) are between 550 and 650 feet; therefore, the lowest altitude at whcih the hemispheric rule applies is 4,500 feet; so, one might guess 4,500 on westerly headings and 5,500 on easterly headings, but be careful at 4,500.

Part 93 "Flight Restrictions" Airspace Area: Graphics

FAA Chart

Thumbnail: Niagra Falls SFRA map

Aerial Diagram

Thumbnail: Niagra Falls SFRA map

Aerial Diagram: Operating Detail Above 3,500 feet

Thumbnail: Niagra Falls SFRA map

References:

14 CFR 93, Subpart E, "Flight Restrictions in the Vicinity of Niagara Falls, New York," 93.71, et. seq..

Airport/Facility Directory: Special Notices (retrieved from "NE, 20 SEP 2012 to 15 NOV 2012" edition, page 373).

Canadian Airspace Restrictions

Transport Canada has instituted similar restrictions in Canadian airspace with a restricted area, CYR518, which similarly exists below 3,500 feet.

The only operations permitted below 3,500 feet in either the U.S. Part 93 Restricted Area or in Canadian Restricted Airspace CYR518 are sightseeing aircraft operating on the Canadian side of the river under an MOU with Transport Canada.

Canadian airspace operations above CYR518

Thumbnail: Niagra Falls Canada map

Reference:

Canada Flight Supplement, Niagara Falls VFR Terminal Procedures Chart

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DC SFRA

Note the following on the Washington, D.C. area airspace, including the Washington, D.C. Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA)
From the outermost area to the innermost area and the Class B and Class D airspaces

References & Additional Material:

Code of Federal Regulations

14 CFR 91.117;

14 CFR 91.161;

14 CFR 93, Subpart V (93.331, et. seq.).

NOTAMs

NOTAM 0/8326 (General 60-mile ring, DC SFRA, and DC FRZ operations);

NOTAM 1/1155 (Speed limits within 60- and 30-mile rings);

NOTAM 1/6386 (Leesburg Maneuvering Area).

Additional Material

See the DC SFRA "Cheat Sheet"

(PDF)

See the Pilots' Briefcase

for downloadable graphics of the SFRA
60 Mile Ring:
  • When:
  • and when also
    • > 30 nautical miles of DCA VOR/DME (i.e., DCA 30 DME)
      • Maximum Speed: 230 knots indicated airspeed (per NOTAM 1/1155)
DC SFRA:
  • 30 Mile Ring
  • Pronounced "sifra"
  • When:
    • from the surface to but not including FL 180
    • and
    • <= 30 nautical miles of DCA VOR/DME (i.e., DCA 30 DME)
      • Establish and maintain two-way radio communications with the appropriate ATC facility
      • Must transmit assigned transponder code:
        • Arrivals keep assigned code to the ground
        • Departures pick-up code via phone prior to takeoff
        • Transponder code 1200 may never be used while in the DC SFRA.
      • Maximum Speed: 180 knots indicated airspeed (per NOTAM 1/1155)
      • Mode C required
      • Flight Plans:
        • DC SFRA flight plan or IFR flight plan required (except for Leesburg)
        • Mark DC SFRA flight plan as IFR (forces ATC computer to issue discrete transponder code)
        • Flying outbound, destination airport not listed in destination block: instead, exit gate is listed
        • Flying inbound, departure airport is the entry gate, destination is the destination airport
        • Transiting, list entry gate to exit gate
        • Must also file separate VFR flight plan if standard VFR flight plan services are desired
    • NOTE: this is not the same 30 miles as the 30 mile rings from the Class B primaries for use of transponder Mode C:
      • the SFRA is entirely contained within the various 30-mile Mode-C veils.
    • NOTE: while not explicitly stated, the rules implicitly forbid IFR flight in Class G airspace without an instrument flight plan and clearance, as the IFR rules of the SFRA supercede the general Class G rules.
Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ):
  • Thirteen to fifteen mile ring around DCA VOR/DME.
  • Extreme limitations on pilots and flight operations
  • e.g.,
    • All of the above, plus . . .
    • All pilots must have a PIN
      • Background check of all pilots (in-person in D.C.)
      • PIN issued following the in-person background check
    • DC FRZ flight plan or IFR flight plan required
      • Flight plan filed using pilot's PIN (or waiver number)
      • Flight plan filed using specific phone number at Leesburg FSS
        • 866-225-7410
Washington Tri-Area Class B
  • Entirely contained within 60-mile ring (including all areas of the various 30-mile Mode-C viels).
  • All Class B regulations and procedures apply, including when in the SFRA and the FRZ.
    • e.g., Clearance to enter Class B, student pilot rules, special VFR rules
    • Obtaining a Class B clearance is required and is the responsibility of the pilot
Class D Airspace within the 60-mile ring
  • Various areas entirely or partly contained within 60-mile ring.
  • All Class D regulations and procedures apply
    • This includes when in the SFRA (three Class D)
      • Quantico MCAF/Turner
      • Davison AAF (part)
      • Manassas Regional/Davis
    • and in the FRZ (one Class D).
      • Davison AAF (part)
    • Obtaining a Class D clearance is required and is the responsibility of the pilot