Airspace class

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The world's navigable airspace is divided into three-dimensional segments, each of which is assigned to a specific class. Most nations adhere to the classification specified by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and described below, though they might use only some of the classes defined below, and significantly alter the exact rules and requirements. Similarly, individual nations may also designate Special Use Airspace with further rules for reasons of national security or safety.

ICAO definitions[edit]

On March 12, 1990, ICAO adopted the current airspace classification scheme.[1] The classes are fundamentally defined in terms of flight rules and interactions between aircraft and Air Traffic Control (ATC). Generally speaking, the ICAO airspaces allocate the responsibility for avoiding other aircraft, namely either to ATC (if separation is provided) or to the aircraft commander (if not).

Some key concepts are:

  • Separation: Maintaining a specific minimum distance between an aircraft and another aircraft or terrain to avoid collisions, normally by requiring aircraft to fly at set levels or level bands, on set routes or in certain directions, or by controlling an aircraft's speed.
  • Clearance: Permission given by ATC for an aircraft to proceed under certain conditions contained within the clearance.
  • Traffic Information: Information given by ATC on the position and, if known, intentions of other aircraft likely to pose a hazard to flight.
  • Flight Rules: Aircraft can operate under Visual flight rules (VFR) or Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). There is also an intermediate form, Special visual flight rules (SVFR).
ICAO adopted classifications

Note: These are the ICAO definitions. Country-specific adaptations (such as "two-way communications" instead of "clearance" for Class C in the US) are discussed in the sections below.

  • Class A: All operations must be conducted under IFR. All aircraft are subject to ATC clearance. All flights are separated from each other by ATC.
  • Class B: Operations may be conducted under IFR, SVFR, or VFR. All aircraft are subject to ATC clearance. All flights are separated from each other by ATC.
  • Class C: Operations may be conducted under IFR, SVFR, or VFR. All aircraft are subject to ATC clearance (country-specific variations notwithstanding). Aircraft operating under IFR and SVFR are separated from each other and from flights operating under VFR, but VFR flights are not separated from each other. Flights operating under VFR are given traffic information in respect of other VFR flights.
  • Class D: Operations may be conducted under IFR, SVFR, or VFR. All flights are subject to ATC clearance (country-specific variations notwithstanding). Aircraft operating under IFR and SVFR are separated from each other, and are given traffic information in respect of VFR flights. Flights operating under VFR are given traffic information in respect of all other flights.
  • Class E: Operations may be conducted under IFR, SVFR, or VFR. Aircraft operating under IFR and SVFR are separated from each other, and are subject to ATC clearance. Flights under VFR are not subject to ATC clearance. As far as is practical, traffic information is given to all flights in respect of VFR flights.
  • Class F: Operations may be conducted under IFR or VFR. ATC separation will be provided, so far as practical, to aircraft operating under IFR. Traffic Information may be given as far as is practical in respect of other flights.
  • Class G: Operations may be conducted under IFR or VFR. ATC separation is not provided. Traffic Information may be given as far as is practical in respect of other flights.

Classes A–E are referred to as controlled airspace. Classes F and G are uncontrolled airspace.

The table below provides an overview of the above classes, and the specifications for each.

Class Controlled IFR SVFR VFR ATC Clearance Separation Traffic Information
A Controlled Yes No No Required Provided for all flights N/A
B Controlled Yes Yes Yes Required Provided for all flights N/A
C Controlled Yes Yes Yes Required Provided for all IFR/SVFR Provided for all VFR
D Controlled Yes Yes Yes Required Provided for IFR/SVFR to other IFR/SVFR Provided for all IFR and VFR
E Controlled Yes Yes Yes Required for IFR and SVFR Provided for IFR/SVFR to other IFR/SVFR Provided for all IFR and VFR flights where possible,
F Uncontrolled Yes No Yes advisory only Provided for IFR/SVFR to other IFR/SVFR where possible Provided where possible if requested
G Uncontrolled Yes No Yes Not provided Not provided Provided where possible, if requested

As of 2004, ICAO is considering a proposal to reduce the number of airspace classifications to three (N, K and U), which roughly correspond to the current classes C, E and G.

Use of airspace classes[edit]

Each national aviation authority determines how it uses the ICAO classifications in its airspace design. In some countries, the rules are modified slightly to fit the airspace rules and air traffic services that existed before the ICAO standardisation.

Australia[edit]

Australia has adopted a civil airspace system based on the United States National Airspace System (NAS):

  • Class A is used above FL 180 along the populated coastal areas, and above FL 245 elsewhere.
  • Class B is not used.
  • Class C is used in a 360° funnel shape in the Terminal Control Zones of the major international airports, extending up to the base of the Class A, generally at FL 180 over these airports. It also overlays Class D airspace at smaller airports.
  • Class D is used for the Terminal Control Zones of medium sized airports, extending from the surface up to 2,500 feet (760 m) AGL (depicted in MSL on a chart). Above this, Class C airspace is used, although generally only in a sector, and not 360° around the airport.
  • Class E is used along the populated coastal areas, from 8,500 feet (2,590 m) to the base of the overlying Class A or Class C airspace.
  • Class F is not used.
  • Class G is used wherever other classes are not—almost always from the surface to the base of the overlying Class A, C, D or E airspace.

Transition from GAAP to Class D[edit]

Australia used to have a non-standard class of airspace for use at the capital city general aviation airports, called a General Aviation Airport Procedures Zone (GAAP Zone). A control tower provided procedural clearances for all aircraft inside the zone. Additionally, any aircraft operating within 5 nmi (9.3 km; 5.8 mi) of the zone must obtain a clearance. VFR aircraft arrive and depart using standard arrival and departure routes, while instrument arrival and departure procedures are published for IFR operations. During visual meteorological conditions (VMC), IFR aircraft are not provided with full IFR services. During instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), or marginal VMC, VFR operations are restricted in order to facilitate full IFR service for IFR aircraft.

As of the 3rd of June 2010, all GAAP aerodromes were changed to Class D aerodromes, and the previous Class D procedures were changed. The new Class D procedures are similar to the FAA Class D procedures. VFR Aircraft are no longer required to enter the airspace via set inbound/outbound points, however can be directed there by ATC. VFR and IFR aircraft now require taxi clearance in the "manoeuvring area" of the aerodrome, but can still taxi within set apron areas without a clearance. IFR aircraft now receive slot times and the visibility requirements of Special VFR are reduced from 3000m Visibility to 1600m.

Canada[edit]

Further information: Canadian airspace

There are seven classes of airspace in Canada, and each is designated by a letter (A through G).

Germany[edit]

In Germany, Classes A and B are not used at all. Class C is used for Airspace above Flight Level (FL) 100 (or FL 130 near the Alps) up to FL 660. Airspace is divided into lower airspace below FL 245 and upper airspace above FL 245.

  • Class A is not used.
  • Class B is not used.
  • Class C is used for controlled zones above and around airports and for airspace above FL 100 (or FL 130 near the Alps) up to FL 660.
  • Class D is used for controlled zones, or above and around airspace Class C designated zones where CVFR is not necessary.
  • Class E is used for airspace between usually 2,500 ft (760 m) AGL (around airports 1,000 ft (300 m) or 1,700 ft (520 m) AGL) and FL 100.
  • Class F is used for IFR flight in uncontrolled airspace.
  • Class G is used below 2,500 ft (760 m) AGL (around airports below 1,000 ft (300 m) AGL, then rises via a step at 1,700 ft (520 m) to 2,500 ft (760 m) AGL). IFR flights in Class G are not allowed in Germany.

Iraq[edit]

In Iraq, The Flight Information Regions (FIR) is known as Baghdad FIR. It is classified into Class A, D, E and G airspace. Class B, C and F airspace are not used in the Baghdad FIR. Air traffic services are provided in all controlled airspace, by the controlling ATC Unit, based on an ATS Surveillance System (supplemented by procedural non-ATS Surveillance System procedures) or MRU where authorized based on Procedural (non- ATC Surveillance System) procedures and supplemented by ATC Surveillance System where possible.

  • Class A is established from FL235 – FL460 throughout the whole Baghdad FIR.
  • Class B is not used.
  • Class C is not used.
  • Class D is established in conjunction with airports that have operating control towers.
  • Class E is established at Baghdad, Basrah, Kirkuk, and Mosul TMAs. Class E airspace is also established along the air route structure.
  • Class F is not used.
  • Class G is established for all areas that are not classified as A, D or E. This airspace is primarily used by military VFR aircraft. A Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) is established for aircraft self deconfliction.

Italy[edit]

  • Class A is used for Rome and Milan TMAs
  • Class B is not used.
  • Class C is used in all airspace above FL 195, and in Military Control Zones above FL 195, to FL 450 excluded.
  • Class D is used for controlled zones and other TMAs
  • Class E is used for airways from MEL to FL 115.
  • Class F is not used.
  • Class G is used in all other airspaces, and above FL450

Lithuania[edit]

In Lithuania, Classes A and B are generally not used at all. Classes C and D are used in the following areas of controlled airspace of the Republic of Lithuania:

  • in control zones (CTR);
  • in terminal control areas (TMA);
  • in control area (CTA);
  • in upper control area (UTA).[2]

Netherlands[edit]

In the Netherlands, a relatively large part of the country is Class A airspace. Near Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, the airspace is almost completely built up with class A. It starts at 1500' MSL, and ends at FL195. Further away from Amsterdam and its airport Schiphol, Class A starts at a higher altitude. Class B is used a lot as well. Anywhere in the Netherlands, Class A airspace ends at FL195 and changes in to Class C. All CTRs were class C, but from 14 November 2013, Dutch military CTRs will be class D airspace, except Eindhoven CTR which remains class C due to intensive commercial flight operations. Class F is the only class that cannot be found in the Dutch airspace.

Norway[edit]

In Norway, airspace is divided into A, C, D and G.[3]

  • Class A is only used for Bodø OCA, FL 195 and up.
  • Class B is not used.
  • Class C is used for controlled airspace.
  • Class D is used for controlled airspace where C is not used.
  • Class E is not used.
  • Class F is not used.
  • Class G is used elsewhere. G* is used in TIZ and TIA where two-way radio communication is required during opening hours.

Russia[edit]

Russia adopted a modified version of ICAO airspace classification on November 1, 2010. The division into classes for the airspace of the Russian Federation was introduced for the first time in the history of Russia.[4]

The airspace above the territory of the Russian Federation is divided as follows:

  • Class A applies to airspace above and including 8100 m (the boundary between lower and upper airspace in Russia). All operations in Class A airspace must follow IFR and are separated from each other by ATC. Permanent two-way radio contact with ATC is required. Permission for using airspace is required except for the special cases listed in clause 114 of the Federal rules for using Russian air space.[5]
  • Class B is not used.
  • Class C airspace is defined below 8,100 metres (26,600 ft) and allows IFR and VFR operations. Both IFR and VFR operations are required to have permanent two-way radio contact with ATC. IFR flights are separated from each other and from VFR flights. VFR flights are separated from IFR flights and are provided traffic information about other VFR flights. Permission for using airspace is required except for the special cases listed in clause 114 of the Federal rules for using Russian air space.[5]
  • Class D is not used.
  • Class E is not used.
  • Class F is not used.
  • Class G airspace is defined wherever Class A and Class C airspaces are not defined. Class G airspace allows IFR and VFR operations. For altitudes less than 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) the speed must not exceed 450 kilometres per hour (280 mph; 240 kn). Flights are provided with flight information service as requested. IFR flights are required to have permanent two-way radio contact with ATC. No separation is provided by ATC. No permission for using airspace is required.[5]

Airspace controlled by Russia outside the territory of Russia has different division into classes and includes redefined Class A and Class G, but no class C airspace.[5]

Specific boundaries of airspaces are determined by the Order of the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation #199 of September 15, 2010.[5][6]

Sweden[edit]

In Sweden, airspace is divided into airspace class C and G only.

  • Class A is not used.
  • Class B is not used.
  • Class C is used for all controlled airspace.
  • Class D is not used.
  • Class E is not used.
  • Class F is not used.
  • Class G is used elsewhere.

United Kingdom[edit]

  • Class A:
    • Most airways up to FL 195 with the exception of airways lying within the Belfast CTR/TMA and around Scotland.
    • The Terminal Control Areas (TMAs) around London Heathrow Airport, Birmingham and Manchester.
    • The Channel Island Zone is Class A above FL80.
    • The CTAs of Daventry, Clacton, Cotswold and Worthing.
Airways typically start at FL 70 and routing options become more attractive above FL 140.
  • Class B: Not used in the UK.
  • Class C: All UK airspace between FL 195 and FL 660. (The Upper Flight Information Region (UIR) boundary begins at FL 245.)
Some airways & CTAs may have sections of Class C.
  • Class D:
  • Class E: Parts of the Belfast TMA and ATS routes in Scotland. A clearance is not required for VFR flights within Class E airspace, however pilots are strongly advised to contact the appropriate ATSU.
  • Class F: Not used in the UK. All remaining Class F airspace was dis established in November 2014.
  • Class G: All remaining airspace, comprising by far the largest part of the airspace below FL 195. The UK is unusual in that it has not adopted a widespread class E system of airways for most airspace lower than FL 70. Therefore for light aircraft, IFR flight in Class G airspace is relatively common. Use of a radio or transponder is not required, even in IMC.[7] ATC units may provide an "as far as practical" form of separation between some such flights, but participation in the service is voluntary.[8]

In addition the UK has a couple of special classes of airspace that do not fall within the ICAO classes:

  • Aerodrome Traffic Zones (ATZ) are circular zones around an airport with a radius of 2 nm or 2.5 nm depending on runway length, extending from the surface to 2,000 ft (600 m) AAL (above aerodrome level). Aircraft within an ATZ must obey the instructions of the tower controller (if present), or must make radio contact with the Aerodrome Flight Information Service unit or Air/Ground Communication Service unit for the aerodrome before entering the zone (in the case of an uncontrolled airfield), or must obey ground signals if non-radio.[9]
  • Military Air Traffic Zones (MATZ) are zones around military air bases in class G airspace. Military aircraft treat these as if they are controlled airspace; civilian traffic are advised but not obliged to do the same (although they must respect the ATZ contained within the MATZ). A MATZ usually consists of a circular zone with a radius of 5 nm, extending from the surface to 3,000 ft (900 m) AAL (above aerodrome level). Stubs 4 nm wide and 5 nm in length, orientated with the aerodrome's main runway, extend on opposite sides of the central circle, extending from 1,000 ft (300 m) to 3,000 ft (900 m) AAL.

United States[edit]

Airspace classes (United States).gif

The U.S. adopted a slightly modified version of the ICAO system on September 16, 1993, when regions of airspace designated according to older classifications were converted entirely. The exceptions are some Terminal Radar Service Areas (TRSA), which have special rules and still exist in a few places.

  • With some exceptions, Class A airspace is applied to all airspace between 18,000 feet (5,500 m) and Flight Level 600 (approximately 60,000 ft). Above FL600, the airspace reverts to Class E.[10] The transition altitude is also consistently 18,000 feet (5,500 m) everywhere. All operations in US Class A airspace must be conducted under IFR. SVFR flight in Class A airspace is prohibited.
  • Class B airspace is used to control the flow traffic around major airports. The airspace is charted on a VFR Sectional with a series of blue lines. Within these blue lines the floor and the ceiling of the Class B airspace is defined. The lateral boundaries of Class B airspace are individually tailored to facilitate arriving and departing traffic operating under IFR. Class B airspace extends from the surface to generally 10,000 feet (3,000 m) feet MSL. In Denver, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah the ceiling is at 12,000 feet (4,000 m) feet MSL while in Phoenix, Arizona the ceiling is at 9,000 feet (3,000 m) feet MSL.[11] It is important to always consult your map for the most current floor and ceiling information. Aircraft must establish two-way radio communication with ATC and obtain a clearance to enter Class B airspace. All aircraft operating inside or within 30 NM of Class B airspace are required to have a transponder with Mode C. The 30 NM Mode C Veil is denoted on VFR charts by a thin magenta line. VFR traffic must remain clear of clouds and maintain 3 SM of visibility while operating within Class B airspace.
  • Class C airspace is used around airports with a moderate traffic level.
  • Class D is used for smaller airports that have a control tower. The U.S. uses a modified version of the ICAO class C and D airspace, where only radio contact with ATC rather than an ATC clearance is required for VFR operations.
  • Other controlled airspace is designated as Class E, this includes a large part of the lower airspace. Class E airspace exists in many forms. It can serve as a surface-based extension to Class D airspace to accommodate IFR approach/departure procedure areas. Class E airspace can be designated to have a floor of 700' AGL or 1,200' AGL, or a customized floor of any other altitude. Class E airspace exists above Class G surface areas from 14,500' MSL to 18,000 MSL. Federal airways from 1,200 AGL to 18,000 MSL within 4 miles (6 km) of the centerline of the airway is designated Class E airspace. Airspace at any altitude over 60,000' (the ceiling of Class A airspace) is designated Class E airspace.
  • The U.S. does not use ICAO Class F.
  • Class G (uncontrolled) airspace is mostly used for a small layer of airspace near the ground, but there are larger areas of Class G airspace in remote regions.

Airspace classes and VFR[edit]

Authorities use the ICAO definitions to derive additional rules for VFR cloud clearance, visibility, and equipment requirements.

For example, consider Class E airspace. It is possible that an aircraft operating under VFR is not in communication with ATC, so it is imperative that its pilot be able to see and avoid other aircraft (and vice versa). That includes IFR flights emerging from a cloud, so the VFR flight must keep a designated distance from the edges of clouds above, below, and laterally, and must maintain at least a designated visibility, to give the two aircraft time to observe and avoid each other. The low-level speed limit of 250 knots does not apply above 10,000 feet (3,000 m), so the visibility requirements are higher.

On the other hand, in Class B and Class C airspaces, separation is provided by ATC to all aircraft. Now the VFR pilot only needs to see where it is going, so visibility requirements are reduced and there is no designated minimum distance from clouds.

Similar considerations determine whether a VFR aircraft must use a two-way radio and/or a transponder.

Special use airspace[edit]

Each national authority designates areas of special use airspace (SUA), primarily for reasons of national security. This is not a separate classification from the ATC-based classes; each piece of SUA is contained in one or more zones of letter-classed airspace.

SUAs range in restrictiveness, from areas where flight is always prohibited except to authorized aircraft, to areas that are not charted but are used by military for potentially hazardous operations (in this case, the onus is on the military personnel to avoid conflict). Refer to the external links for more specific details.

References[edit]

  1. ^ ICAO's airspace classification scheme is defined in ICAO Annex 11: Air Traffic Services, Chapter 2, Section 2.6., available at [1]
  2. ^ Airfield Guide Lithuania, 29 SEP 2005, ENR 1.1-1
  3. ^ IPPC AIP, AIP.
  4. ^ The Official Site of the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, March 11, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d e Appendix to the Resolution of the Government of The Russian Federation #138 of March 11, 2010. (Russian)
  6. ^ Order of the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation #199 of September 15, 2010. (Russian)
  7. ^ http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/64/200890108ATSAirspaceClassificationV3.pdf
  8. ^ [2][dead link]
  9. ^ Godwin, Peter (1987–2004). The Air Pilot's Manual: Aviation Law And Meteorology. Cranfield, England: Air Pilot Publishing Ltd. 
  10. ^ FAA Order 7400.9, Subpart E
  11. ^ "Pilot2Pilot - For Pilots by Pilots : Class B Airspace". Pilot2pilotblog.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 

External links[edit]