Commercial Pilot Technology
Pilots must learn the different airspace types

Understanding the Different Airspace Types: A Brief Guide

One of the first things any student pilot will learn in flight school is the various airspace types that exist. Each one has a different set of functions and regulations as defined by the National Airspace System. Learn more about all airspace class categories in this helpful guide.

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Controlled Airspace vs. Uncontrolled Airspace

Most pilots spend the majority of their flights in these two airspace categories. FAA airspace classes vary based on their elevation either in Mean Sea Level or Above Ground Level. The following airspace classes all fall under the Controlled Airspace category:

  • Class A airspace: Also known as Class Alpha, this airspace begins at 18,000 feet MSL and extends up to 60,000 feet AGL.
  • Class B airspace: Pilots who fly in Class Bravo often go between the nation’s busiest airports at an elevation of up to 10,000 feet MSL. They must receive clearance from air traffic control to fly in Class B.
  • Class C airspace: An aircraft operating in Class C, also known as Class Charlie, will correspond with traffic control services while in the space’s inner and outer ring. These rings measure up to 1,200 and 4,000 feet MSL.
  • Class D airspace: The Class Delta airspace requires two-way communication between the pilot and air traffic services before an aircraft can enter the zone. This airspace class covers up to 2,500 feet above the airport elevation.
  • Class E airspace: Finally, Class Echo accommodates aircraft using both Instrument Flight Rules and Visual Flight Rules. It consists of different altitude ranges starting at 1,200 feet AGL.

The only uncontrolled airspace is Class G airspace. This means pilots flying in this zone need to coordinate their own airport flight path and operations since there’s no control tower in the area.

Other Categories of Airspaces

In some instances, you’ll fly in what’s known as a Special Use or Other airspace. Special Use airspaces are restricted areas with limited aircraft due to security reasons, including Military Operations Areas and Controlled Firing Areas. Some Special Use airspaces are prohibited areas that allow no aircraft operations for national security.

Other airspace types exist either for the safety of flying in hazardous areas, for disaster relief like aerial firefighting, or to limit activity over a popular site. Common types of Other airspaces include:

  • Temporary Flight Restrictions
  • Military Training Route
  • Parachute Jump Aircraft Operations
  • National Security Areas
  • Air Defense Identification Zones

Whether you’re navigating military operation areas or other restricted areas, it’s important to know the basics of each airspace class.

Understanding the Most Common Airspace Types

Class A, B, C, and D are all fairly common airspace areas that pilots need to navigate. Class A airspace is the primary class for commercial pilots or anyone operating a cargo plane. It mostly occupies VFR flights and allows pilots to operate freely, barring any prohibited areas.

Class B airspace functions like an upside-down wedding cake, as it contains layers that grow wider the higher up you travel. Class C is the airspace class that serves smaller regional airports that only schedule between 20 and 30 flights per day. The Class D airspace varies from Class C since it’s just one individual layer up to 2,500 feet.

However, Class E airspace is by far the most common airspace class in the United States. It occupies much of the country and has a wide range of requirements for pilots.

Class E Airspace: What You Need To Know

Your flight training at Leopard Aviation will cover all of the airspace types so you can get familiar with all airspace classes and their requirements. Class E is perhaps the most prevalent for anyone looking to get their pilot’s license.

In this airspace, pilots communicate via a terminal radar service area and will receive clearance when flying under IFR, though anyone flying under VFR does not need clearance to enter this area. The space begins at 1,200 feet, though some alert areas signify Class E starting at 700 feet AGL. The airspace extends to 18,000 feet but then begins yet again at 60,000 feet.

Why Pilots Must Understand Each Airspace

If you’re considering an aviation career, you must know the ins and outs of all airspace classes. You will need to fly through all of these areas and should know the basic requirements for each one. This is critical for simple flight paths, as well as ones that include warning areas.

You may find your aircraft needs to navigate alert areas such as Special Use or Other airspaces. In this instance, you must be aware of military training routes, controlled firing areas, and any warning areas that cause a temporary flight restriction.

Learn About Each Airspace, Air Traffic Control Service, and More in Flight School

Understanding the different airspace types will give you an early advantage in your training. At Leopard Aviation, we’ll teach you everything pilots need to know about airspaces, air traffic control communications, and, of course, in-flight procedures.

Contact us today at (480) 372-9815 to learn about our program and how you can enroll in flight school.

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