Class Echo Airspace


  • Class E airspace is controlled airspace that is designated to serve a variety of terminal or en route purposes
  • Class Echo airspace is controlled through the Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC)
  • Unless otherwise required by part 93 or unless otherwise authorized or required by the ATC facility having jurisdiction over the Class E airspace area, each person operating an aircraft on or in the vicinity of an airport in a Class E airspace area must comply with the requirements of FAR 91.126
  • Class E airspace supports both Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and Visual Flight Rules (VFR) operations within

Air Traffic Services:

  • Each pilot of an aircraft must comply with any traffic patterns established for that airport in part 93
  • Unless otherwise authorized or required by ATC, no person may operate an aircraft to, from, through, or on an airport having an operational control tower unless two-way radio communications are maintained between that aircraft and the control tower
  • Communications must be established prior to 4 NM from the airport, up to and including 2,500' AGL
    • If the aircraft radio fails in flight, the pilot in command may operate that aircraft and land if weather conditions are at or above basic VFR weather minimums, visual contact with the tower is maintained, and a clearance to land is received
    • If the aircraft radio fails while in flight under IFR, the pilot must comply with IFR two-way radio communications failure procedures

Airspace Dimensions:

  • Horizontal Limits:

    • The 48 contiguous States including the waters within 12 miles from the coast of the 48 contiguous States;
    • The District of Columbia;
    • Alaska, including the waters within 12 miles from the coast of Alaska;
    • Excluding the Alaska peninsula west of long 160°00'00''W, and the airspace below 1,500 feet above the surface of the earth unless specifically so designated
  • Vertical Limits:

    • Except when designed different in accordance with the functions of Class E Airspace (defined below), Class E airspace is that airspace extending upward from 14,500 feet MSL to, but not including, 18,000 feet MSL, excluding:
      • The airspace below 1,500 feet above the surface of the earth unless specifically designated lower (for example, in mountainous terrain higher than 13,000 feet MSL)
    • Class E begins again at 60,000' MSL and continues up to unlimited

Airspace Depiction:

Sectional Chart Airways
Federal Airway

Operating Rules and Pilot/Equipment Requirements:

  • VFR Visibility Requirements:

    • Below 10,000' MSL: 3 SM visibility, 500' below, 1,000' above, 2,000' horizontal
    • Above 10,000' MSL: 5 SM visibility, 1,000' below, 1,000' above, 1 SM horizontal
  • Qualifications:

    • No specific certificate required
  • Equipment:

    • No specific equipment is required other than that required for VFR and IFR operations
  • Arrival or Through Flight Entry Requirements:

    • ATC clearance for IFR, all require radio contact
  • Aircraft Separation:

    • Separation is provided for IFR, SVFR, and runway operations
    • VFR separation is not provided unless flight following is being used
  • Speed Restrictions:

    • 250 knots below 10,000' MSL
Sectional Chart Extension
Extension to Surface

Functions of Class E Airspace:

  • Federal Airways and Low-Altitude RNAV Routes:

    • Airways are the primary means for routing aircraft operating under IFR
    • Federal airways are based on a centerline that extends from one navigational aid (NAVAID)/waypoint/fix/intersection to another NAVAID/waypoint/fix/intersection specified for that airway
    • A Federal airway includes the airspace within parallel boundary lines 4 NM to each side of the centerline
    • As in all instrument flight, courses are magnetic, and distances are in NM
    • The airspace of a Federal airway has a floor of 1,200' AGL, unless otherwise specified. A Federal airway does not include the airspace of a prohibited area
    • Federal airways and low-altitude RNAV routes are Class E airspace areas and, unless otherwise specified, extend upward from 1,200 feet AGL to, but not including,18,000 feet MSL
    • The airways are designated on sectional and IFR low altitude en route charts with the letter "V" followed by a number (e.g., "V23"). Typically, Victor airways are given odd numbers when oriented north/south and even numbers when oriented east/west
    • If more than one airway coincides on a route segment, the numbers are listed serially
    • Federal airways consist of Low/Medium Frequency (L/MF) airways (colored Federal airways) and VOR Federal airways
      • VOR and L/MF routes:
        • Victor Airways, 1200' up to, but not including, 18,000'
        • A segment that contains two or more routes carries the numbers of all airways which coincide
        • Inside of 50 NM, the width will extend 4 NM from centerline (8 NM wide)
        • Outside of 50 NM, the accuracy of NAVAIDs (4.5° tolerance) will determine the width of the airway
        • Must fly on centerline of an airway or a direct route between fixes
        • About 2 NM in total width for every 13 NM
        • L/MF airways are based on non-directional beacons (NDB) and are identified as green, red, amber, or blue
      • Colored airways:
        • L/MF navigation aids are depicted in amber
        • Green and red airways are plotted east and west
        • Amber and blue airways are plotted north and south
        • The VOR airways are classified as Domestic, Alaskan, and Hawaiian
      • Low-altitude RNAV routes consist of T-routes and helicopter RNAV routes (TK-routes)
      • Sectional Chart Transition Area
        Transition Area
      • The VOR airways are classified as Domestic, Alaskan, and Hawaiian
      • T-routes are available for use by RNAV equipped aircraft from 1,200' above the surface (or in some instances higher) up to, but not including, 18,000' MSL
      • T-routes are published on En-route Low Altitude Charts
      • Magnetic Reference Bearing (MRB) is the published bearing between two waypoints on the RNAV system
      • Calculated by applying magnetic variation at the waypoint to calculate true course between two-waypoints
  • Extension to Surface Area:

    • Class E airspace may be designated as extensions to Class B, Class C, Class D, and Class E surface areas
    • Class E airspace extensions begin at the surface and extend up to the overlying controlled airspace
    • The extensions provide controlled airspace to contain standard instrument approach procedures without imposing a communications requirement on pilots operating under VFR
    • Surface area arrival extensions become part of the surface area and are in effect during the same times as the surface area
    • In the example shown to the right, you see the Class echo extension connects with Class Delta airspace [Figure 2]
    • When a Class C or Class D surface area is not in effect continuously (for example, where a control tower only operates part-time), the surface area airspace will change to either a Class E surface area or Class G airspace. In such cases, the "Airspace" entry for the airport in the Chart Supplement U.S. will state "other times Class E" or "other times Class G." When a part-time surface area changes to Class E airspace, the Class E arrival extensions will remain in effect as Class E airspace. If a part–time Class C, Class D, or Class E surface area becomes Class G airspace, the arrival extensions will change to Class G at the same time
  • En-route Domestic Area:

    • Echo airspace that extends upward from a specified altitude and are used for en-route domestic airspace areas to provide controlled airspace where there is a requirement to provide IFR en route ATC services but the Federal Airway does not exist and would be inadequate
    • Depicted on the outside of the transition area where Class Echo starts at 1,200' AGL
    • The lateral extend is identical to that of a federal airway
  • Sectional Chart Surface Extension
    Extension to Surface
  • Transition Area:

    • Class E airspace areas may be designated for transitioning aircraft to/from the terminal or en route environment
      • Class E transition areas extend upward from either 700 feet AGL (shown as magenta vignette on sectional charts) or 1,200 feet AGL (blue vignette) and are designated for airports with an approved instrument procedure
      • The 700-foot/1200-foot AGL Class E airspace transition areas remain in effect continuously, regardless of airport operating hours or surface area status
    • Do not confuse the 700-foot and 1200-foot Class E transition areas with surface areas or surface area extensions
  • Surface Area Designated For An Airport:

    • Class E surface areas extend upward from the surface to a designated altitude, or to the adjacent or overlying controlled airspace. The airspace will be configured to contain all instrument procedures
      • To qualify for a Class E surface area, the airport must have weather observation and reporting capability, and communications capability must exist with aircraft down to the runway surface
      • A Class E surface area may also be designated to accommodate part-time operations at a Class C or Class D airspace location (for example, those periods when the control tower is not in operation)
      • Pilots should refer to the airport page in the applicable Chart Supplement U.S. for surface area status information
  • Offshore (beyond 12NM):

    • There are Class E airspace areas that extend upward from a specified altitude to, but not including, 18,000 feet MSL and are designated as offshore airspace areas
    • This areas offshore control of incoming and outgoing international flights
    • These areas provide controlled airspace beyond 12 miles from the coast of the U.S. in those areas where there is a requirement to provide IFR en route ATC services and within which the U.S. is applying domestic procedures
  • 14,500:

    • Remember, 14,500 is the standard start of class E airspace (14,500-17,999)
Sectional Chart Offshore
Offshore Class Echo Altitudes
Federal Airway (1,200' AGL - 18,000' MSL)
Extension to a surface area
En-route domestic area
Transition Area (700)
Surface for airport
Offshore (beyond 12 NM)
14,500' unless otherwise noted