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Special Use Airspace

Introduction:

Prohibited Airspace (Sectional Chart)
Figure 1: Prohibited Airspace (Sectional Chart)
Prohibited Airspace (IFR Enroute Chart)
Figure 2: Prohibited Airspace (IFR Enroute Chart)

Prohibited Airspace:

  • Prohibited airspace is simply that area within which the flight of aircraft is prohibited
  • Such areas are established for security and other national welfare reasons and should therefore be considered off-limits
  • Prohibited airspace is regulatory in nature
    • Violating prohibited airspace without a clearance is grounds for interception and follow-on legal action
  • Established through the rule-making process and published in published in the Federal Register (14 CFR Part 73 Subpart C)
  • Prohibited Airspace Depiction:

    • Prohibited areas are published in the Federal Register and are depicted on aeronautical charts
    • The area is charted as a "P" followed by a designation number [Figure 1/2]
    • Prohibited airspace is depicted on aeronautical charts, to include: VFR sectionals and IFR en-route low altitude charts
    • Details about specific prohibited areas are available on the side of the corresponding sectional chart [Figure 3]
Prohibited Airspace (Sectional Chart)
Figure 1: Prohibited Airspace (Sectional Chart)
Prohibited Airspace (IFR Enroute Chart)
Figure 2: Prohibited Airspace (IFR Enroute Chart)
Prohibited Airspace Information
Figure 3: Prohibited Airspace Information
Sectional Chart Restricted Airspace
Figure 4: Restricted Airspace
(Sectional Chart)
Restricted Airspace (IFR Enroute Chart)
Figure 5: Restricted Airspace (IFR Enroute Chart)

Restricted Airspace:

  • Restricted airspace are areas within which the flight of aircraft is not wholly prohibited, but subject to restrictions
  • Restricted Areas are subject to restriction as they contain unusual, often invisible hazards to aircraft, such as artillery firing, aerial gunnery, or flight of guided missiles
  • Penetration of restricted areas without authorization from the using or controlling agency may be extremely hazardous to the aircraft and its occupants
  • These areas are regulatory in nature and published in 14 CFR Part 73, established through the rule making process and published in the Federal Register
  • Restricted Airspace Depiction:

    • Restricted airspace is depicted on aeronautical charts, to include: VFR sectionals and IFR en-route low altitude charts
    • SUA areas are shown in their entirety (within the limits of the chart), even when they overlap, adjoin, or when an area is designated within another area
    • The areas are identified by an "R" and identifying name/number, and are positioned either within or immediately adjacent to the area[Figure 4/5]
    • All are supplemented with altitude, time of use and the controlling agency/contact facility, and its frequency when available
    • The controlling agency will be shown when the contact facility and frequency data is unavailable
    • For joint use restricted areas, the controlling agency name is shown on these charts
    • For all prohibited areas and non-joint use restricted areas, unless otherwise requested by the using agency, the phrase "NO A/G" is shown
    • Details are available on the side of the sectional chart [Figure 6]
Sectional Chart Restricted Airspace
Figure 4: Restricted Airspace
(Sectional Chart)
Restricted Airspace (IFR Enroute Chart)
Figure 5: Restricted Airspace (IFR Enroute Chart)
Restricted Airspace Information
Figure 6: Restricted Airspace Information
  • Restricted Airspace Operations:

    • No person may operate an aircraft within restricted airspace unless abiding by the restrictions imposed
    • Activities within these areas must be confined because of their nature or limitations imposed upon aircraft operations that are not a part of those activities or both
    • Deviations from Part 91 subpart B (flight rules) are authorized if using restricted airspace for its intended use
    • No person may operate an aircraft within the restricted area during the time of designation without the advance permission of:
      • The using agency
      • The controlling agency
    • Air Traffic Control (ATC) facilities apply the following procedures when aircraft are operating on an IFR clearance (including those cleared by ATC to maintain VFR-on-top) via a route which lies within joint use restricted airspace
      1. If the restricted area is not active and has been released to the controlling agency (FAA), the ATC facility will allow the aircraft to operate in the restricted airspace without issuing specific clearance for it to do so
      2. If the restricted area is active and has not been released to the controlling agency (FAA), the ATC facility will issue a clearance which will ensure the aircraft avoids the restricted airspace unless it is on an approved altitude reservation mission or has obtained its own permission to operate in the airspace and so informs the controlling facility
    • For non-joint use, the ATC facility will issue a clearance so the aircraft will avoid the restricted airspace unless it is on an approved altitude reservation mission or has obtained its own permission to operate in the airspace and so informs the controlling facility
Restricted Airspace Information
Figure 6: Restricted Airspace Information

National Security Area Sectional Depiction
Figure 7: National Security Area
Sectional Depiction

Class Echo Surface Area Sectional Depiction
Figure 8: Class Echo Surface Area
Sectional Depiction

National Security Area
Figure 9: National Security Area
(Near UT10)

National Security Areas:

  • National Security Areas (NSAs) are established at locations where there is a requirement for increase security and safety of ground facilities
  • Depicted inside a magenta dash, similar as a class echo airspace extension to surface, but larger [Figure 7/8]
  • Special instructions can be found written on the sectional chart, in the vicinity of the NSA [Figure 9]
  • National Security Area Operations:

    • Pilots are requested to voluntarily avoid flying through a depicted NSA
    • Regulated under Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 99
    • Flight inside NSAs may be temporarily prohibited by regulation under the provisions of FAR 99.7 when necessary
      • Regulatory prohibitions will be issued by System Operations, System Operations Airspace and AIM Office, Airspace and Rules
      • Prohibitions will be issued by Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), when required
    • Inquiries about NSAs should be directed to Airspace and Rules

National Security Area Sectional Depiction
Figure 7: National Security Area
Sectional Depiction

Class Echo Surface Area Sectional Depiction
Figure 8: Class Echo Surface Area
Sectional Depiction

National Security Area
Figure 9: National Security Area
(Near UT10)

Military Operating Areas:

  • Military Operating Areas (MOAs) are blocks of airspace that are established to separate certain military training activities from Instrument Flight Rule (IFR) traffic
  • Activities contained within MOAs include:
  • These areas are non-regulatory and do not require pilot participation
Pine Hill Depiction
Figure 10: Pine Hill Military Depiction
  • Military Operating Area Operations:

    • MOAs (and warning areas for that matter) are critical to train military pilots while maintaining the readiness of the force
    • These areas are not always active and their status, as well as type of activity may change frequently which produce hazards such as speeds in excess of 250 knots below 10,000'
      • For these reasons, it is important to understand how these blocks of airspace affect your flight
    • Visual Flight Rules (VFR) traffic:
      • The pilot should contact the controlling agency when operating within 100 NM of the MOA to be crossed as the status (active/inactive) may change frequently
      • While flight through an active MOA is not prohibited to civilian traffic, it is a very bad idea due to dynamic operations in this airspace
      • Despite the safety hazard, it will cause military activity to "knock-it-off," resulting in wasted time and gas which ends up costing tax payers
    • Instrument Flight Rules traffic:
      • Whenever an MOA is being used, non-participating IFR traffic may be cleared through an MOA if IFR separation can be provided by Air Traffic Control (ATC)
      • Otherwise, ATC will reroute or restrict non-participating IFR traffic
    • No regulation exists prohibiting civilian, VFR traffic, from transiting an active MOA
      • Understand however, that doing so will almost definitely stop training, costing thousands of dollars which translates into tax dollars
Sectional Chart Military Operating Area
Figure 11: Pine Hill Military Operating Area
  • Airspace Depiction:

    • Depicted on sectionals, VFR Terminal Areas, and Low Altitude Charts in magenta
    • All operating areas have a name and sometimes a number when MOAs are split into segments [Figure 10]
    • MOAs are shown in their entirety (within the limits of the chart), even when they overlap, adjoin, or when an area is designated within another area [Figure 11]
    • The areas are identified by type and identifying name/number, and are positioned either within or immediately adjacent to the area
    • A tabulation of MOAs (listed alphabetically) appear on the chart in magenta [Figure 12]
    • All are supplemented with altitude, time of use and the controlling agency/contact facility, and its frequency when available
      • The controlling agency will be shown when the contact facility and frequency data is unavailable
Pine Hill Tabulation
Figure 12: Pine Hill Military Operating Area
  • Military Operating Areas are scattered throughout the country and are most densely concentrated around military bases
  • It is not required to gain permission to enter a Military Operating Area but it is crucial you request advisories for yours and others safety
  • Visual Scanning and Collision Avoidance (see and avoid) still remains a responsibility of all parties when operating in Visual Meteorological Conditions as per FAR 91.113(b)
  • Military pilots are exempt from 14 CFR 91.303(c) and (d) which prohibits aerobatics within Class Delta or Echo surface areas and federal airways

Controlled Firing Areas:

  • Controlled Firing Areas (CFAs) contain activities which, if not conducted in a controlled environment, could be hazardous to non-participating aircraft
  • Examples include military artillery operations
  • Controlled Firing Area:

    • CFAs are not depicted on a map as they do not cause a non-participating aircraft to change its flight path
    • When a spotter aircraft, radar or ground personnel determine an aircraft might be approaching the area, the activities are discontinued
    • Non-regulatory in nature
Alert Area
Figure 13: Alert Area

Alert Area:

  • Alert areas are depicted on aeronautical charts to inform nonparticipating pilots of areas that may contain high volumes pilot training, parachute jumping, glider towing, or an unusual type of aerial activity [Figure 13]
    • Alert areas, however, are not always established in areas that meet the above criteria, such as around Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
  • Alert areas are non-regulatory in nature
  • Congestion:

    • Pilots are urged to exercise extreme caution if operating inside of an alert area
    • It is preferable to avoid the area in its entirety to unnecessarily add to the congestion
    • All activity within an alert area must be conducted in accordance with CFRs, without waiver, and pilots of participating aircraft as well as pilots transiting the area must be equally responsible for collision avoidance
    • The area is charted as an "A" followed by a number
      • Additional information is available on the edge of the sectional chart the airspace pertains to [Figure 14]
Alert Area Explanation
Figure 14: Alert Area Explanation

Warning Areas:

  • Warnings areas are sections of airspace that contain activities that may be hazardous to non-participating aircraft [Figure 15/16/17] is classified as a Warning Area
  • The purpose of such warning areas is to warn nonparticipating pilots of the potential danger
  • Warning areas may be located over domestic or international waters or both
  • Warning Area Depicted
    Figure 15: Warning Area Depicted
  • Air Traffic Services:

    • Air traffic control and de-confliction rests within military controlling agencies
      • Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility (FACSFAC):

        • A command that provides scheduling and control of all air, surface, and subsurface activities within offshore operations areas, and all other assigned airspace where FACSFAC has jurisdiction
        • Services support the coexistence of military, government, and non-government agencies consistent with national priorities
        • FACSFAC has 5 locations:
          1. VACAPES (Virginia/capes)
          2. San Diego (west coast)
          3. Pensacola (south east)
          4. Pearl Harbor (Hawaii)
          5. Jacksonville (east)
        • Non-regulatory in nature
  • Warning Area Dimensions:

    • Lateral Limits:

      • Warning areas extend from 3 Nautical Miles (NM) and outward from the coast of the United States
      • The airspace areas are individually tailored
    • Vertical Limits:

      • Vertical dimensions are not depicted on charts
      • For floors and ceilings you must reference the Special Use Airspace table on the edge of the aeronautical charts
  • Warning Area Airspace Depiction:

    • Warning Areas are depicted on the following charts:
    • Warning areas are shown in their entirety (within the limits of the chart), even when they overlap, adjoin, or when an area is designated within another area
    • Areas are identified by type and identifying number, and are positioned either within or immediately adjacent to the area
      • Warning areas are charted with a "W" followed by a two or three digit number
      • Letters may be used to delineate subdivisions
    • A tabulation of Alert Areas (listed numerically) appear on the chart in blue
    • All are supplemented with altitude, time of use and the controlling agency/contact facility, and its frequency when available
    • The controlling agency will be shown when the contact facility and frequency data is unavailable
    • Each warning area is unique and may have notes printed on the chart explaining the type of activity that may take place in that location
Warning Areas on Sectional
Figure 16: Warning Area Depicted
Warning Areas on Sectional
Figure 16: Warning Area Depicted
Warning Area Depicted
Figure 17: Warning Area Depicted
Warning Area Depicted
Figure 17: Warning Area Depicted
  • Operating Rules and Pilot/Equipment Requirements:

    • Restrictions:

      • The U.S. Government does not have sole jurisdiction over the airspace and is shared with the U.S. Navy
      • Warning areas may be considered for joint use if the area can be released to the FAA during periods when it is not required for its designated purpose, and provided the warning area is located in airspace wherein the FAA exercises ATC authority under ICAO agreements
      • When designating a warning area for joint use, a letter of agreement shall be executed between the controlling and using agencies to define the conditions and procedures under which the controlling agency may authorize nonparticipating aircraft to transit, or operate within the area

Conclusion:

  • Remember, no person may operate an aircraft within a prohibited area unless authorization has been granted by the using agency, which is the U.S. Government or Military
    • This means that not even ATC can grant you access to enter!
  • This differs from restricted airspace where operations are not wholly prohibited, but are subject to restrictions
  • Special Use Airspace are not depicted the same:
    • Prohibited, Restricted and Warning Areas are presented in blue and listed numerically for U.S. and other countries
    • Restricted, Danger and Advisory Areas outside the U.S. are tabulated separately in blue
    • A tabulation of Alert Areas (listed numerically) and Military Operations Areas (MOA) (listed alphabetically) appear on the chart in magenta
  • Restricted areas are published in the Federal Register and constitute 14 CFR Part 73
  • Warning areas are similar to Military Operating Areas and may be used for the same reasons
  • Do not become complacent in or around an Alert Area
  • Always remember to check Temporary Flight Restrictions prior to flight as they can be used to modify the standoff distance from certain special use airspace

References: