Class D airspace

Flying - - Contents - By Richie Len­gel


FAR 71.61, 91.117, 91.129, 91.155, 103.17, 103.23, AIM 3-1-3, 3-1-4, 3-2-1, 3-2-5, 3-5-6, 4-3-2, 8-1-8, FAA-H-8083-15, 8083-16, 8083-25

1. Gen­er­ally, Class D is con­trolled airspace from the sur­face to 2,500 feet agl (charted in msl rounded to the near­est 100 feet) sur­round­ing an air­port with an op­er­at­ing con­trol tower ( but of­ten no radar). It is de­lin­eated with a dashed blue line sur­round­ing the air­port on VFR sec­tional and ter­mi­nal charts and a boxed “D” in the air­port in­for­ma­tion on IFR En­route Low Al­ti­tude Charts. The ceil­ing is marked with a blue num­ber (msl al­ti­tude in hun­dreds of feet) sur­rounded by blue brack­ets. Class D in­cludes some of the busiest gen­eral avi­a­tion air­ports in the world.

2. It’s in­di­vid­u­ally tai­lored, but nor­mally a cir­cu­lar area with a ra­dius of ap­prox­i­mately 5 sm around the pri­mary air­port and any ex­ten­sions nec­es­sary to in­clude in­stru­ment ap­proach and depar­ture paths. Th­ese ar­rival/depar­ture ex­ten­sions may be Class D or Class E airspace.

3. The shape can also be mod­i­fied to ac­com­mo­date Class B or Class C airspace in the area.

4. VFR op­er­a­tions — Vis­i­bil­ity: 3 sm — Ceil­ing: 1,000 feet — Cloud clear­ance: 1,000 feet above, 500 feet be­low, 2,000 feet hor­i­zon­tally (or spe­cial VFR with a clear­ance).

5. Two-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion must be es­tab­lished be­fore en­try:

If the con­troller re­sponds with “[Call­sign], stand by,” ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tion has been es­tab­lished and the air­craft can en­ter the Class D.

If you do not hear your tail num­ber, you can­not en­ter the airspace.

If the con­troller is over­whelmed by traffic they can in­struct the pi­lot to re­main clear of Class D.

6. A large or tur­bine-pow­ered air­plane shall, un­less oth­er­wise re­quired by dis­tance from cloud cri­te­ria, en­ter the traffic pat­tern at an al­ti­tude of at least 1,500 feet agl and main­tain 1,500 feet agl un­til fur­ther de­scent is re­quired for a safe land­ing.

7. A large or tur­bine-pow­ered air­plane ap­proach­ing to land on a run­way served by an in­stru­ment-ap­proach pro­ce­dure with ver­ti­cal guid­ance (e.g., ILS, LPV), if the air­plane is so equipped, must fly at or above the glide­path be­tween the pub­lished fi­nal ap­proach fix and the de­ci­sion al­ti­tude (DA), or de­ci­sion height (DH), as ap­pli­ca­ble.

8. Any air­plane ap­proach­ing to land on a run­way served by a VASI shall main­tain at or above the glide­path un­til a lower al­ti­tude is nec­es­sary for a safe land­ing.

9. Speed lim­its — Un­less oth­er­wise au­tho­rized or re­quired by ATC, no air­craft may op­er­ate at or be­low 2,500 feet agl within 4 nm of the pri­mary air­port of a Class D at an in­di­cated air­speed of more than 200 knots. “Main­tain best for­ward speed” is not an autho­riza­tion to ex­ceed the 200 knots in Class C or D. Any speed de­vi­a­tion above 200 knots must be specif­i­cally as­signed by ATC (e.g., “main­tain 220 knots”).

10. By def­i­ni­tion, Class D airspace must have weather re­port­ing. Af­ter the tower closes for the evening, the airspace will rev­ert to ei­ther Class E (con­trolled) or Class G (un­con­trolled), usu­ally de­pend­ing on the avail­abil­ity of a cer­ti­fied weather ob­server or au­to­mated sys­tem (AWOS, ASOS). Again, by def­i­ni­tion, sur­face-based Class E airspace can­not ex­ist with­out weather re­port­ing. Ref­er­ence the Chart Sup­ple­ment (or no­tams): a.

If con­tin­u­ous weather

re­port­ing is main­tained and is avail­able af­ter the tower closes, the Class D airspace will nor­mally rev­ert to Class E (con­trolled) (i.e., “other times Class E”). b.

If weather re­port­ing is not avail­able af­ter the tower closes, the Class D airspace will rev­ert to Class G (un­con­trolled) (i.e., “other times Class G”).

OTHER NOTE S : Some Class D tow­ers have a “re­peater” scope that al­lows them to mon­i­tor some­one else’s radar screen, but mostly they just look out the win­dow. Con­trollers don’t nec­es­sar­ily pro­vide sep­a­ra­tion be­tween all air­craft, but they do pro­vide “se­quenc­ing” and in­for­ma­tion about known traffic.

Of­ten the con­trollers who work Class D air­ports are not FAA em­ploy­ees. Th­ese “VFR tow­ers” can han­dle IFR traffic but are re­ferred to as “NFCT” on sec­tional charts (Non-fed­eral Con­trol Tower).

Com­mer­cial tur­bo­jet op­er­a­tions — Op­spec C077: In or­der to ac­cept a vis­ual ap­proach (or CVFP) (1) the air­port must be VFR; (2) the flight crew must re­main within Class D airspace and (3) main­tain the ba­sic cloud clear­ance spec­i­fied in 91.155.

FAA reg­u­la­tions could change at any time. Please re­fer to cur­rent FARS to en­sure you are le­gal.

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