Class D airspace
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.