Airspace Classifications Explained in Simple Terms

Does the FAA airspace classification chart look confusing? I thought so too. Here’s a summary that will help you understand and remember airspace classifications, especially if you are testing for a Remote Pilot Certification.

Repeat after me:

  • is for Altitude
  • is for Big
  • is for Crowded
  • D is for Dialog
  • is for Elsewhere
  • G is for Go for it!

These are aids in helping you remember the description of each airspace classification. More specifically:

Class Aid Summary Need Air Traffic Control permission?
A Altitude Airspace 18,000 ft and above (up to 60,000 ft). UAVs should always fly below 400 ft, so you should never fly here! Yes
B Big This is where there are big airports and big airplanes. The LaGuardia airport in New York is a class B airspace. Recreational operations are generally not permitted within 5 miles of class B airspace. Yes
C Crowded It’s a busy airspace where all aircrafts are subject to air traffic control. Similar to class B, but smaller. Yes
D Dialog This is where airports have control towers, so you must talk to them! Some examples include smaller and regional airports. Yes
E Elsewhere Every other controlled airspace. When you are not in A, B, C or D airspace, but you are still in a controlled area, you are in class E. Usually class E extends from 700 ft or 1,200 ft all the way to the beginning of class A. Notice that some class E areas begin at the surface instead. Always check your area prior to a flight. Yes
G Go for it! Uncontrolled airspace. No need to ask permission to fly (but you still need to fly responsibly and follow all the other regulations as specified on the Title 14 CFR Part 107). No

To conclude this post, let’s take one more look at the chart:

Class A (Altitude) is up on top at 18,000 ft.

Class B (Big) is that big yellow stack of cylinders. The cylinders represent different areas at different altitudes. The higher you are in altitude, the bigger the area.

Class C (Crowded) is just like class B, but smaller.

So is class D (Dialog), which features a single cylinder, meaning it’s area is the same independently of altitude.

Everywhere in between is class E (Elsewhere), which fills the gaps starting at 700 ft or 1,200 ft, unless you are near a “nontowered airport with instrument approach”, in which case it starts at the surface.

And if you are not in any of the other classes, you are in Class G (Go for it!), no need to ask permission to fly.

In Summary

Stay away from airports and heliports, unless you have permission from Air Traffic Control. Fly below 400 ft. Check you area with a tool such as B4UFLY prior to take off. Fly safely.

Credits for the airspace classification aids:

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    Sorry, I don’t obey strangers. Alphabet mumbo jumbo or whatever. The air is a commons for everyone to enjoy. Nobody owns it, and nobody can make any rules about it. Sorry.