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Controlled airspace is a vital part of flying any sort of aircraft. In this expert guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about Class E airspace.
Knowing the airspace(s) that you’re flying into as a pilot is one of the most important parts of becoming a pilot in the first place. Flying into controlled airspace without being knowledgeable of the requirements and restrictions is a big no-no and can be a huge headache. Maybe you’ve heard of some different airspaces, but you aren’t exactly sure what this one is. So what is Class E airspace and how do you navigate it?
Class E airspace is all the other airspace in the country that is not denoted as Class A, B, C, or D. It fills the gaps between all other classes of airspace and is often referred to as the “everywhere” airspace. Class E airspace is not necessarily controlled by an active local control tower.
If you're a pilot, or you’re interested in becoming one, you need to know about Class E Airspace. This is a designation for airspace that has specific requirements and functions. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about Class E Airspace. We'll start with an explanation of what it is, and then move on to the different dimensions and requirements. Finally, we'll talk about how Class E Airspace interacts with other common airspace designations.
SkyTough was designed with the goal of providing the most extensive, most accurate library of aviation content anywhere on the web. To ensure this, we combine our own expertise with research and input from other experts around the country. This way, you can learn all about the various airspaces with the confidence that you’re getting all the information that you really need.
What is Class E Airspace?
Class E (or Class Echo) Airspace is classified as controlled airspace that is not designated as Class A, B, C, D, or any other airspace. While that might seem obvious since that takes every other airspace out of the picture, I mentioned that for a reason. This is because Class E airspace is basically everywhere else. In fact, you can think of the “E” in Class E airspace as standing for “everywhere”.
In simple terms, Class E airspace is just the leftover airspace that’s not covered by any of the other named classes of airspace. This makes it by far the most common airspace in the country, but it’s also often seen as the most difficult to understand for the same reasons. Class E airspace is often not regulated by a physical control tower (even though it can be), but instead by special radar services.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Class E airspace provides ample coverage of controlled airspace over the country to offer safe separation of aircraft. The floor of Class E airspace is typically at 1,200ft AGL, but can sometimes be either the surface or 700 ft AGL. If there are no lower bases depicted on the charts, then Class E airspace begins at 14,500ft AGL.
Unless noted otherwise, the ceiling of Class E airspace goes up to, but does not include, 18,000ft AGL. This altitude is the typical base of Class A airspace, which will be discussed in detail in another article on the site. Additionally, all airspace at and above 60,000ft is also Class E airspace since, again, this space is not defined by any of the other controlled airspace classes.
Class E Airspace Requirements
In order to fly in Class E airspace, you must meet the minimum requirements in terms of conditions, communication, and more. Here are the requirements of Class E airspace:
- 3 miles of visibility when flying under VFR conditions and while below 10,000 feet altitude
- 5 miles of visibility when flying over 10,000 feet
- Under 10,000 feet, cloud minimums are: 2,000 feet horizontally, 1,000 above the aircraft, and 500 feet below
- Above 10,000 feet, cloud minimums are: 1 mile horizontally, 1,000 above the aircraft, and 1,000 feet below
- Must obtain clearance from Air Traffic Control (ATC) if flying under IFR conditions or SVFR (Special VFR) conditions
With that list in mind, you might have noticed that there are no equipment requirements for flying in Class E airspace like there are for other types of airspaces. You don’t need to have certain radios or transponders for Class E. Additionally, if you’re flying under regular VFR conditions, you do not have to receive clearance from ATC to enter Class E airspace.
What is Class E Airspace Used For?
Class E airspace exists for the purpose of providing controlled airspace for IFR operations in areas where ATC services are not available. This airspace also provides separation between VFR traffic and IFR traffic operating in the area, since pilots flying under IFR conditions must receive clearance from ATC. In addition, Class E airspace provides a transition between Class D and other classes of controlled airspace.
How Class E Airspace Relates to Other Common Airspace Designations
Class E airspace is the most common type of controlled airspace in the United States. It can be found surrounding both small and large airports, as well as in areas where ATC services are not available. Class E airspace is also often adjacent to other types of controlled airspaces, such as Class B or C airspace. When flying in Class E airspace, it's important to be aware of the other airspace designations in the area so that you can avoid infringing on them.
One important thing to know about Class E airspace is that it can sometimes take the place of other airspaces in certain circumstances. One example is an airport that uses a part-time control tower that employs Class D airspace when the tower is active. During times when the part-time tower is not operational, the airspace automatically reverts to Class E (or an even lower airspace, like Class G). So it’s important to always know where you’re flying!
We’ll be publishing articles on all of the other classes of airspace as well, so just search for the class that you’re interested in and you can learn everything about it that you need.