Special use airspace is the designation for airspace in which certain activities must be confined, or where limitations may be imposed on aircraft operations that are not part of those activities.
Special use airspace usually consists of:
- Prohibited areas
- Restricted areas
- Warning areas
- Military operation areas (MOAs)
- Alert areas
- Controlled firing areas
- Parachute jump areas
Except for controlled firing areas, special use airspace areas are depicted on visual sectional charts. [Figure 8-11] Controlled firing areas are not charted because their activities are suspended immediately when spotter aircraft, radar, or ground lookout positions indicate an aircraft might be approaching the area. Nonparticipating aircraft are not required to change their flightpaths. Special use airspace 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 type and identifying name or number, positioned either within or immediately adjacent to the area. [Figure 8-11]
Prohibited, restricted or warning areas; alert areas; and MOAs are further defined with tables on sectional charts for their altitudes, time of use, controlling agency/contact facility and controlling agency contact frequency. [Figure 8-12]
Prohibited areas contain airspace of defined dimensions within which the flight of aircraft is prohibited. Such areas are established for security or other reasons associated with the national welfare. These areas are published in the Federal Register and are depicted on sectional charts. The area is charted as a “P” followed by a number (e.g., “P-56 A and B”). [Figure 8-13]
Restricted areas are areas where operations are hazardous to nonparticipating aircraft and contain airspace within which the flight of aircraft, while not wholly prohibited, is subject to restrictions. Activities within these areas must be confined because of their nature, or limitations may be imposed upon aircraft operations that are not a part of those activities, or both. Restricted areas denote the existence of unusual, often invisible, hazards to aircraft (e.g., artillery firing, aerial gunnery, or guided missiles). Penetration of restricted areas is illegal without authorization from the using or controlling agency may be extremely hazardous to the aircraft and its occupants. ATC facilities apply the following procedures:
- If the restricted area is not active and has been released to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the ATC facility will allow the aircraft to operate in the restricted airspace without issuing specific clearance for it to do so.
- If the restricted area is active and has not been released to the FAA, the ATC facility will issue a clearance which will ensure the aircraft avoids the restricted airspace.
Restricted areas are charted with an “R” followed by a number (e.g., “R-4803 and R-4810”) and are depicted on the sectional charts. [Figure 8-14]
Warning areas consist of airspace which may contain hazards to nonparticipating aircraft in international airspace. The activities may be much the same as those for a restricted area. Warning areas are established beyond the three-mile limit and are depicted on sectional charts.
Military Operations Areas (MOAs)
MOAs consist of airspace of defined vertical and lateral limits established for the purpose of separating certain military training activity from IFR traffic. There is no restriction against a pilot operating VFR in these areas; however, a pilot should be alert since training activities may include acrobatic and abrupt maneuvers. MOAs are depicted by name and with defined boundaries on sectional, VFR terminal area, and en route low altitude charts and are not numbered (e.g., “CHURCHILL HIGH MOA,” “CHURCHILL LOW MOA”). [Figure 8-14] MOA is further defined on sectional charts with times of operation, altitudes affected, and the controlling agency frequency for the MOA to contact for current activity. [Figure 8-15]
Alert areas are depicted on sectional charts with an “A” followed by a number (e.g., “A-211” as in Figure 8-16) to inform nonparticipating pilots of areas that may contain a high volume of pilot training or an unusual type of aerial activity. Pilots should be particularly alert when flying in these areas. All activity within an alert area shall be conducted in accordance with regulations, without waiver. Pilots of participating aircraft, as well as pilots transiting the area, shall be equally responsible for collision avoidance.
Controlled Firing Areas
Controlled firing areas contain military activities, which, if not conducted in a controlled environment, could be hazardous to nonparticipating aircraft. The difference between controlled firing areas and other special use airspace is that activities must be suspended when a spotter aircraft, radar, or ground lookout position indicates an aircraft might be approaching the area.
Parachute Jump Areas
Parachute jump areas are published in the Airport/ Facility Directory (A/FD). Sites that are used frequently are depicted on sectional charts. Each pilot should listen to the appropriate airport radio frequency for parachute operations and be alert for aircraft which might be conducting parachute operations.