The General Aviation Pilots Flying Resource

Class E & G Airspace

Class Ground & Class Everywhere else Airspace

For some reason, Class E and the underlying Class G seem to be challenging for a lot of students to wrap their head around. Basically Class E is everything that is not A, B, C, D or G. I know, a pretty obvious statement. I believe one of the problems in understanding is diagrams that squeeze all the different airspaces into one small place like the one here.


Unless you live in a large metro area, the airspace will not be jammed together like this. It would be more common to have many smaller airports spread out with an occasional Class D towered airport. To begin with, Class G (Ground) is the uncontrolled (by ATC) layer of airspace that covers the surface and whose ceiling generally goes up to 1200ft in open areas.  Around airports can drop to 700ft and even the surface. Way out in the rural unpopulated areas, the ceiling goes up to 14,500ft. Daytime requirements for Class G are 1 statute mile visibility and clear of clouds to 1200ft. Above 1200ft, stays at 1sm visibility but then for cloud clearance you must be 1000ft above, 500ft below and 2000ft horizontal.

Above the Class G (ground) is Class E (everywhere else) and is controlled airspace. Here VFR aircraft must maintain higher visibility and cloud clearance requirements to allow for visual separation from aircraft on IFR flight plans. VFR in Class E must have at least 3 statute miles visibility along with the 1000↑-500↓-2000ft↔ cloud clearance. So why would someone even bother to file IFR in VFR conditions? Well, VFR you must stay away from any clouds and areas of low visibility and with an IFR clearance you do not have to deviate to avoid the clouds or lower visibilities, you just keep on flying. Class E becomes more pertinent when in the vicinity of airports.

Classes E & G

Airports on your charts:

– A Class G airport simply has the airport/runway symbol.

– A busier IFR Class G airport often has the Class G ceiling drop to below 700ft and is depicted by a wide magenta circle around the airspace.  The circle can also be elongated to allow for IFR traffic to flow more smoothly to the primary runways.

– The even busier Class E airports have an outer dashed magenta circle (sometimes with elongations) to indicate that class E airspace drops down to the surface.

– A Class D towered airport with a blue airport/runway symbol and an outer dashed blue circle (sometimes with elongations) that indicates Class D airspace down to the surface. You will note that the Class D is usually surrounded by Class E transition airspace. The Class D can also become Class E and rarely Class G should the tower be closed. In other words, if the tower is closed and you remove the Class D, the airport becomes the class of the surrounding airspace.

– Class C airports have the two tiered solid magenta rings surrounding blue runway symbols.

– Class B airports have the three tiered solid blue rings surrounding blue runway symbols.

Now, to make it even more interesting –> several airports in a large metro area can be mixed with Class B on top of Class C on top of Class D and E etc. etc.  For more chart reading help, download the FAA Chart Users Guide PDF here… 23MB

MIAMI INTL (MIA) with a bit of everything….

Mixed Classes



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