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Thread: Let's discuss-- Part 103.17-- ultralight flight in Class-E-to-surface "extensions"

  1. #1

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    Let's discuss-- FAR 103.17-- ultralight flight in Class-E-to-surface "extensions"

    (Edit 6/21/19-- this thread was originally intended largely as a request for information about past communications from the FAA on this topic. To cut to the chase as far as my best interpretation of the regulations is concerned, skip to post # 46: http://eaaforums.org/showthread.php?...ll=1#post76038 )

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    I would like to open a discussion about where ultralight aircraft are or are not allowed to fly. Specifically focussed on one particular kind of airspace.

    FAR 103.17 prohibits ultralight flight (without prior authorization from ATC) "within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport"--
    This post focusses on Class-E-to-surface "extensions" that do NOT enclose the airport whose approaches they protect. Like the airspace within the dashed magenta lines here http://vfrmap.com/?type=vfrc&lat=32....14.606&zoom=10 or here http://vfrmap.com/?type=vfrc&lat=42....22.874&zoom=10 . We're NOT talking about
    Class-E-to-surface airspace that DOES enclose the airport whose approaches it protects, like this --http://vfrmap.com/?type=vfrc&lat=44....24.058&zoom=10

    The underlying thrust of this post is that the airspace in the Class-E-to-surface "extensions"-- the airspace within the bits of Class-E-to-surface airspace that do NOT enclose the airport whose approaches they protect-- does NOT fall within the definition of airspace "within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport". More on this in my next post. I am aware of some FAA interpretations that agree with this view, but bureaucracy being what it is and the language of the regs being rather complex and unintuitive, I wouldn't be surprised if some FAA/ ATC personnel have issued statements that conflict with this view as well.

    So, re the Class-E-to-surface "extensions" as illustrated in the above links, I would like folks to submit as many examples as they can of the following--

    * instances where FAA/ ATC personnel have verbally stated that ultralights can not fly in this airspace w/o prior authorization (and up to what altitude the prohibition applied, if a ceiling altitude was stated)

    * instances where FAA/ ATC personnel have verbally stated that ultralights can fly in this airspace w/o prior authorization

    * any written (printed) statements from FAA/ ATC personnel, regardless of whether or not an official legal "interpretation", stating that ultralights can not fly in this airspace w/o prior authorization
    (and up to what altitude the prohibition applied, if a ceiling altitude was stated)

    * any written (printed) statements from FAA/ ATC personnel, regardless of whether or not an official legal "interpretation", stating that ultralights can fly in this airspace w/o prior authorization

    * any instance of airports with such class-E-to-surface "extensions", in which it is generally accepted by the local ultralight flying community that flight in such "extensions" is, or is not, allowed, w/o prior authorization-- and what this understanding is based on, if known. This question wouldn't apply to an ultralight pilot that took off in Class D airspace after getting prior authorization, but rather to an ultralight pilot that wanted to pass through one of the Class-E-to-surface "extensions" with no prior authorization of any kind. And if the understanding is that ultralight flight is not allowed in such "extensions" w/o prior authorization, up to what altitude is this prohibition thought to apply?

    I'm not so much asking for people's own interpretations of what the
    "within the lateral boundaries of the surface area..." language means, but rather for examples of specific statements on the subject from FAA/ATC personnel, as well as for examples of specific airports where it is generally understood by the local ultralight flying community that ultralight flight in these airspaces is or is not allowed (w/o prior authorization.)

    Thank you
    SS

    In a later post, I'll try to shed more light on why this airspace-- these Class-E-to-surface "extensions" that do NOT enclose the airports whose approaches they protect-- should NOT fall within the definition of airspace "within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport", based a close look at the letter of the FAR's, FAA order JO 7400, the AIM, the pilot-controller glossary, and other documents, and as reinforced by specific written statements from the FAA regarding FAR 91.157 and FAR 107.41. I'll also speak to why there is reason to suspect the FAA may soon issue an interpretation to the contrary, to safeguard the intention of some poorly-written language contained in recently passed legislation concerning Small Unmanned Aircraft (e.g. "drones, model airplanes). (Otherwise, it seems that the ONLY place that these SUA's will be allowed to exceed 400' AGL, while operating with no prior authorization and not in the immediate vicinity of structures (e.g. radio and TV broadcast towers), will be within the Class-E-to-surface "extensions" we've been discussing here. This would be a little odd, and is surely an oversight on somebody's part.)

    In the meantime, please post any examples you can find re the cases described above, especially examples of written statements issued by FAA/ATC personnel on this subject. Thanks.

    SS
    Last edited by quietflyer; 06-21-2019 at 10:43 AM. Reason: clarify

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    Links to any other forum anyone is aware of where this has been discussed-- any kind of forum, local ultralight group, whatever-- would be appreciated too. Thanks

    SS

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    This airport is class E with lateral boundaries and has an ultralight (or at least had) runway on the upper left of photo. http://www.airnav.com/airport/KCLM
    You might contact the airport manager to see if they have open authorization for ultralights or not.
    Or contact some other ultralight operation in a class E.
    Last edited by Bill Berson; 11-02-2018 at 03:55 PM.

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    I think you can get some ATC guidance from Advisory Circular 103.6 (AC 103.6) https://www.faa.gov/regulations_poli...cumentID/22639

    Unfortunately, AC 103.6 appears so far out of date and was created before class E airspace was invented.
    You would need more current advice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by quietflyer View Post
    The underlying thrust of this post is that the airspace in the Class-E-to-surface "extensions"-- the airspace within the bits of Class-E-to-surface airspace does NOT fall within the definition of airspace "within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport".

    That is not correct.

    More on this in my next post. I am aware of some FAA interpretations that agree with this view, but bureaucracy being what it is and the language of the regs being rather complex and unintuitive, I wouldn't be surprised if some FAA/ ATC personnel have issued statements that conflict with this view as well.
    I would be surprised if they issued a statement in writing as an official declaration because they can't do that. A legal interpretation would have to come from the FAA Office of Chief Counsel or one of the designated regions. They may offer their personal opinion but then so can anyone else. Doesn't necessarily carry more weight just because they are FAA employees or ATC personnel.


    Those Class E surface area extensions you claim "do NOT enclose the airport whose approaches they protect--" do in fact depict lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport. This can be confirmed by looking at the airspace description for these airports in subpart E of FAA Order 7400.11C (incorporated by reference, see 71.1. The only reason to have a surface area would be in conjunction with an airport; it would make no sense to have a random block of Class E surface area out in the middle of nowhere.

    So for an ultralight vehicle, prior authorization from ATC (whatever that is) would be required to operate in those areas. That airspace goes upward to the overlying airspace, which in this case would be Class A at 18,000 ft.

    An ultralight vehicle operator is free to operate in other Class E airspace (that is Class E airspace that is NOT a surface area designated for an airport) simply by complying with flight visibility and cloud clearance requirements outlined in 103.23.

    I think where you are going askew is thinking a dashed magenta line depicting an extension has to fully enclose the airport in order for that extension to be a surface area designated for an airport, which is not the case because of airspace hierarchy.

    To illustrate that point, how would this example be depicted when the tower is closed? http://vfrmap.com/?type=vfrc&lat=32....14.606&zoom=10 . Since the Class D airpace would cease to exist, it would revert to a Class E surface area, with attached extensions. IOW's it would be all magenta dashed lines.

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    I looked up FAA Order 7400.11C and didn't see anything for the airports linked above.
    Perhaps the Airport/Facility Directory, (now called Chart Supplement) could have info regarding the class E hours at your particular airport.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Berson View Post
    I looked up FAA Order 7400.11C and didn't see anything for the airports linked above.
    The example I used, Yuma, AZ is on page E-129 and E-130 but it only describes the last modification to the airspace which appears to be a "carve out" over Somerton Airport from the surface up to 300 ft above the surface. That would allow those guys a means to access their airport without penetrating the Class E. (As written an ultralight could fly to/from the Somerton Private Airport without prior authorization from ATC by utilizing the carve out. Interesting).

    Anyway, that means have to go back to an earlier version of FAA Order 7400 (or Federal Register) and find the complete legal description of the Yuma AZ Class D/E airspace (or just go to the facility and ask for the same). At any rate, I'll bet a box of donuts the surface area extensions are included in the airspace designated for the airport. The OP is arguing they are separate from, which makes no sense. (His question about the upper limit of that extension airspace is kinda interesting, if there is one).

    So to fly an ultralight vehicle through that extension surface area would require prior authorization from ATC, period. To do otherwise is contrary to the FARs.

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    There might be some other means of "prior authorization" that doesn't require radio request in flight. Such as a permit or special airspace training or something for local 103 operations. Certificated pilots don't need prior authorization in good visibility, and a well trained pilot in a 103 would be no different.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Berson View Post
    There might be some other means of "prior authorization" that doesn't require radio request in flight. Such as a permit or special airspace training or something for local 103 operations. Certificated pilots don't need prior authorization in good visibility, and a well trained pilot in a 103 would be no different.
    There is no such animal as a "well trained" ultralight pilot, PART 103 doesn't spell out any training requirements for UL pilots.

    If 103 doesn't allow an ultralight access to a particular type of airspace it doesn't matter what type of training the pilot possesses, the ultralight is not be operated in that airspace.
    Last edited by Sam Buchanan; 11-04-2018 at 12:41 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Buchanan View Post
    There is no such animal as a "well trained" ultralight pilot, PART 103 doesn't spell out any training requirements for UL pilots.

    If 103 doesn't allow an ultralight access to a particular type of airspace it doesn't matter what type of training the pilot possesses, the ultralight is not be operated in that airspace.
    There are some well trained pilots with pilot certificates that fly ultralights. Of course Part 103 doesn't spell out the details of how a trained or untrained 103 pilot would get "prior authorization", but it does suggest that authorization may be granted. So the details of the particular "permit" that ATC might issue would take into account the training, Certificates, etc, of the permittee, I suppose. Certainly a Private Pilot should qualify for a "prior authorization" permit because they have been tested about airspace. The requirements ATC might need from an ultralight operator with no certificates would be different, is my view. But I don't have any experience with the authorization procedure yet. But I am interested as I am assembling an ultralight slowly, and there is class E airspace near me.
    Last edited by Bill Berson; 11-04-2018 at 02:20 PM.

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