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

  1. #21

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    Difference between E2 and E3/ E4 airspace

    How is E4 airspace described in FAA Order JO_7400.11C? ( https://www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/...O_7400.11C.pdf )?

    The specific terms used to describe E4 airspace in FAA Order JO_7400.11C include "Class E Airspace Areas Designated as an Extension to a Class D or Class E Surface Area" (page x), and "Class E Airspace Areas Designated as an Extension to a Class D or Class E Surface Area. The Class E airspace areas listed below consist of airspace extending upward from the surface designated as an extension to a Class D or Class E surface area (page E-156)."

    E3 airspace is described similarly, but as an extension to Class B or C airspace rather than to Class D or E airspace.

    E3 and E4 airspace are depicted by dashed magenta lines that do NOT actually surround the airports whose approaches they protect. Examples-- E4-- the airspace in the dashed magenta shapes NNW and SSE of the Medford airport-- http://vfrmap.com/?type=vfrc&lat=42.374&lon=-122.874&zoom=10 . E3-- the airspace in the small dashed magenta shape NNE of Springfield Branson International airport-- http://vfrmap.com/?type=vfrc&lat=37....93.389&zoom=10 .

    Now let's look at "E2" airspace. This is another kind of Class E airspace that goes all the way to the surface. E2 airspace is denoted by a dashed magenta line that completely surrounds the airport whose approaches it protects. Example-- The dashed magenta line around Newport Oregon denotes E2 airspace-- take a look at the sectional chart-- http://vfrmap.com/?type=vfrc&lat=44....24.058&zoom=10 .


    The specific terms used to describe E2 airspace in FAA Order JO_7400.11C include "Class E Airspace Areas Designated as a Surface Area" (page vii), and "6002. Class E Airspace Areas Designated as Surface Areas. The Class E airspace areas listed below are designated as a surface area for an airport." (page E-1).


    The language is kind of clunky here-- why is E2 airspace named / described as "Designated as Surface Areas" or "designated as a surface area for an airport", while E4 airspace is not, even though both types of airspace do extend all the way to the surface, and both types of airspace clearly have something to do with a nearby airport? Well, that's bureaucracy for you.


    The FAA's "Airman's Information Manual" ( https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/publ...d_10-12-17.pdf ), while not a legal document in the sense of FAA Order JO_7400.11C, also supports this distinction in terminology. On page 3-2-9, E2 airspace is described as "Surface area designated for an airport where a control tower is not in operation", while E4 airspace is described as "Extension to a surface area" or "Class E airspace extensions". Nowhere is E4 airspace described as "Designated as a Surface Area" or "Surface Area designated for an airport" or "Surface Area", or anything similar, even though E4 airspace DOES go all the way down to the surface.


    The FAA's "Pilot-Controller Glossary" ( https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/publ...G_10-12-17.pdf ) (page PCG S-8) also supports the idea that in the context of Class E airspace, the phrase "Surface Area" should be understood to mean the type of E-to-surface airspace that is "designated for an airport". I.e. E2 airspace, not the E4 "extensions", even though both types of airspace do go all the way to the surface.


    This distinction also pertains to the issue of where a clearance may be granted for Special VFR operations. FAR 91.157 only allows for Special VFR operations "below 10,000 feet MSL within the airspace contained by the upward extension of the lateral boundaries of the controlled airspace designated to the surface for an airport." There's that phrase again-- "designated to the surface for an airport". The FAA holds that the phrase "designated to the surface for an airport" applies to E2 airspace and not E4 airspace, and does not offer clearance for Special VFR operations in E4 airspace. Read more about this at these three links --

    https://aviation.stackexchange.com/q...ns/55806#55806

    https://aviation.stackexchange.com/q...ns/55947#55947

    https://aviation.stackexchange.com/q...ns/56045#56045


    The last link above in particular is highly relevant and includes a response from the FAA ATO Western Service Center stating that

    "Our opinion is that E4 airspace is not part of the airspace designated as the surface area for an airport. The surface area for an airport is D, C, or E2. Extensions are treated differently from surface areas designated for an airport, ie there is no communication requirement. In addition extensions, by definition in 7400.9, are not airspace designated as the "surface area for an airport"."


    FAR 107.41 uses the phraseology "within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport" to describe where small unmanned aircraft (commercial drones) may not operate without prior authorization from ATC. The January 10 2018 FAA memorandum by Scott Gardner points out that according to the language of FAA Order JO_7400.11C, this includes E2 airspace but NOT E4 airspace. Read the memo here -- and pay special attention to the three attachments-- http://goldsealgroundschool.com/uav-...orizations.pdf -- the attachments are very enlightening.

    The FAA's interactive UAS map also supports this distinction-- the E3 and E4 airspaces are clearly not included in the areas where prior authorization is required for commercial drone (UAS) flight -- https://faa.maps.arcgis.com/apps/web...06ebf6a06754ad


    In short, as we look over these various documents, especially FAA Order JO_7400.11C, we are forced to the conclusion that ANY of the phrases "Surface Area" , "designated as a Surface Area", "designated for an airport", or "designated as a Surface Area for an airport", or anything similar, is sufficient to indicate that we are talking about E2 airspace (shown on chart by a dashed magenta line completely encircling the airport whose approaches it protects), not the E3 or E4 "extensions" (shown on chart by a dashed magenta line that abuts up against another dashed blue or magenta line that encircles the airport whose approaches are being protected.) Even though both the E2 and the E3 / E4 airspaces do extend all the way down to the surface.

    For more, see https://aviation.stackexchange.com/q...io/55714#55714 . This answer also deals with the issue of how the present system of E2, E4, and other types of airspace, and the associated terminology, evolved over time from the mid-1940's onwards.

    At the end of the day it's wise to keep in mind the following-- what is the fundamental purpose of the E3 and E4 extensions? It appears that the only purpose of the E3 and E4 extensions is to extend standard Class E cloud clearance and visibility requirements all the way to the surface, for the protection of IFR traffic emerging from clouds at low altitudes. That's all they do. You can legally fly there VFR--without speaking to anyone if you so desire-- but you can't skim the cloud-tops or cloud-bases like you can in Class G. So, there's no reason that these airspaces are fundamentally incompatible with ultralight activity, so long as it is carried out in prudent manner.

    S
    Last edited by quietflyer; 04-30-2019 at 10:48 AM.

  2. #22

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    motivation

    Actually, I thought some folks might share my concern that there's some small possibility that the language of upcoming FAR's re model aviation -- relating to section 349 of HR 302, passed last October-- might end up causing the FAA to interpret the phrase "within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport" differently than has been in the case in the past-- possibly including the E3/E4 airspaces and thereby causing the E3/ E4 airspaces to be closed to ultralight flight (in the absence of prior authorization.) But, if you all believe that these areas were never open to ultralight flight anyway (without prior authorization), I don't suppose anyone would be much concerned about this possibility.

    Note that these E3/ E4 airspaces have no upper limit short of any overlying higher class airspace above (Class A for example), and the concept of "within the lateral boundaries" of these E3/ E4 airspaces has NO UPPER LIMIT AT ALL. That's quite a lot of airspace to give up.

    Still waiting to see what the upcoming FARs will actually say when they are released -- I'll try to be a little more timely in keeping up with this thread and with any relevant changes to the FARs.

    Anyway, it's a complex subject. Take a moment to read the previous posts in the thread before diving in--

    S
    Last edited by quietflyer; 04-29-2019 at 04:40 PM.

  3. #23

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    Hardly anywhere

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Berson View Post
    I don't know if the ultralight runway is still there, since ultralights hardly exist anywhere now.
    Nothing to see here, move along.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlxeUC4-gLo
    Last edited by quietflyer; 04-30-2019 at 09:09 AM.

  4. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by quietflyer View Post
    This statement is true in the general sense, but it is not true in the bureaucratic or legalistic sense. The fact is that in FAA Order JO 7400.11C ( https://www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/...O_7400.11C.pdf ), the E2 airspace is named or designated as being "Designated as a Surface Area" and "designated as a surface area for an airport", while the E3 and E4 airspace is not. The E3 and E4 airspace is named as "designated as an extension. That's the whole essence of my argument. S
    Stalemate-

    The AIM says: "Surface area arrival extensions become part of the surface area and are in effect during the same times as the surface area" (AIM 3-2-6)

    My position is the same as before, extensions are part of the surface area designated for an airport.

    Thereby, the ultralight vehicle operating within the lateral boundaries of the extension is by definition operating within the lateral boundaries of the surface area designated for the airport and needs to have prior authorization to go there. (103.17)
    Last edited by martymayes; 04-29-2019 at 10:32 PM.

  5. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by quietflyer View Post
    You can legally fly there VFR--without speaking to anyone if you so desire-- but you can't skim the cloud-tops or cloud-bases like you can in Class G. So, there's no reason that these airspaces are fundamentally incompatible with ultralight activity, so long as it is carried out in prudent manner
    I think that is what the FAA was addressing in the Part 103 preamble - some ultralight operators were being less than prudent, a NMAC in IFR conditions while in controlled airspace, was one of the specifics. A few bad apples ruined it for everyone.

  6. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by martymayes View Post
    Stalemate-

    The AIM says: "Surface area arrival extensions become part of the surface area and are in effect during the same times as the surface area" (AIM 3-2-6)

    My position is the same as before, extensions are part of the surface area designated for an airport.

    Thereby, the ultralight vehicle operating within the lateral boundaries of the extension is by definition operating within the lateral boundaries of the surface area designated for the airport and needs to have prior authorization to go there. (103.17)
    Thanks for replying. That one particular line in the AIM does indeed seem to support your argument. However, the AIM is not a legal document in the same sense that FAA Order JO 7400 is. I would argue that line 3-2-6 in the AIM is simply erroneous-- it does not reflect the actual situation as defined by the FARs and by FAA Order JO 7400.

    See the totality of the situation as described in post #21 above, including the fact that SVFR cannot be practiced in the "extensions", despite the fact that the FAR 91.157 authorizes SVFR operations "below 10,000 feet MSL within the airspace contained by the upward extension of the lateral boundaries of the controlled airspace designated to the surface for an airport." Also the fact that the FAA does not requiring commercial drones to get prior authorization for operation in the "extensions", despite the fact that prior authorization is required "within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport". See the January 10 2018 Gardner memo in particular.

    Surely at some point the FAA has offered some clarification of the status of the "extensions" specifically in regard to part 103 (ultralight) operations, but if so, I'm not aware of it at present.

    Steve
    Last edited by quietflyer; 04-30-2019 at 07:44 AM.

  7. #27

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    Consider KTLV

    Also consider this-- there are a few airports where we find a central Class E (not Class D) core, with Class E extensions. (Many Class D airports also revert to this configuration when the tower closes for the night, but let's focus for now on the ones where there is no Class D at all.) Here's one example-- KTLV -- http://vfrmap.com/?type=vfrc&lat=38....19.995&zoom=10 . In fact, this example was specifically addressed in one of the attachments to the January 10 2018 Gardner memo I've been referencing in post #21 and elsewhere -- stating that prior authorization was not required by FAR 107.41 for drone operations in the extension.

    But independent of the Gardner memo, I'd pose the following question-- if AIM 3-2-6 is truly accurate in stating that "Surface area arrival extensions become part of the surface area" whenever the surface area is in effect, then wouldn't it be fair to say there is no functional difference of any kind whatsoever between the rectangular class-E-to-surface extension and the round Class-E-to-surface circle at KTLV? Whether we are talking about SVFR operations as prescribed by FAR 91.155c and 91.157, or drone operations as prescribed by FAR 107.31, or ultralight operations as prescribed by FAR 103.17, if the airspace within the extension is really considered to be "within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport", it would seem to not make any difference at all whether an aircraft was within the dashed magenta circle or the dashed magenta rectangular extension. If this is what is intended, why have the dashed magenta line separating the two units of airspace? Why not just have a single piece of airspace, like we see at KONP ( http://vfrmap.com/?type=vfrc&lat=44....24.058&zoom=10 ) ? There must be a reason for the distinction.

    At KTLV-- but not at KONP-- the airspace in the rectangular portion is described in a separate portion of JO 7400-- the portion starting on page E-156 under the heading "6004. Class E Airspace Areas Designated as an Extension to a Class D or Class E Surface Area", rather than in the portion staring on page E-1 under the heading "6002. Class E Airspace Areas Designated as a Surface Area". Hence the dashed magenta line separating the two portions at KTLV, but not at KONP.

    It sure looks to me that at KTLV and other airports with similar airspace configurations, there must have been a desire for the "extension" to function differently in some way than the airspace in the "Surface Area" in the dashed circle. Such as, in some way relating to SVFR operations and/or part 103 ultralight operations and/or part 107 sUAV operations, or perhaps in some other way relating to instrument approach procedures. But if AIM 3-2-6 were really accurate in stating that "Surface area arrival extensions become part of the surface area" whenever the surface area is in effect, it seems that no such distinction would exist, and there would be no reason to ever create an airspace configuration like we see at KTLV, as opposed to what we see at KONP.

    Even if there is standard guidance in place that if the rectangular portions protecting the approaches extend more than X miles from the main circle then they are to be designated as "extensions" rather than as part of the inner surface area, why would they bother to draw the dashed line separating the two areas on the sectional chart for KTLV unless there were some functional difference between the two airspaces? I can't imagine how there could be any functional difference-- especially any functional difference pertaining to VFR pilots-- unless the airspace above the "extensions" were NOT considered to be ""within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport".

    Steve
    Last edited by quietflyer; 04-30-2019 at 08:25 AM.

  8. #28

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    The AIM is not a 'regulatory' document from which some people infer it can't be used to uphold a regulation infraction. That's not true as the FAA often cites the AIM during enforcement cases as "preponderance of the evidence." I have never heard it being rejected by an ALJ as not being a credible source.


    Subpart B of 91 and the AIM both say SVFR can be accomplished in Class E surface areas. Where can we find what class E surface area is? The AIM.

    The guy talking about UAS is not giving an official FAA legal interpretation. He's has the right to be incorrect.

    I have never seen an interpretation or case law regarding 103.17. Maybe there is, maybe there isn't, don't know. If you really wanted to make your case you could ask the FAA Chief Counsel for an opinion or interpretation.

  9. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by martymayes View Post
    The AIM is not a 'regulatory' document from which some people infer it can't be used to uphold a regulation infraction. That's not true as the FAA often cites the AIM during enforcement cases as "preponderance of the evidence." I have never heard it being rejected by an ALJ as not being a credible source.
    Good point. There is definitely a grey area here.

    Quote Originally Posted by martymayes View Post
    Subpart B of 91 and the AIM both say SVFR can be accomplished in Class E surface areas. Where can we find what class E surface area is? The AIM.
    Well, I would say we should look in FAA Order JO 7400.

    By the way, there was another case where this issue was being discussed on another forum and a pilot commented that he had exchanged several letters with the FAA over a period of months before finally being told in writing that there was no mechanism to get a SVFR clearance in the E4 extensions, because they were not "part of the airspace designated as the surface area for an airport". It bears highly on the topic here, though it may or may not be an official legal opinion. I've added a reference to this in post #21-- I had kind of forgotten about this specific content until this morning. I've also addressed it in more detail in the following post below.

    Quote Originally Posted by martymayes View Post
    The guy talking about UAS is not giving an official FAA legal interpretation. He's has the right to be incorrect.
    Well, he is an FAA official putting out a memorandum explaining why prior authorization is not required in the E4 airspace. It's also the same interpretation that we see reflected on the FAA interactive map for drone operators seeking prior authorization for flight near airports etc, as noted in post #21.

    Quote Originally Posted by martymayes View Post
    I have never seen an interpretation or case law regarding 103.17. Maybe there is, maybe there isn't, don't know. If you really wanted to make your case you could ask the FAA Chief Counsel for an opinion or interpretation.
    Perhaps I ought to do that. Honestly I'm surprised that one of the national ultralight or hang gliding/ paragliding organizations hasn't done so already, but if so it's never been referenced in any of the on-line discussions I've had on the subject.

    One would think it would be of particular interest re soaring pilots setting FAI records-- I don't think the records are valid if you violate airspace limitations. TAlso some contests are now starting to subtract points for airspace violations. The truth is that most ultralight pilots seem to think that ultralights may NOT fly in the E4 extensions without prior authorization-- yet some don't understand that the concept of "within the lateral boundaries" of these airspaces has no vertical limit. Likewise the E2 surface areas.

    Steve
    Last edited by quietflyer; 04-30-2019 at 10:09 AM.

  10. #30

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    Re SVFR clearance and E4 extensions

    Re the issue of whether a SVFR clearance may be issued for the E4 extensions as noted in the previous post--

    Does this constitute an actual legal opinion from the FAA? Probably not. But it definitely bears on the topic, including the topic of what FAR 103.17 means by "within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport"

    Below is a response from the FAA ATO Western Service Center.

    Pay special attention to the very last paragraph


    From the forum https://aviation.stackexchange.com/q...ns/56045#56045 --

    Introductory comment--

    "Sure, during my rotorcraft checkride, the DPE (Barry Llloyd) asked me, "if the field (KSTS) is IFR and you can get an SVFR clearance to depart, can you fly with SVFR cloud clearance/vis through the echo extensions. After a torturous discussion he finally showed me his long correspondence with the FAA and finally a letter from the FAA stating that there is no known mechanism to grant an SVFR clearance in a type 2 echo airpace (like at KSTS). I will reach out to Barry to try to get a copy of the letter.John HutchinsonOct 12 '18 at 19:23"

    Follow-up answer-- posted by John Hutchinson last edited October 15 2018--

    "This is an answer to the question provided by my checkride examiner Barry Lloyd

    On 01-26-2010, a query asking whether SVFR is available in Class E extensions was routed to FAA ATC Headquarters. Below is a response to that query from the FAA ATO Western Service Center:

    "Our opinion is:


    FAR 91.157 (a) ..."special VFR operations may be conducted"..."within the airspace contained by the upward extension of the lateral boundaries of the controlled airspace designated to the surface for an airport." This permits SVFR clearances within the vertical extension, not the lateral/horizontal extension of an airport designated surface area.


    FAAO 7400.9T par 6002. Definition of Class E2 airspace: "The Class E airspace areas listed below are designated as a surface area for an airport."


    FAAO 7400.9T par 6004. Definition of Class E4 airspace: "...airspace extending upward from the surface designated as an extension to a Class D or Class E surface area."


    The language in FAR 91.157 exactly matches the language in FAAO 7400.9T par 6002. Par. 6004 does not match and the FAR does not permit SVFR operations in the lateral extension of a surface area designated for an airport; only within the vertical extension.


    Presumably this could be corrected if we indeed want to provide for SVFR within lateral extensions, but it is currently not permitted.


    There are other operational issues involved: eg. an extension to a Class D surface area where the tower provides SVFR services within the Class D airspace as is permitted via LOA. They cannot issue a SVFR clearance in the E4 extension. If permitted, the controlling agency, presumably the ARTCC would have to do this.


    Our opinion is that E4 airspace is not part of the airspace designated as the surface area for an airport. The surface area for an airport is D, C, or E2. Extensions are treated differently from surface areas designated for an airport, ie there is no communication requirement. In addition extensions, by definition in 7400.9, are not airspace designated as the "surface area for an airport".
    "
    Last edited by quietflyer; 04-30-2019 at 10:49 AM.

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