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I am unsure of how to operate within this area (red dashed line) without connection to ATC. It appears to come off of class D airspace.

Can anyone provide an explanation of what this area is and how to operate within it?

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Its an area of Class-E airspace used for Instrument Approach Procedures.

From The Pilot Handbook, Chapter 14, Airspace:

Class D airspace is generally airspace from the surface to 2,500 feet above the airport elevation (charted in MSL) surrounding those airports that have an operational control tower. The configuration of each Class D airspace area is individually tailored and when instrument procedures are published, the airspace is normally designed to contain the procedures. Arrival extensions for instrument approach procedures (IAPs) may be Class D or Class E airspace. Unless otherwise authorized, each aircraft must establish two-way radio communications with the ATC facility providing air traffic services prior to entering the airspace and thereafter maintain those communications while in the airspace.

(Emphasis Mine)

Also from that handbook, the procedures for operating in Class-E:

If the airspace is not Class A, B, C, or D, and is controlled airspace, then it is Class E airspace. Class E airspace extends upward from either the surface or a designated altitude to the overlying or adjacent controlled airspace. When designated as a surface area, the airspace is configured to contain all instrument procedures. Also in this class are federal airways, airspace beginning at either 700 or 1,200 feet above ground level (AGL) used to transition to and from the terminal or en route environment, and en route domestic and offshore airspace areas designated below 18,000 feet MSL. Unless designated at a lower altitude, Class E airspace begins at 14,500 MSL over the United States, including that airspace overlying the waters within 12 NM of the coast of the 48 contiguous states and Alaska, up to but not including 18,000 feet MSL, and the airspace above FL 600.

So basically class-E rules apply, but be aware you are operating in an Instrument Approach Procedure area.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ah ha. Makes sense now. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – Yogwhatup Mar 11 '16 at 15:24
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The area inside those lines is class E from the surface.

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The area in that dashed magenta line is called an "extension". It is Class E airspace that goes all the way down to the surface.

Related: In the US, how does the distinction between E2 and E3/E4 airspace affect pilots?. The point being that there is some ambiguity whether or not certain rules apply within the airspace you are talking about here, which is classed as "E4" airspace. For example-- may a Special VFR clearance be authorized for this airspace, to permit operations with reduced cloud clearance and visibility requirements? You will get different answers from different sources. In actual practice the answer is usually "yes", but in some locations you'll find the opposite to be true. (See the above link for much more.)

One thing that is certain, is that from a VFR standpoint, the main point of that surface-level Class E "extension" is to bring Class E visibility and cloud clearance requirements all the way down to the surface, to better protect the airspace along instrument approaches. You don't need to talk to anyone to fly there, as long as you can observe the required visibility and cloud clearance requirements. The most conservative interpretation of the regulations, from a safety standpoint, is that you also may not fly below a cloud ceiling that is lower than 1000' AGL in that area (see FAR 91.155(c)) without a Special VFR clearance.

From an IFR standpoint, it is controlled airspace, extending all the way down to ground level, that protects the instrument approaches.

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