The SID below has a Top Altitude of 5000 feet, but its Minimum Enroute Altitude (MEA) is above 5000 feet. Why?

I am referring to the SID depicted below, from FAA's SID charts (plate and departure route description). As one can see, the Top Altitude is 5000 for this particular SID. Nevertheless, if we take a look at the MEAs of its transition route, we notice values much greater than 5000 feet (8000, 11000 and 15000 feet).

Could someone explain to me the reason behind this?

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2 Answers 2


Top Altitude is the initial climb altitude for a 'climb via SID' instruction, unless otherwise is stated.

TOP ALTITUDE– In reference to SID published altitude restrictions the charted "maintain" altitude contained in the procedure description or assigned by ATC.

Initial climb altitude/level is not directly related to the MEA. It has more to do with radar acquisition, noise abatement, and clearing obstacles.

MINIMUM EN ROUTE IFR ALTITUDE (MEA)− The lowest published altitude between radio fixes which assures acceptable navigational signal coverage and meets obstacle clearance requirements between those fixes. The MEA prescribed for a Federal airway or segment thereof, area navigation low or high route, or other direct route applies to the entire width of the airway, segment, or route between the radio fixes defining the airway, segment, or route.

Source: FAA AIM


Although this is an RNAV procedure, it's a hybrid that requires instructions from ATC to get to DEEZZ. It would be the responsibility of ATC to get aircraft to proper altitudes before reaching the sections with higher MEAs. DEEZZ is 30 miles from JFK and procedures for every runway take departing aircraft away from it, so aircraft should have plenty of time to get a higher altitude. There's also a published hold at DEEZZ if needed.

  • $\begingroup$ The part that I have difficulty to understand is that this SID's plate instructs the pilot to maintain 5000 (From the SID's description: "expect vectors to DEEZZ, then on track 296 degrees to HEERO. Maintain 5000. Expect clearance to filed altitude/flight level within ten (10) minutes after departure". Why does the description instruct the pilot to maintain a 5000 feet altitude, if the MEA for the transition route at its very beginning is 8000 feet? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 15:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @VectorZita Departures need to stay at 5000 to stay clear of other traffic, but they need to be at 8000 to meet the MEA later. It's up to ATC to bridge these requirements, that's why it's a hybrid with radar required. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 15:56
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    $\begingroup$ ATC has their own minimum vectoring altitudes that are below the published MEAs and sector altitudes and on a normal departure, you are just going to do what you are told. One key thing here is what to do with a comm failure while on vectors and that's the main value of the published top altitude I would say. So if I squawked 7600 while on vectors on this departure I'd climb/maintain 5000 instead of the min sector altitude if it was different, navigating to DEEZZ, then follow the published SID sgmts/alts and starting the climb to my enroute altitude at dep +10. Or am I missing something? $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Commented Jun 9, 2018 at 1:30

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