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In actual practice, in the US, do ARTC Center personnel generally follow the rule that a SVFR clearance may be granted in E2 airspace ("surface areas designated for an airport") but not E4 airspace ("airspace extending upward from the surface designated as an extension to a Class D or Class E surface area.")?

This rule is given in FAR 91.157, as interpreted by this communication from the FAA ATO Western Service Center.

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  • $\begingroup$ Note-- this question is not the same as the question "In actual practice, do ARTC Center personnel generally follow the rule that an SVFR clearance may be granted in E2 airspace but not E4 airspace? (US)-- in fact, paying no attention to the distinction between E2 and E4 airspace is one of the few things that seems to be universally shared among the various ARTC Centers and Approach Control facilities! " $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer May 11 at 7:31
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No they do not.

In researching the answer to this related question, I spoke to 7 different ARTCC or Approach Control staffers, each from a different facility. All but one told me that whether a given piece of airspace was E2 or E4 made no difference to them at all. "It's all Echo to us", one said. The remaining staffer said he wasn't sure what was the difference between E2 and E4 airspace and would do further research. Various reasons were given why an SVFR clearance may or may not be given for a piece of Class-E-to-surface airspace extending some distance from the airport in question, but whether the airspace was E2 or E4 was never the deciding factor.

One particular situation where a piece of E4 airspace is unlikely to ever be included in a SVFR clearance, is when that E4 airspace adjoins part-time Class D airspace, and the Class D airspace is specified to revert to Class G airspace rather than E2 airspace when the tower closes for the night. In such a case the E4 airspace will also be specified to revert to Class G airspace when the tower closes for the night. This means that Center will not be used to authorizing SVFR clearances for the area at all (i.e. no one is calling Center at night to ask for a SVFR clearance there.) During daylight hours, the tower will be the source of any SVFR clearance that is granted, and their Letter of Agreement will generally not allow them to grant a SVFR clearance that extends beyond the Class D airspace. However, considering the content in the second paragraph below, it seems not completely out of the question that even in such a case, when the tower is open, the tower could ask Center for permission to grant SVFR clearance into that E4 airspace, and Center might possibly agree.

Note that this situation-- part-time E4 airspace adjoining part-time Class D airspace, with all the airspace going to Class G when the tower closes-- is precisely the situation addressed in the communication from the FAA ATO Western Service Center linked in the question above. However note also that the language of that communication does clearly note that as a more general rule, SVFR clearance may be granted into E2 airspace and may not be granted into E4 airspace. Again, it's very clear that this rule is not being followed in actual practice.

In the case where a full-time E4 "extension" adjoins part-time Class D airspace, and the Class D airspace is specified to revert to E2 airspace when the tower closes, some Center personnel stated that there would be no problem granting an SVFR clearance that included the "extension" (E4) airspace as well as the (E2) airspace surrounding the airport, especially in the case where the pilot was requesting the clearance directly from Center (i.e. after the tower closes for the night.) Others stated otherwise. Some stated that even if the pilot were contacting the tower in such a case, the tower could ask Center that the "extension" (E4) airspace be included in the SVFR clearance, and that request might well be granted. Others stated otherwise.

One of the ARTCC personnel I contacted was interested to hear about the distinction between E2 airspace and E4 airspace as outline in the FAA's "Airspace Designations and Reporting Points" document JO 7400.11C-- he said was not familiar with this document, or the distinction between E2 and E4 airspace, and noted down the title and said he planned to do further research on the matter.

In essence, whether or not SVFR clearance may ever be granted for a specific chunk of Class-E-to-surface airspace seems very much to depend on the "culture" of the particular Center involved, as well as factors such as terrain hazards specific to the particular geographic location involved. In general, in actual practice, it does not seem to depend upon whether the airspace is designated as E2 or is designated as E4.

See these related question or answers:

In the US, is there much variation among the various ARTC Centers as to where a SVFR clearance may be granted?

Does an SVFR clearance extend to Echo surface extensions?

Does an SVFR clearance extend to Echo surface extensions?

Does FAR 91.155c apply to class E surface extensions?

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  • $\begingroup$ See these related "questions": or answers $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer May 11 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ future edits\-- Also but not "in" E4 airspace. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer May 11 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ Future edit "when queried about the case where...' $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer May 12 at 1:44

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