0
$\begingroup$

May an ultralight vehicle pass directly above KEGE at 9200 MSL at 1600Z with no prior authorization without violating FAR 103.17?

http://vfrmap.com/?type=vfrc&lat=39.643&lon=-106.916&zoom=10

The A/FD entry for KEGE says "AIRSPACE: CLASS D svc 1400–0200Z‡; other times CLASS E."

There is more to this question than meets the eye-- KEGE appears to be an oddball case. More detailed descriptions of the airspace descriptions at KEGE, including the page numbers for these airspace descriptions in the FAA's "Airspace Descriptions and Reporting Points Documents" JO 7400.11C, are given in this related question Can the Class-E-to-surface airspace near Eagle County Regional airport KEGE be ignored when the tower is open?

Please note that this is NOT a question about:

$\endgroup$
  • 2
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ No, it's a very different question. The attached answer explains why. The other question deals a case similar to KMFR (also addressed in the attached answer), and KEGE is different. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Jun 9 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ Also the other question is dealing with the projecting rectangular areas and not the airspace directly over the airport. Completely different. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Jun 9 at 14:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sure they can. Did you mean to say ultralights cannot fly in Class-E-to-surface? (In the absence of prior authorization, of course,) That appears not to be true either as a blanket statement -- ultralights can fly in SOME class-E-to-surface -- see aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/35297/… $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Jun 9 at 14:41
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think you have found a grey area, which means that the FAA needs to be approached with the question. If the rules are truly ambiguous, then they will issue a letter interpreting the rule. The opinions here will just be that...opinions. $\endgroup$ – MikeY Jun 9 at 23:16
-2
$\begingroup$

Yes, an ultralight aircraft may fly over KEGE ( http://vfrmap.com/?type=vfrc&lat=39.643&lon=-106.916&zoom=10 ) at 9200' MSL at 1600Z -- i.e. above the ceiling of the Class D airspace when the control tower is open and the Class D airspace is in effect-- with no prior authorization without violating FAR 103.17. Just as is the case above any Class D airspace with projecting areas of Class-E-to-surface airspace where the airspace designations have been handled in a more conventional manner, such as at KMFR ( http://vfrmap.com/?type=vfrc&lat=42.374&lon=-122.874&zoom=10 ).

The design of the airspace at KEGE as described in the FAA's "Airspace Designations and Reporting Points" document, JO 7400.11C, is unconventional and possibly flawed, as described in more detail in this related question Can the Class-E-to-surface airspace near Eagle County Regional airport KEGE be ignored when the tower is open?. Here are all of the most plausible interpretations of how the Class-E-to-surface airspace around KEGE is intended to function. None of these interpretations require an ultralight aircraft to seek prior authorization before overflying KEGE at 9200' MSL when the Class D airspace is in effect.

All of these interpretations address this question -- "During the hours that the Class D airspace is active at KEGE, is there any E2 airspace at KEGE, and if so, where?" To understand why, generally speaking, E2 airspace, and only E2 airspace, appears to be the best fit for the meaning of "the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport" in the context of FAR 103.17, see this related answer Which parts of class E airspace can an ultralight (part 103) fly in without prior ATC authorization?

1) The best description of the situation at KEGE appears to be that the airspace has been designated in the same way as the 21 airports described in this answer to a related question What are all the US airports where E4 "extensions" change to E2 and become part of a larger E2 "surface area" when the tower closes for the night? , except that no E4 airspace description has been provided to create Class-E-to-surface airspace in the projection to the east when the tower is open and the E2 airspace is inactive. according to this interpretation, this omission is accidental. A careful study of the "Airspace Designations and Reporting Points" document makes it clear that any given block of designated airspace (e.g. E2, E4, or Class D) is intended to become effective or ineffective as a single unit, so when the Class D airspace is in effect at KEGE, none of the E2 airspace is in effect. So technically, as the description has been written, it appears that there is no Class-E-to-surface airspace in the projection to the east when the tower is open. Local ATC treats the airspace as if there is Class-E-to-surface airspace in the projection to the east 24/7, i.e. as if an E4 airspace description had been provided to cover the airspace in the projecting area to the east when the tower is open and the E2 airspace is not in effect. Naturally, it would be wise for a pilot to treat the airspace in the projection to the east as if it were some form of Class-E-to-surface 24/7, because this is the practice of the local ATC. Nonetheless, an ultralight overflying KEGE above the Class D ceiling when the tower is open is not within the lateral boundaries of any active E2 airspace, so no prior authorization is required by FAR 103.17.

2) The airspace around KEGE has been designated in the same way as the 21 airports described in this answer to a related question What are all the US airports where E4 "extensions" change to E2 and become part of a larger E2 "surface area" when the tower closes for the night? , except that no E4 airspace description has been provided to create Class-E-to-surface airspace in the projection to the east when the tower is open and the E2 airspace is inactive. According to this interpretation, this is intentional and is based on the theory that when the Class D airspace is active, only that portion of the E2 airspace which coincides with the Class D is superseded by the Class D, while the rest of the E2 airspace remains in effect. (KEGE appears to be the only airport in the US where this unusual theory has been applied; normally any given block of designated airspace (e.g. E2, E4, or Class D) is intended to become effective or ineffective as a single unit.) However, a fundamental characteristic of any given column of E2 airspace is that it contacts the surface. Therefore when some portion of the E2 airspace is superseded by Class D airspace up to 9100' MSL, all the immediately overlying E2 airspace also detaches from the rest of the E2 airspace and becomes E5 airspace. When the Class D airspace is in effect, none of the airspace above the ceiling of the Class D can be considered to be E2 airspace. Therefore an ultralight overflying KEGE above the Class D ceiling when the tower is open is not within the lateral boundaries of any active E2 airspace, so no prior authorization is required by FAR 103.17.

3) The airspace around KEGE has been designated in the same way as the 21 airports described in this answer to a related question What are all the US airports where E4 "extensions" change to E2 and become part of a larger E2 "surface area" when the tower closes for the night? , except that no E4 airspace description has been provided to create Class-E-to-surface airspace in the projection to the east when the tower is open and the E2 airspace is inactive. According to this interpretation, this is intentional and is based on the theory that when the Class D airspace is active, only that portion of the E2 airspace which coincides with the Class D is superseded by the Class D, while the rest of the E2 airspace remains in effect. (KEGE appears to be the only airport in the US where this unusual theory has been applied; normally any given block of designated airspace (e.g. E2, E4, or Class D) is intended to become effective or ineffective as a single unit.) Therefore the airspace above the ceiling of the Class D can be technically be construed to be E2 airspace 24/7. However, FAR 103.17 does not specifically and explicitly reference E2 airspace. While in most cases, as noted in the related answer Which parts of class E airspace can an ultralight (part 103) fly in without prior ATC authorization?, E2 airspace, and only E2 airspace, is the best fit for the meaning of "the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport" in the context of FAR 103.17, any piece of E2 airspace that is not actually part of a column of Class E airspace extending all the way to the ground is clearly an exception to this general principle. An ultralight may overfly KEGE above the Class D ceiling when the tower is open with no prior authorization without violating FAR 103.17.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is not an answer to the question. All you are doing is reiterating what you already said. $\endgroup$ – Juan Jimenez Jun 9 at 15:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Still it may be the best answer that may be offered, due to the problematic nature of the airspace design at KEGE. Anyone else is free to try to do better! $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Jun 9 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ It's only problematic to you, man. The regs are clear, you just seem to have an issue with the word "surface," which is irrelevant to the rule. The real problem is when some fool in an ultralight pushes the rule because of what someone posts here and either gets written up or jailed. $\endgroup$ – Juan Jimenez Jun 9 at 15:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Your answer is still not an answer, but more of a rambling coverage of your opinions. $\endgroup$ – Juan Jimenez Jun 10 at 9:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JuanJimenez -- Anyone who thinks the word "surface" is irrelevant may wish to read -- faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/agc/… $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Jun 10 at 14:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.