What is the meaning of "transition area" as used by the FAA? Does it currently have a specific meaning? Does the FAA still use the term at all? Has the meaning changed over time since the term was introduced? Is it a term that ceased to have a specific official meaning after the September 1993 "alphabet" airspace reclassification?

Additional context:

FAR 71.71 reads--

§ 71.71 Class E airspace. Class E Airspace consists of:

(c) The airspace areas listed as domestic airspace areas in subpart E of FAA Order 7400.11D (incorporated by reference, see § 71.1) which extend upward from 700 feet or more above the surface of the earth when designated in conjunction with an airport for which an approved instrument approach procedure has been prescribed, or from 1,200 feet or more above the surface of the earth for the purpose of transitioning to or from the terminal or en route environment.

Does this suggest that the term "transition area" is best reserved for areas of Class E airspace with a floor at 1200' AGL?

The term "transition area" does not appear in the FAA's "Airspace Designations and Reporting Points" document, current edition Order JO 7400.11D.

As airspace with a 1200' Class E floor has proliferated to cover most of the US, it seems to have become a common practice to use the term "transition area" specifically to refer to areas with a 700' Class E floor that are protecting instrument approaches. Is this really a correct practice?


2 Answers 2


As per the FAA Procedures for Handling Airspace Matters:

Transitional areas, Class E, are designated to serve terminal and en route aircraft to include helicopter operations such as:

a. Transitioning to/from terminal and en route.

b. Transiting between airways and routes.

c. En route climbs or descents.

d. Holding.

e. Radar vectors.

f. Providing for course changes.

g. When the route under consideration is almost all within existing Class E airspace and small additions would complete the coverage.

NOTE- The only areas that are normally excluded in the Class E description should be limited to Mexico, Canada, SUA and international airspace. Exclude SUA only when active. Do not exclude Federal Airways or other airspace areas.

h. En route training operations.

Link here.

I don't know that this definition has necessarily "changed", but they apparently thought it needed clarification in 2011.


Before the September 1993 transition to the "alphabet system", "transition area" was used to describe areas where the floor of controlled airspace was higher than the surface, but lower than 14,500 MSL base of the "Continental Control Area", at least in cases where those areas were designated around airports and along approaches to airports, rather than along routes. Starting in 1963, these areas started appearing on sectional charts, typically with floors at either 1200' AGL or 700' AGL.

(Source to be provided.)

The term appears to have no current official meaning in the eyes of the FAA. As stated in the question, the term "transition area" does not appear in the FAA's "Airspace Designations and Reporting Points" document, current edition Order JO 7400.11D. Nor does it appear in the Pilot-Controller Glossary.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Since your "answer" includes phrases such as "would seem", "I seem to recall", "perhaps the term has no real meaning", plus two occurances of "I cannot provide a source" I don't think it is a worthy answer. I would suggest you roll all your uncertainties into the question. I can understand coming across a key piece of information and asking a question that you yourself answer to enlighten others, but you aren't adding any value here. If this was a discussion forum, then maybe... $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ I agree it is not a great answer at present. I intend to improve it. I'll consider rolling some of that content into the question but am not sure it would really improve it. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ To be honest, it isn't really an answer at all. It simply provides amplifying information about your confusion regarding the term, and how it is applied. Its it a good question, but not a good answer! ;) $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ Taken under consideration... $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 17:20

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