On sectional charts (at least in the US) military airports appear with the same symbols as public airports, eg. KBKF. Some military bases are within restricted airspace. I would assume all military airports are restricted to public use.

Is there a way to see this on the sectional chart? Would this information be found in the A/FD? Is it just assumed that AFB, NAS, etc. indicates military?

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    $\begingroup$ Generally information on restrictions for any charted airport can be found in the A/FD (look for RSTD or the magic word PPR - Prior Permission Required - in the remarks). For example, KBKF is restricted, prior permission is required if you're not based there, and you need to let them know at least 24 hours in advance that you would like to land there: i.stack.imgur.com/fMU08.png $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Jul 15, 2014 at 16:23
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    $\begingroup$ @voretaq7 Thanks for your comment. This seems like an answer. Why not change your comment into an answer? ;) $\endgroup$
    – ABC123
    Jul 15, 2014 at 22:55
  • $\begingroup$ After reading the answers here, the question should be "why aren't military airfields designated in a more prominent way?" $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    Nov 14, 2014 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ All navy airfields are designated KN(XX). In fact, only navy airfields, under the ICAO system, start with KN. Also, there are many joint use airfields that are both civilian and military, such as KNYL (MCAS Yuma/ Yuma Intl), and you can land there until you're blue in the face. However, generally speaking, its best to leave military bases alone. We operate under very rigid and expected procedures, and random traffic in the area quickly becomes dangerous and unpredictable. Imagine your surprise when I enter the pattern at 350+kts... $\endgroup$ Nov 14, 2014 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed regarding many joint fields. For example, both Knoxville McGee-Tyson (KTYS) and Nashville International Airport (KBNA) have military aircraft based at the field. KTYS used to have a bunch of fighters based on site back during the Cold War to protect the nearby nuclear research and production facilities at Oak Ridge. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Nov 19, 2014 at 8:30

3 Answers 3


AFB, MCAS, NAS, CGAS/CGS, and AAF would always be military, yes. BUT the lack of that in the name doesn't mean it's not military... Outside the US especially there's often no such thing to indicate a military base from a civilian field (though AB (for AirBase) is at times used).
How do you know? You're supposed to know where you're going when you're flying, and that includes what's off limits to you.
http://www.post8.org/images/secchart.jpg shows the legend of a sectional (can't inline the image, SO refuses to), which says clearly "All military airports are indicated by abbreviations AFB, NAS, AAF, etc. For complete airport information consult DOD FLIP". So how do you know? The chart tells you by the name of the facility. It also shows a double ring instead of runway icons as indicating military, but on some charts I looked at that appears to not be consistently applied.

  • $\begingroup$ Looking at SkyVector the military bases in Europe have [Mil] suffix on the VFR chart. The ones in USA can only be recognized by the bajillion abbreviations like AFB, NAS, AAF (MCAS…)…. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jul 16, 2014 at 11:59
  • $\begingroup$ From other places I knew where to look for some military airport in Japan there is also the [Mil] suffix and in India the military airports seem to be omitted from the sectional chart altogether (on SkyVector; other sectional chart makers may differ, of course). $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jul 16, 2014 at 12:04
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe I'm interpreting the legend wrong, but I think that the double ring symbol only indicates military airports with "other than hard surface" runways. Military airports with hard-surface runways would use the standard symbols. For example, Bicycle Lake AAF (BYS) has the double ring and is listed as having a gravel runway. USMC Sweetwater (NV72) is another example, just a 3700' dirt strip in the middle of nowhere. $\endgroup$
    – Brian
    Jul 16, 2014 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Brian possibly, would make sense. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Jul 17, 2014 at 9:57

The definitive reference in the US is the A/FD. The A/FD shows the "operating agency" of each airport if it isn't a civil, public airport:

Airports within this directory are classified into two categories, Military/Federal Government and Civil airports open to the general public, plus selected private use airports. The operating agency is shown for military, private use and joint civil/military airports.

So if you don't see an operating agency, it's civil. If you do, then you need to consult the list of possible agencies. For example, KATL has no operating agency so it's civil and public; KMGE (Dobbins ARB) has the operating agency "AFRC (AR ARNG)" listed in the A/FD which according to the legend means "Air Force Reserve Command (US Army Reserve US Army National Guard)".


If it's a dedicated military airfield, then they do limit what you can do there. If their not busy(basically, nothing based there's flying much), you can often times coordinate to do approaches there, as long as you don't land. If something comes up and you declare an emergency and land, expect to be met by lots of people pointing guns at you, and to be detained for awhile. Transitions are usually easy, to coordinate through talking on the Tower frequency, or talking with the area's approach to go through any airbase delta... usually.

REF: BKF, don't bother with asking for approaches there, due to the tight confines of airspace with DEN, FTG, and APA.

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    $\begingroup$ This doesn't answer the question, which is essentially "I see an airport on the map -- how can I tell if it's a military base or a public airport?" not "What can a member of the public do at a military airfield?" $\endgroup$ Jul 16, 2014 at 7:52
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby look at the edit on the OP this answer was posted before that change happened. $\endgroup$ Jul 16, 2014 at 8:25
  • $\begingroup$ Ah. It's unfortunate when questions change in a way that invalidates answers. But, still, this isn't an answer to the question that's been asked; it could, perhaps, be reposted as an answer here (the version of this question that slookabill was answering was closed as a duplicate of that question). $\endgroup$ Jul 16, 2014 at 8:59

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