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I'm a paramotor pilot operating under FAR 103, and I'm trying to determine who I need to ask for permission to fly in class E airspace that extends to the surface and is designated for an airport. For reference, the particular airport that I am inquiring about is GFL.

This appears to be the relevant subpart of FAR 103: §103.17

No person may operate an ultralight vehicle within Class A, Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport unless that person has prior authorization from the ATC facility having jurisdiction over that airspace.

Before I was aware of this restriction, the airport manager granted permission for me to fly to and from the airport with my paramotor. I have an access card, and he made clear the rules I am to follow, such as radio procedures and where I can launch and land.

However, this field does not have a control tower. Do I need to obtain permission from someone else to comply with §103.17? I'm not sure who the ATC facility having jurisdiction over that airspace is.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm aware of an airport, within the surface-level Class E airspace designated for another airport, where ultralight operations are routinely conducted, in fact an ultralight airplane manufacturer was long based there. As far as I know, no arrangement for prior authorization ever existed. Paramotors also routinely launch from nearby fields within the same airspace. Yes you definitely do need to obtain operations from someone else if you want to fully comply with 103.17, but if things are working for you as is, I wouldn't worry about it, especially for low-level operations. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Mar 25 at 18:02
  • $\begingroup$ If you do want to seek permission, it seems perhaps that some sort of standing Letter of Agreement permitting low-level operations under certain specified circumstances might work better for you than trying to call up ARTCC/Tracon/Tower on a case-by-case basis. If you have tried either approach, I'd actually be interested to hear more about it -- ping me with a comment here or via a contribution to ASE chat, prefaced by "@quietflyer" at the front-- thanks. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Mar 25 at 18:02
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By default, all controlled airspace (class E and up) is owned by an ARTCC. In many areas, they delegate airspace (including class E!) to other ATC facilities, either a TRACON or a Tower.

Unfortunately, that info isn't on Sectional or Terminal Charts; you have to look in the Chart Supplement (formerly Airport/Facility Directory). For KGFL, we see:

ARTCC: BOSTON CENTER

...

ALBANY APPROACH: 132.825

ALBANY DEPARTURE: 132.825

So, this area is owned by Boston ARTCC and delegated to Albany TRACON, and it helpfully gives you the latter's frequency to call if airborne.

You probably can't reach them by radio from the ground, so you would contact their Clearance Delivery (CD) by phone, which for this airport is found in the remarks:

FOR CD CTC ALBANY APCH AT 518-862-2299.

Just tell them in plain English why you're calling and what you want, and be ready to copy any instructions they give you. They might, for instance, ask you to wait because they have other traffic going in or out in the next few minutes, or they might ask you to contact them in the air so they can keep track of you (I assume they won't see you on radar) and warn other aircraft you're there. Or they might not care at all and just tell you to have a good flight.

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Be sure to verify that the airport in question specifically has a "Class E Surface Area". This will be denoted by a dashed line encircling the airport on the sectional map - like a Class D in magenta instead of blue. Typical Class E airports will only be surrounded by a magenta gradient designating transition area and the Class E airspace only extends down to 700 ft above ground level, even over the airport. You don't need clearance to land at a normal Class E airport that doesn't extend to the surface.

If your airport does incorporate a Class E Surface Area, it will nearly always fall inside the magenta gradient circle, mimicking the inverted layer cake design of Class C and B airports. This is done to protect E airports with precision IFR approaches and/or departures. All airports with a Class E Surface Area are required to have a weather station and the ability to contact ATC from the ground. This ATC may be Flight Service, a center facility, or an approach/departure facility. Whichever ATC is responsible for providing clearances on your particular airfield will be listed in your Chart Supplement US (formerly called an Airport/Facility Directory or AFD). The frequency for this facility will be listed, and it is this controller that you must contact to request clearance for your FAR 103 flight.

Hope this helps.

Reference: Martin, S. (2016). The logic behind class E airspace. retrived from: https://www.boldmethod.com/learn-to-fly/airspace/class-e/

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    $\begingroup$ Please note that I'm 100% certain that the airport in question is within class E airspace that extends to the surface and is designated to said airport, and I believe the question is asked in such a manner that makes this apparent. This answer seems to ignore the actual question, and instead answer a question something like "how do I determine whether an airport is within surface class E airspace?". $\endgroup$ – sndsgd Jul 7 '20 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ I did not mean to insinuate that you, personally, don't know the status of KGFL. I thought that there might be other FAR 103 flyers who could stumble across your post looking for clarification and answers. In that case, providing a bit of additional information could help them decide what they need to do. $\endgroup$ – Aaron Holmes Jul 7 '20 at 21:36

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