Class E Airspace – Where The Heck Does It Start!?

Class E Airspace is confusing! Does it start at 700ft? or maybe 1,200ft? Is that AGL? or is it MSL? … See what I mean? This video will have it all make sense.

Let me hear what you think. Stories? Comments? Questions? Testimonials? Put them in the comment box below!

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Text Transcript

Hey everybody. Jason Schappert here of I want to share with you a question that not only I get over and over when I’m speaking, via email,on Pilot Training TV or… I even see it a ton on checkrides… and that is talking about Class E airspace.

It’s hard for people to understand. Where does Class E airspace start? Does it start at 700? Or does it start at 1200? This isn’t just student pilots now. This is… you know, people who are already private pilots working on their instruments, working on their commercial… people struggling with where that Class E, where that true controlled airspace starts. 700 or 1200 feet? So where gonna go to a clip here, and I’m gonna explain to you guys a little bit about where Class E airspace starts basing on looking at the sectional.

[Clip rolls]

Hey, everyone! So I really want you to get a good look at Class E airspace. We’re looking at it in the sectional chart.

We’re looking right now at Crystal River Airport. Uncontrolled airport, and around it you can see it has this magenta, kind of faded circle. This is what’s known as a Class E transition area. A class E transition area. Now pay close attention to this.

Inside, of this transition area, Class E airspace starts at 700 feet AGL. Anytime you’re outside of this — in what’s known as domestic enroute, everything else out here that’s not inside this magenta circle — it starts at 1200 feet AGL.

So again, inside here, anywhere here, 700 feet. Outside of it, unless otherwise indicated obviously that it’s another type of airspace, it’s going to start at 1200 feet. So, let’s play a game real quick.

Let’s say you are in a rocket ship and you want to take off right here where my cursor is. If you took vertically, what airspace would you hit? Initially, you’d be in class G airspace. Until what altitude? Well, until 700 feet because we’re inside of this magenta circle. The faded magenta circle, the Class E transition area.

So, once we’ve hit Class E airspace, we’ll rocket until we hit Class A airspace at 18,000 feet. Same thing out here, or if we take off out here. We’ll take off right from this little lake here. We took off, we’ll be in Class G airspace until 1200 feet. Once we hit 1200 feet, we’re officially in Class E airspace and we continue to rocket straight up until we hit Alpha airspace at 18,000 feet. You can do that all across the sectional chart, it’s a good way to get a grasp of your airspace.

Let me show you something else real quick here.

Like I said, unless otherwise indicated, in some of the higher altitude areas. Right here, we’re looking at Alexander, it’s out in Colorado. Check this out, we’re scrolling down here. Look at this.

15,500. This blue zipper line is showing you where Class E airspace begins. Look at this altitude here. 15,500 and what is it? It’s MSL. If it’s other than the 7 and the 12 rule, they’re going to indicate it and right here, it’s because of the mountainous terrain. It’s started at 15,500. So, unless otherwise indicated by this blue zipper line… again, you’re only going to find this typically in high altitude areas.. they’ll give you the altitude, always in MSL.

So hopefully, you have a better idea of when Class E airspace starts. It’s a big thing in the checkride. A lot of students are confused by it. Hopefully, this video made some sense for you. I want to hear what you guys have to say. If you’re on, get down there and leave me a comment. I can guarantee a reply from In Youtube and Viddler, any other websites, I can’t guarantee that.. but go ahead, and put your comment out there, let me know what you thought. Let me know if you have any questions…  maybe you’ve struggled with this in the past and that it all now makes sense. Let me know what you guys think. I love talking to you guys, I love to hear from you guys.

So, below this video, go ahead and leave me a comment or question, whatever you guys have… most importantly guys, remember, a good pilot is always learning.

Have a great day guys. See ya.

  • Well done video on class E airspace!!


  • Chris

    Thanks, Jason! This was very helpful! I appreciate your enthusiastic approach and teaching skills!


  • Kathy

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!  I thought “I” was the only one having a problem understanding this whole Class E Airspace issue!  I FINALLY GET IT…. THANKS TO YOU!!  I’m definitely putting on my “favorites” list.  I’m in training (about 14 hours) and loving your site.  Thank you!! 

  • Larry M. Diamond

    Hi Jason, I am brand new to your website at it is awesome. I am a CFI in Michigan and this helps alot with where Echo airspace starts. Most of my students are very visual and I use a balloon example. I am standing here and what airspace is my balloon in. I like the rocket ship better. Great work. I wish I came upon this site sooner as I am trying to get my student to his checkride by next week. He is a physician who is moving to Washington State in 10 days. Your book to pass the checkride looks great. Is there any excerpts from it that I can look at? Again thanks a bunch.
    Larry Diamond CFI and hopefully this year CFII.
    P.S. Do you have any books for the CFII?

  • Dan_williams87

    Helo jason i js got one question wat if ur in the shaded area i mean the transition area?? is it 700/1200 ft AGL?? n also for example hw do we kno wat airpsace is above airports?? do we have to alwys refer to the charts to kno i mean hw will i kno airspace above specific airports in other countries???

  • Scott

    What about the blue fading line below the zippered line? Doesn’t that start E at 14,500MSL?

  • Jim

    Hi Jason,
    Why would there be a Class E magenta circle signifying a 700′ floor to the Class E airspace  (no bumpouts) around a non-towered airport which has no instrument approaches?  For example, look at GE99 (Heaven’s Landing near Clayton, GA).

  • CRD1

    I was just perusing the web when I came across your site. This was an excellent explanation on Class E space. I’m going to view your site more often.

  • Galbo Dave

    Thanks, Jason.  Very clear expanation.

  • Sweet

    What about airports that don’t have the magenta circle? Then it’s just 1,200 AGL…..

  • Bill Chupka

    good presentation -here’s another unique situatuion I’m unclear about uncontrolled airports near class B airports – example : Wilkes Barre Wyomig Valley (WBW) near Wilkes Barre Scranton Intl (AVP) in northeastern PA.  What are the limits of area of operations for WBW ?

  • Skyranger2

    Thanks, You made what was confusing (and I’m by training a physicist) simple.

    By the way, as a ex-physics major I find the aviation terminology which is essentially about about air density, totally confusing: For example saying the “density altitude” is increasing in a scenario where the density of the air is clearly going down drove me crazy during my early student pilot studies (I’m still a student pilot but further along and starting to adapt to this insane (to me) terminology). Maybe that only bugs folks with previous science under standing about gas  pressure, volume, density, temperature relationships. Curious whether it drives others nuts too?

  • Danycala54

    Great explanation, I wish you were my instructor, you’re so relaxed while teaching. My instructor gets mad for anything.

  • Jack

    Very Informative.



  • Russ Rohr

    I am a Private Pilot just returning to aviation after about 35 years.  I could understand class A, B, C and D airspace, but not E.  Thanks for making it crystal clear.
    Russ R.

  • Covey

    Simple! Awesome.

  • W_cbeyer

    So where does class G airspace go to 14500MSL?

  • Jim

    I get the magenta shading.  700 AGL to Class A

    Outside the magenta 1200 AGL to Class A

    What about the blue shading.  It looks like that is also 1200 AGl to Class A.

    Last.  How do you operate in Class E airspace.  Radio communication?  Transponder? etc. 

  • Idzerdj

    Hey there one thing that may have been missed…..wondering what the distinction is when class E starts at 14.5K. I thought that was inside the faded blue. Thanks.

  • Dave_earle

    I am a new flight student and have been  very frustrated trying to figure out the section of the training manual on airspace. Your explanation  of Class E airspace was very helpful.  You clarified in a few minutes what I’ve been studying for hours. Thanks. .

  • Jrsalter1

    Excellent! Cleared that up! Thank you!!!!

  • Mikl1960

    great job jason. im 100hr pp and just need reassurance before my check ride. be checking in again soon..thanks, mike

  • Shoethathorse

    Jason, as a audio and visual learner, this is valueable stuff to me.  Thank you very much for making this available to people.  You are a good man. Matt

  • Alex

    Dude!! Thank you so much! I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel! I’m about ready to take my FAA written exam, and cloud clearances and airspace was kicking my ass, mostly because of the 700′ vs 1200′ class E transition. You couldn’t have explained this any better! No fancy graphics, no unnecessary music, just a good analogy (the rocket ship) and common sense. Thank you!!

  • sharlene

    you did everything using an airport just about at sea level- it would have been better to show how to translate 700 or 1200 AGL to the altitude in MSL for an airport that is above sea level- like Carson City, NV for example- where the airport is at 4700 ft MSL- it is class E beginning at 700 feet AGL- therefore, class E begins at 5400 feet MSL- this can be confusing to some- In your rocket example, you just said it is in G airspace until 700 feet(but was not clear that in that case AGL and MSL were identical).

  • Thank you for sharing your knowledge! I finally got it (where class E starts) thanks to your video! Where are you located? I would love to shoot professional videos for you! Anyway, thanks so much!!!

  • Full_Of_Air

    For me airspace (assuming VFR flight rules) follows a series of questions:

    1) Where is it?

    2) What do I need to fly into it?

    3) When can I fly into it?

    This video answered the 1st question. Not really that tricky.

    The second question is pretty easy, just use elimination starting with the king of airspace, the Bravo.

    Bravo — radio, mode C xponder and permission.

    Charlie — radio, mode C xponder and radio contact.

    Delta — radio and radio contact.

    After that you can be NORDO.

    Number 3 gets tricky and is the reason for the Class E. E just changes the clearance you need from clouds. As such, it keeps VFR pilots from running into IFR pilots even when the latter are flying IFR on a VFR day!

    Fly safe!

  • Joe

    Your video was really helpful. I am currently a Student Pilot and the E and G airspace has been bugging me for quite some time. How about a quick video on G as well and how it interacts with E.
    On other issue I have is I was told in my lessons that the “East Coast” has no uncontrolled airspace in other words no Class G. How do you know that by just looking at the chart on the East Coast verses where I am in Austin Texas. The E airspace looks the same blue or magenta fuzzy line. If there is no G airspace and all airspace is E or higher, then why have the fuzzy blue or magenta lines around an airport on the east coast? I think I’m missing something?

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