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Paragliding Airspace Regulations
Understanding Airspace for Paraglider Pilots
The Federal Aviation Administration, in the interest of public safety, has defined a set of regulations which control access to and the use of the area above ground in which people normally fly. The FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations) cover all flying activities, including general aviation, ultralight vehicles, ballooning, skydiving, and even operations in space. There is a regulation which covers any area someone
In order to safely operate a paraglider, a good understanding of the airspace system is required. There are three broad categories of airspace of which we should be aware:
Paraglider pilots are most interested in the third category, as that is where paragliders fly the most. However, to avoid confusion while reading the FARs, AIM (Aeronautical Information Manual), and charts it is best to learn about airspace, first by determining the airspace in which one's flight will take place, in order to determine whether there are any restrictions/prohibitions in effect.
FAR 103 is not written like many federal regulations. It does not explicitly say where we can fly, it only lists restrictions, allowing us to fly in the remainder. The airspace system is similarly defined, with the end result that Airspace Class G is not really explicitly defined, except as the space left over after all the controlled airspace has been defined.
The FAA defines airspace in the FARs, AIM and charts which are produced by National Aeronautical Charting Office of the FAA. There are online resources for the FARs and AIM:
Understanding the basics (charts, FARs, AIM)
Classes of Airspace
In order to understand where we can and cannot fly, we must have a firm understanding of the different classes of airspace and how to identify them on the charts produced by the FAA. The airspace is defined in several places:
If you wish to determine the exact location (by latitude/longitude) of any airspace, Victor airway, military operating area (etc. etc.), you can look up in FAA Order 7400.9S.
The chart below shows the different classes of airspace. The Class E airspace below 18000' is depicted in light blue. Class G (uncontrolled) is in white. Classes B, C, and D airspace below 18000' are grey. The surface is depicted in brown. Note that the cloud clearance and visibility requirements are different depending on the mean sea level (MSL) altitude, above ground level (AGL) altitude, and the class of airspace. A text version is printed in FAR 103.23.
Since most of our flying is done in Class E and G airspace, we should first learn how to determine which airspace a flying site, LZ, or route lies. We need to know whether we are in Class G or E because the flight visibility and cloud clearance requirements differ.
Class G airspace is defined in the FARs as that airspace which is not controlled airspace. Thus, it is imperative to be able to identify airspace by looking at a wide area chart, sectional chart, or terminal air chart.
Identifying Classes of Airspace:
Find the sectional chart for your area
last updated 19 March 2009