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6 Answers

How are practice areas defined?

Asked by: 2216 views Airspace

I often hear pilots and even my primary instructor taught me to request clearance to "the north practice area" or similar.  I see no definition for the term "practice area" in the AIM, and have never seen it depicted on any map.  How are these training areas defined? Is it simply a local knowledge thing?

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6 Answers

  1. Kris Kortokrax on Sep 27, 2014

    Clearance is only required for entrance into Class A or B.

    There is no established definition or requirement for a practice area, except for aerobatic practice areas.

    It is quite likely a local thing. The fact that you were requesting anything suggests you were operating at a towered airport. That terminology would alert the tower controller to the direction you would be taking to exit his airspace and the likely direction from which you would later be returning.

    As far as defining the extents of a practice area, your school would set up an area in which they expected you to remain. This prevents students from wandering all over the place.

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  2. Best Answer

    Russ Roslewski on Sep 30, 2014

    Hi Dave!

    As Kris correctly states, “practice areas” are almost completely a local-knowledge kind of thing. I think back to some places I’ve learned and taught, and some had very well-defined practice areas for their students (Area A goes along this freeway, over to this airport, over to the lake and back), whereas some had more of a general “stay northwest of the airport” policy.

    In general, the busier the flight training operation, and the more schools in an area, the more likely it is that standardized areas will be established – I had one with separate frequencies for each area, established entry points and altitudes and such, and ATC knew exactly where each area was. You might see that in busier areas where it’s done mostly out of necessity and safety.

    But, in very few cases will you actually see anything published in products available to the general public. More likely it will be something on the school’s website, in their “Operations Manual” or something like that.


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  3. Mitchell L Williams on Oct 01, 2014

    When we were a 141 approved school (which we let lapse) the FAA required us to have defined practice areas. So we just drew some on a sectional chart and included them in our Training Course Outlines and Safety Manuals. There was nothing special about them other then: Not over congested airspace, easily definable boundaries like roads or lakes. This was all class E and did not require any clearance or notifications.

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  4. Gary on Nov 08, 2014

    14 CFR 91.130(c)(1) says “Arrival or through flight. Each person must establish two-way radio communications with the ATC facility (including foreign ATC in the case of foreign airspace designated in the United States) providing air traffic services prior to entering that airspace and thereafter maintain those communications while within that airspace.”

    So, clearance is required prior to entry into Class C and D also.

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  5. Kris Kortokrax on Nov 09, 2014

    It is apparent that you do not understand the difference between receiving a clearance and establishing two way radio communication.

    If you look at 91.131 (a)(1) you will see the requirement for receipt of an ATC clearance. There is no such language in 91.130.

    There is no requirement to receive a clearance to enter Class C or D airspace. Two way radio communication is all that is required.

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  6. Gary S. on Jan 03, 2015

    When radio communication is required BEFORE entering Class C and D, that IS a clearance. If you don’t think so, enter without approval and see what happens.

    See AIM Section 2, par. 3-2-4 Class C Airspace which says:

    ” 3. Arrival or Through Flight Entry Requirements.
    Two-way radio communication must be
    established with the ATC facility providing ATC
    services prior to entry and thereafter maintain those
    communications while in Class C airspace. Pilots of
    arriving aircraft should contact the Class C airspace
    ATC facility on the publicized frequency and give
    their position, altitude, radar beacon code, destination,
    and request Class C service. Radio contact
    should be initiated far enough from the Class C
    airspace boundary to preclude entering Class C
    airspace before two-way radio communications are

    1. If the controller responds to a radio call with, “(aircraft
    callsign) standby,” radio communications have been
    established and the pilot can enter the Class C airspace.

    2. If workload or traffic conditions prevent immediate
    provision of Class C services, the controller will inform the
    pilot to remain outside the Class C airspace until
    conditions permit the services to be provided.

    3. It is important to understand that if the controller
    responds to the initial radio call without using the aircraft
    identification, radio communications have not been
    established and the pilot may not enter the Class C

    4. Though not requiring regulatory action, Class C
    airspace areas have a procedural Outer Area. Normally
    this area is 20 NM from the primary Class C airspace
    airport. Its vertical limit extends from the lower limits of
    radio/radar coverage up to the ceiling of the approach
    control’s delegated airspace, excluding the Class C
    airspace itself, and other airspace as appropriate. (This
    outer area is not charted.)
    5. Pilots approaching an airport with Class C service
    should be aware that if they descend below the base altitude
    of the 5 to 10 mile shelf during an instrument or visual
    approach, they may encounter nontransponder, VFR
    1. [Aircraft callsign] “remain outside the Class Charlie
    airspace and standby.”
    2. “Aircraft calling Dulles approach control, standby.”

    I apologize for the lengthy cut and paste but it’s important for everyone, especially our student’s, be aware that in this case “clearance” and “radio communication” mean the same. Just a matter of semantics. Same for Class Delta.

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