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4 Answers

Class E Airport Communicate with ATC

Asked by: 5565 views Airspace, Instrument Rating

I read somewhere that a class E airport (non-towered) is required to have weather reporting AND a means of communicating with ATC on the ground. Does that mean you should be able to get your clearance by radio on the ground? I can't find any reference for this, either in the FAR/AIM or on the Internet. Does anyone know for sure? Thanks.

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4 Answers

  1. MaggotCFII on Jan 29, 2011

    Take a look at your Airport / Facilities Directory for the airport you are concerned about – the classification of airspace for that airport when the tower is not operating and for uncontrolled airports will be there.
    If uncontrolled you should see if ATC is available through an “RCO” and the frequency to talk with an facility: Approach, FSS, etc.
    Next, and sometimes best, would be the Clearance Delivery by phone, also in the A/F D if unique or the universal FSS Clearance Phone number.
    Either one could give you your clearance and a “void” time.
    That is why at an uncontrolled field, getting your clearance in the runway “runup” area and ready for departure, by the Clearance Delivery Phone Number, works well.
    You may want to look in the AIM, ch 5. section 2 – Departure Restriction for added infomation.

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  2. Kent Shook on Jan 30, 2011

    Are you asking only about airports with a class E surface area? (Dotted magenta line around it on the sectional)?
    I think that *might* have been the rule at one time. Looking here in Wisconsin and the UP of Michigan, we have the following surface class E airports, a couple of which do not have on-site ATC comms:
    KLNR – ASOS, can reach Chicago Center on the Lone Rock RCAG 133.3 or FSS on Lone Rock RCO 122.35 (LNR had its own FSS before the original consolidation in the 80’s)
    KAUW – ASOS, *might* be able to reach Minneapolis Center on Mosinee RCAG 124.4 or FSS on 122.525, though both of those are located at Mosinee (CWA) about 9 miles away.
    KRHI – ASOS, can reach Minneapolis Center on Rhinelander RCAG 133.65 or FSS on 122.1
    KIMT – ASOS, can reach Minneapolis Center on Iron Mountain RCAG 121.25 or FSS on the Iron Mountain VOR
    KESC – AWOS-3, Minne Center on Escanaba RCAG 127.65, FSS on the VOR
    KCIU – AWOS-3… No FSS, Approach/Departure service is provided by Toronto Center on “Sault Enroute” which is probably at CYAM about 12 miles away. This is the most doubtful of the bunch in terms of getting anything on the ground.
    KCMX – ASOS, Minne Center on Houghton RCAG 127.2, FSS on 2 freqs
    KIWD – AWOS-3, Minne Center and FSS both available.
    So, looking at a sampling, it appears that the answer is “usually.” The places you have class E to the ground are generally places where there is an ILS at an uncontrolled airport, there was once an FSS, or there is/was once airline service.
    In the case of an airport like AUW, there used to be a flight service station on the field and there used to be airline service there, but there isn’t any longer – It was moved to the nearby Central Wisconsin Airport (CWA) a long time ago. So, AUW doesn’t really have any reason to be class E to the surface any more, but there’s no compelling reason to get rid of it, either – So, I would imagine that the radio facilities were moved to CWA and the airspace was simply left alone. That seems to happen a lot – Note my recent answer to a different question where I pointed out the class C cutout from KPDX and the extra class E near KACY that are still there despite the fact that their associated airports are closed. 

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  3. Heather McNevin on Jan 30, 2011

    Airports with Class E surface areas can have a fair amount of traffic, and may or may not have a way to reach people on the ground.  First, I’d look for an RCO (remote communications outlet).  An RCO on the field can be set up to reach FSS or ATC, but not both.  In some cases, I work airports (I’m a controller) that don’t have an RCO on the field but I can talk to them on the ground via a backup transmitter.  If no luck with the RCO, I’d try a GCO (Ground communications outlet).  A GCO is basically a phone line you access with your aircraft radio.  You click the mic to dial either FSS or ATC, depending on which one you want.  It depends on your state dept of transportation aeronautics division if they prefer to put in GCOs or RCOs.

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  4. Andrew K on Feb 06, 2011

    I don’t believe having Class E to surface guarantees a RCO/GCO for ATC.  Although being class E to the surface does require a weather observer to be present when operating as such.  You may notice in the AFD that some Class D airports change from D to E to the surface when the controllers go home, then they’ll go from E to G when the weather observer goes home.  Usually the controllers are also weather observers so some airports will go instantly from D to G.
    Class E to the surface is really there to protect busy appraoches from scud runners flying 50ft below clouds in Class G near the approach.  Another side note, if you need Special VFR into an airport then the airport must be in controlled airspace which must also require a weather observer.
    Crossville, TN is E to the surface and has no GCO/RCO to ATC.  http://skyvector.com/airport/CSV/Crossville-Memorial-Whitson-Field-Airport
    Crossville is E to the surface 24/7 it does require a weather observer 24/7.  The way they’re able to pull this off is a retired weather guy lives within a mile or two of the airport and still does their TAFs for them, lol cool.
    Compared to Pulaski, VA which also has an ILS and RCO to Roanoke Approach but is never E to the surface. http://skyvector.com/airport/PSK/New-River-Valley-Airport
    FYI, in the AFD the little “R” next to the APP/DEP frequency with the circle around it indicates radar departure control is available.  I had no idea, I had to look it up…lol

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