Everything You Need to Know About Class D Airspace

Photo: Sarina Houston

Class D airspace surrounds airports that have an operating air traffic control tower, but do not have radar services (or at least are not required to.) Airspace surrounding a Class D airport is only classified as a Class D airport when the tower is in operation. After hours, the airport reverts to a Class E airport, or a combination of Class E and Class G. The control tower at a Class D airport provides traffic separation for VFR and IFR traffic and can provide VFR traffic advisories, workload permitting.


Dimensions: Class D airports can be tailored to fit instrument approach procedures that are available at the airport, so one Class D airport might look slightly different from another. Laterally, the dimensions are dependent upon instrument approach procedures into an airport, and you may see that there are extensions for arrivals and departures factored into the airspace dimensions. Normally, the airspace surrounding Class D airports extends from the surface up to a designated MSL altitude - usually about 2,500 feet AGL.

Entry requirements: To enter Class D airspace, a pilot must contact the control tower and establish two-way radio communications prior to entering the airspace.  

VFR visibility and cloud clearance requirements: Pilots flying in Class D airspace must maintain at least three statute miles visibility. In addition, pilots must remain at least 500 feet below clouds, 1,000 feet above clouds and 2,000 feet horizontal distance away from clouds while in Class D airspace.

Chart depiction: Class D airspace is depicted as a dashed blue line on a VFR sectional chart. You may notice that the airspace extends into the arrival and departure paths for IFR traffic.