Canadian Airspace Classes
They’re just letters! A, B, C, D, E, F and G.
But the Canadian airspace system causes most people to just scratch their heads at first. We’ve broken down the airspace classes and how they show up on various resources to help you make sense of what you’re seeing!
Class A and B
Class A airspace is generally defined as high level airspace starting at FL180 or approximately 18 000 ft in Southern Domestic Airspace, FL230 in Northern Domestic Airspace, and FL270 in Arctic Domestic Airspace. This type of airspace is not denoted on aeronautical charts. Given the high level nature of Class A airspace, it is rarely a concern for small RPA pilots.
RPA pilots wishing to operate in Class A airspace require specific authorization from both Transport Canada and NAV CANADA.
Class B airspace is generally defined as low level controlled airspace and exists between 12 500 ft and the floor of Class A airspace but it may include some control zones and control areas that are lower. The specific dimensions of Class B airspace in Canada can be found in the DAH.
RPA pilots wishing to operate in Class B airspace require specific authorization from both Transport Canada and the ANSP.
Class C airspace is controlled airspace and generally exists around large airports and extends from the surface to an altitude of 3 000 ft AGL, but the exact size and shape of the space is dependent on local airspace management needs. Class C airspace is depicted on all VFR Navigation Charts (VNC) and VFR Terminal Area Charts (VTA) as well in the DAH and the National Research Council Canada Drone site selection tool.
Class C airspace is considered an advanced operating environment. Clearance is required before operating in Class C airspace.
Class D airspace is controlled airspace and generally exists around medium-sized airports and extends from the surface to an altitude of 3 000 ft AGL, but the exact size and shape of the space is dependent on local airspace management needs. Class D airspace is depicted on all VNCs and VTAs as well in the DAH and the National Research Council Canada Drone site selection tool.
Class D airspace is considered an advanced operating environment.
Class E airspace is controlled airspace for aircraft operating under IFR and can exist around an airport as a control zone or away from an airport where an operational need exists to control IFR aircraft. Class E control zones usually extend from the surface to an altitude of 3 000 ft AGL. It can also often exist from 2 200 AGL and up in a control area extension surrounding a control zone. When this type of airspace is not associated with an airport it usually begins at 700 ft AGL and extends to 12 500 ft ASL, but the exact size and shape of the space is dependent on local airspace management needs. Class E airspace is depicted on all VNCs and VTAs as well as in the DAH and the National Research Council Canada drone site selection tool.
Class E airspace is considered an advanced environment.
Class F Airspace is special use airspace and can be either restricted or advisory. Class F can be controlled airspace, uncontrolled airspace, or a combination of both, depending on the classification of the airspace surrounding it.
Class F Restricted Airspace
Class F restricted airspace is denoted as CYR followed by three numbers (e.g. CYR123). The letter D for danger area will be used if the restricted area is established over international waters. Class F restricted airspace is identified on all VNCs and VTAs as well as the National Research Council Canada drone site selection tool and is restricted to all airspace users except those approved by the user agency. CYRs can be found over federal prisons and some military training areas, for example. To gain access to Class F Restricted airspace, RPA pilots should contact the user agency as listed for the specific block of airspace in the DAH.
Class F Advisory Airspace
Class F Advisory airspace is denoted as CYA followed by three numbers (e.g. CYA123). Class F advisory airspace is identified on all VNCs and (VTAs as well as the National Research Council Canada Drone site selection tool. CYA denotes airspace reserved for a specific application such as hang-gliding, flight training, or helicopter operations. RPA pilots are not restricted from operating in advisory airspace and no special permission is required, but pilots should be aware of the reason the airspace has the advisory and take steps to identify any additional risks and mitigate them. Many activities in a CYA often bring directly piloted (manned) aircraft into airspace below 400 ft AGL and are therefore a greater risk to RPA operations.
Class G airspace exists in any space that is not Class A, B, C, D, E, or F. Class G airspace is uncontrolled and is considered the basic operating environment for RPAS, assuming the conditions regarding proximity to people, airports, and heliport are met. You don’t need to get permission from the ANSP to operate in class G.
Here are the resources we referenced for the airpace images!
FLTplan.com (VTAs and VNCs)
A final word of caution. If your resource charts look dark, like this:
rather than pastel like this:
you’re using a US-based chart. No bueno. Find a new resource.