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FAA Glossaries

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Observations About SUAs

Paper sectional charts contain a listing of all of the Prohibited, Restricted, Alert, Warning, and Military Operations Areas (MOAs) at the top of the chart. The listing includes the location, altitude, time of use, and controlling agency. With the advent of electronic charts, it is sometimes difficult to find the top of the chart. Fortunately, the information is readily available by tapping the special use airspace (SUA) on the chart. In ForeFlight, you need to select the All tab and the info will appear at the top of the inset box. For everything except Prohibited areas, a frequency is given so that you can determine whether the area is hot. Prohibited areas are always hot, and as the name implies, flight by unauthorized aircraft into the area is prohibited. As discussed below, there aren’t that many prohibited areas and most are fairly small and do not extend very far above the surface. You are probably familiar with two prohibited areas, the White House grounds and Camp David. You may have noticed that Marine One has permission to fly in these areas. A good summary of the types of special use aipspace can be found in this FAA document.

Many Restricted Areas, are not active on a continuous basis and when they are not active, it is perfectly fine to fly though them. The chart has the hours when they are active, but it is a good idea to check with ATC before flying through them. Some, like R-2516 at Vandenberg AFB are charted as being active continuously, but are often not in use. Others, like R-2517 at Vandenberg AFB—directly over the launch site—are always hot.

You can fly through a MOA even if it is active, but since they contain training areas for high speed aircraft, active firing areas for the military, and other activities that may be hazardous to non-participants, flight through them without talking to ATC is not wise. However, ATC can be very accommodating in some cases. I have flown through the Lemoore MOAs many times and watched fighters in a dogfight appear to literally fall out of the sky—descending 10,000′ in no time at all.

If you are interested in seeing all of the areas in one document, the FAA publishes
Order JO 7400.8 Special Use Airspace. Each version has a letter suffix. The version as this is written is ‘JO 7400.8W’

Purpose of This Order. This Order, published yearly, provides a listing of all regulatory and non-regulatory Special Use Airspace areas, as well as issued but not yet implemented amendments to those areas established by the Federal Aviation Administration.

What got me started on writing this post is a very small Restricted Area in Nevada. Why would there be a restricted area in the middle of the desert. It turns out that it is a munitions storage area.

R-4811 Hawthorne, NV
Boundaries
. A 1 1/2 NM radius circle centered at lat. 38°14’45″N., long. 118°38’18″W. Designated altitudes. Surface to 15,000 feet MSL.
Time of designation. 0800 to 1500 local time, Monday-Friday.
Controlling agency. FAA, Oakland ARTCC.
Using agency. Commander, Hawthorne Army Ammunition Plant, Hawthorne, NV.

AMENDMENTS 5/22/97 62 FR 14633 (Amended)

There are only eight prohibited areas in the entire country. Two are for the residences of former presidents, P-49 in Crawford Texas and P-67 Kennebunkport, Maine. P-56 has two discontinuous areas, the White House, and the Capitol Building with an area around the National Mall. P-40 in Thurmont, Maryland is listed as a Naval Support Facility but is really Camp David.

An interesting one is in Amarillo , the DOE Pantex Plant nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility.

P-47 Amarillo, TX
Boundaries
. Beginning at lat. 35°21’09″N., long. 101°37’05″W.; to lat. 35°21’11″N., long. 101°32’29″W.; to lat. 35°18’09″N., long. 101°32’29″W.; to lat. 35°18’09″N., long.101°34’50″W.; to lat. 35°17’55″N., long. 101°35’10″W.; to lat. 35°17’55″N., long. 101°35’39″W.; to lat. 35°19’05″N., long. 101°35’42″W.; to lat. 35°19’05″N., long. 101°36’06″W.; to lat. 35°18’02″N., long. 101°36’29″W.; to lat. 35°18’02″N., long. 101°37’05″W.; to the point of beginning.
Designated altitudes. Surface to 4,800 feet MSL (1,200 feet AGL).
Time of designation. Continuous.
Using agency. Manager, Pantex Field Office, Department of Energy, Amarillo, TX. 

This looks complicated, but it is basically a square with a section cut out.

George Washington’s home P-73 Mount Vernon, Virginia is a prohibited area supposedly in an effort to prevent further damage caused by vibrations from overhead aircraft.

The Naval Submarine Base at Kings Bay, Georgia is P-50 and P-51 Bangor, Washington are the only two, so far, for military installations.

If you are looking for them in ForeFlight, you can’t find them by searching, but you can easily find them with the latitude and longitude coordinates. Just remember to convert the minutes to decimal form. So Amarillo is approximately 35.3N 101.6W.

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