Part 5. Special
addition to the policy guidelines and procedures detailed in
Part 1. of this order, this part prescribes specific
policies and procedures for handling special use airspace (SUA)
primary purpose of the SUA program is to establish/designate
airspace in the interest of National Defense, security
and/or welfare. Charted SUA identifies to other airspace
users where these activities occur.
21-1-3. DEFINITION AND TYPES
a. SUA is airspace of defined dimensions wherein
activities must be confined because of their nature, or
wherein limitations may be imposed upon aircraft operations
that are not a part of those activities.
b. The types of SUA areas are Prohibited Areas,
Restricted Areas, Military Operations Areas (MOA), Warning
Areas, Alert Areas, Controlled Firing Areas (CFA), and
National Security Areas (NSA).
are two categories of SUA: regulatory (rulemaking) and other
than regulatory (nonrulemaking). Prohibited Areas and
Restricted Areas are rulemaking actions that are implemented
by a formal amendment to part 73. MOAs, Warning Areas, Alert
Areas, CFAs, and NSAs are nonrulemaking actions.
21-1-5. SUA APPROVAL AUTHORITY
Headquarters is the final approval authority for all
permanent and temporary SUA, except CFA's. CFA approval
authority is delegated to the service area office. The
service area office must forward those proposals recommended
for approval (except CFA) to FAA Headquarters for a final
Final approval of Warning Areas is shared with other
agencies per Executive Order 10854. Warning Area proposals,
except controlling or using agency changes, must be
coordinated with the Department of State and the Department
of Defense for concurrence. Airspace Regulations and ATC
Procedures Group is responsible for accomplishing this
21-1-6. MINIMUM NUMBERS AND VOLUME
dimensions and times of use of SUA must be the minimum
required for containing the proposed activities, including
safety zones required by military authority. When it is
determined that a specified SUA area is no longer required,
the using agency, or the appropriate military authority,
must inform the service area office that action may be
initiated to return the airspace to the NAS.
21-1-7. OPTIMUM USE OF AIRSPACE
a. To ensure the optimum use of airspace, using agencies
must, where mission requirements permit, make their assigned
SUA available for the activities of other military units on
a shared-use basis.
b. SUA should be located to impose minimum impact on
nonparticipating aircraft and ATC operations. This should be
balanced with consideration of the proponent's requirements.
To the extent practical, SUA should be located to avoid
airways/jet routes, major terminal areas, and known high
volume VFR routes.
c. Consider subdividing large SUA areas, where feasible,
in order to facilitate the real-time release of the airspace
when activation of the entire area is not required by the
Policies concerning airspace utilization for military
operations are contained in FAAO JO 7610.4, Chapter 9,
Military Operations Requirements.
21-1-8. JOINT-USE POLICY
a. Under the “joint-use" concept, SUA is released to the
controlling agency and becomes available for access by
nonparticipating aircraft during periods when the airspace
is not needed by the using agency for its designated
b. Restricted areas, warning areas, and MOAs must be
designated as “joint-use" unless it is demonstrated that
this would result in derogation to the using agency's
mission. For certain SUA areas, joint use may be impractical
because of the area's small size, geographic location, or
high level of use in such areas. In these cases, the
airspace proposal package must include specific
justification of why joint-use is not appropriate.
c. Joint-use does not apply to prohibited areas. Alert
areas and CFAs are essentially joint-use because
nonparticipating aircraft may transit these areas without
d. Joint-use procedures must be specified in a joint use
“Letter of Procedure" or “Letter of Agreement" between the
using agency and the controlling agency. These letters
should include provisions for the real-time
activation/deactivation of the airspace, where such
capabilities exist. They should also provide for the timely
notification to the controlling agency when the scheduled
activity has changed, been canceled, or was completed for
e. Using agencies must ensure that joint-use SUA is
returned to the controlling agency during periods when the
airspace is not needed nor being used for its designated
21-1-9. ENVIRONMENTAL ANALYSIS
a. SUA actions, except as listed in paragraph b, below,
are subject to environmental impact analysis in accordance
with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA).
Guidance for the environmental analysis of SUA proposals is
contained in FAAO 1050.1, Policies for Considering
Environmental Impacts, other relevant FAA directives; the
FAA/DOD Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Special Use
Airspace Environmental Assessment; and other applicable
regulations and statutes.
b. Prohibited area and alert area designations are
actions that are neither permissive nor enabling. As such,
environmental assessments or statements are not required
when designating these areas (see FAAO 1050.1, Environmental
Impacts: Policies and Procedures).
controlling agency is the FAA ATC facility that exercises
control of the airspace when an SUA area is not activated. A
military ATC facility may be assigned as the controlling
agency, subject to the concurrence of the service area
office and the concerned ARTCC. A controlling agency must be
designated for each joint-use SUA area.
a. The using agency is the military unit or other
organization whose activity established the requirement for
the SUA. The using agency is responsible for ensuring that:
1. The airspace is used only for its designated purpose.
2. Proper scheduling procedures are established and
3. The controlling agency is kept informed of changes in
scheduled activity, to include the completion of activities
for the day.
4. A point of contact is made available to enable the
controlling agency to verify schedules, and coordinate
access for emergencies, weather diversions, etc.
FAAO JO 7610.4, Chapter 9, Military Operations Requirements.
b. Restricted area and MOA using agencies are
responsible for submitting Restricted Area/MOA Annual
Utilization Reports in accordance with
Section 7 of this
c. An ATC facility may be designated as the using agency
for joint-use areas when that facility has been granted
priority for use of the airspace in a joint-use letter of
procedure or letter of agreement.
establishment of SUA does not, in itself, waive compliance
with any part of the Code of Federal Regulations. DOD has
been granted a number of waivers, exemptions, and
authorizations to accomplish specific missions. Information
about current waivers, exemptions, and authorizations
granted for military operations may be obtained from FAA
Headquarters, Airspace Regulations and ATC Procedures Group,
or the Office of Rulemaking (ARM).
21-1-13. PUBLIC NOTICE PROCEDURES
Public notice procedures invite the public to comment on the
impact of SUA proposals on the safe and efficient use of the
navigable airspace. In addition to the public notice
procedures described in chapter 2 of this order, SUA
proposals are subject to the following:
a. All nonregulatory SUA proposals must be circularized,
and an NPRM must be issued for all regulatory SUA proposals,
except for those actions that clearly have no impact on
aviation and are not controversial. A nonrulemaking circular
or NPRM is not normally required for the following types of
1. Changes to the using or controlling agency.
2. Editorial changes to correct typographical errors.
3. Internal subdivision of an existing area to enhance
real-time, joint-use (provided there is no change to the
existing external boundaries) times of use, or type/level of
4. Actions that lessen the burden on the flying public
by revoking or reducing the size or times of use of SUA.
b. SUA nonrulemaking circulars are prepared and
distributed by the service area office. FAA Headquarters
prepares SUA NPRMs. Normally, circulars and NPRMs provide a
minimum of 45 days for public comment.
c. When comments or coordination show that the proposal
may be controversial, or there is a need to obtain
additional information relevant to the proposal, an informal
airspace meeting may be considered (see
Chapter 2 of this
21-1-14. SUA NONRULEMAKING CIRCULARS
a. Prepare and distribute SUA nonrulemaking circulars as
specified in Chapter 2
of this order and the additional requirements in this
paragraph. Ensure wide dissemination to the potentially
affected aviation user community. Send one copy of each SUA
circular to Airspace Regulations and ATC Procedures Group
and to the appropriate regional military representative(s).
b. CONTENT - Circulars should contain sufficient
information to assist interested persons in preparing
comments on the aeronautical impact of the proposal. SUA
circulars should include:
1. A brief narrative that:
(a) Describes the purpose of the proposed airspace, the
types of activities to be conducted, and the expected
frequency of those activities. If the proposal modifies
existing SUA, describe the changes and explain the desired
result. For temporary MOA proposals, include a brief summary
of the planned exercise or mission scenario.
(b) Discusses measures planned to minimize impact on
nonparticipating aircraft, such as airport exclusions,
joint-use procedures, limited activation times, etc. If
there are known plans to provide real time area status
information and/or traffic advisory services for
nonparticipating pilots, include this information in the
2. A complete description of the proposed area
consisting of boundaries, altitudes, times of use,
controlling agency, and using agency.
3. A copy of a sectional aeronautical chart depicting
the boundaries of the proposed area.
4. The name and address (provided by the proponent) of
the person to whom comments on the environmental and
land-use aspects of the proposal may be submitted.
Do not include statements in the circular that certify NEPA
compliance or state that environmental studies are complete.
The proponent and/or FAA must consider environmental issues
raised in response to the circular before a final
determination is made on the proposal.
5. The issue date of the circular
and the specific date that the comment period ends. Provide
at least 45-days for public comment.
When selecting the comment closing date, consider the time
needed for the preparation, printing and release of the
circular, plus a representative mailing time, in order to
afford the public the maximum time to submit comments.
c. SPECIAL DISTRIBUTION - In addition to the
distribution requirements in
Chapter 2, send
copies of SUA nonrulemaking circulars to:
1. State transportation, aviation, and environmental
departments (or the state clearing house if requested by the
2. Local government authorities, civic organizations,
interest groups, or individuals that may not have an
aeronautical interest, but are expected to become involved
in a specific proposal.
3. Public libraries within the affected area requesting
that the circular be displayed for public information.
4. Persons or organizations that have requested to be
added to the circularization list.
1. The service area office determines special
distribution requirements in accordance with
regional/service area office policies and considering the
type of proposal, the potential for controversy, and the
extent of possible aeronautical impact.
the proposed airspace overlaps regional geographical
boundaries or airspace jurisdictions, coordinate as required
with adjacent regional/service area offices to ensure
distribution of circulars to all appropriate parties.
AND PUBLICATION REQUIREMENTS
a. All SUA areas except CFAs, temporary MOAs, and
temporary restricted areas, must be depicted on aeronautical
charts, and published as required in aeronautical
b. Approved SUA actions normally become effective on the
U.S. 56-day, en route chart cycle publication dates (see
Part 1. of this order).
Effective dates for temporary restricted areas, temporary
MOAs, and CFAs are determined by mission requirements
instead of the 56-day en route, charting date cycle.
c. Temporary areas must be described in part 4, Graphic
Notices, of the Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) Publication.
Normally, publication of the graphic notice will begin two
issues prior to the exercise start date and will continue
through completion of the exercise. The notice must include
the area's legal description, effective dates, and a chart
depicting the area boundaries. For large exercises, a brief
narrative describing the exercise scenario, activities,
numbers and types of aircraft involved, and the availability
of in-flight activity status information for
nonparticipating pilots should be included.
Submit temporary SUA graphic notice information, along with
the airspace proposal package, to Mission Support, Airspace
Services, Airspace Regulations and ATC Procedures Group by
the cutoff dates specified in the appropriate chapter of
this order. All graphics submitted must be of high quality
and in camera ready form. Facsimile copies are not suitable.
Airspace Regulations & ATC Procedures Group will process and
coordinate the notice with Mission Support, Aeronautical
Navigation, AT Publications Management Group, for
publication in the NOTAM Publication. Do not submit
temporary SUA graphic notices directly to Publications.
d. When a SUA action becomes effective before it appears
on the affected sectional chart(s), a description and map of
the area will be published in part 4 of the NOTAM
Publication. This information will be carried in the NOTAM
Publication until the change has appeared on the affected
sectional chart(s). Airspace Regulations and ATC Procedures
Group is responsible for complying with this requirement.
1. Minor editorial corrections to a SUA
description or changes to the using or controlling agencies,
will not be published in the NOTAM Publication.
addition to the above, SUA designations or amendments that
occur after publication of the latest sectional chart(s)
will be listed in the “Aeronautical Chart Bulletin" section
of the appropriate A/FD. This information will be carried in
the A/FD until the change is published on the affected
OF SUA GEOGRAPHIC POSITIONAL DATA
a. Geographic positional data for all permanent and
temporary SUA boundaries (except CFAs) must be certified for
accuracy by the AeroNav before publication and charting.
Airspace Regulations and ATC Procedures Group must submit
proposed positional data to AeroNav for certification.
Latitude and longitude positions used in SUA descriptions
must be based on the current North American Datum.
b. Airspace Regulations and ATC Procedures Group must
forward any corrections or recommended changes made by
AeroNav to the service area office. The service area office
will forward to AeroNav changes to the regional military
representative, or civil proponent, for review. The regional
military representative/civil proponent will inform the
service area office of its concurrence with AeroNav changes
or reason for nonconcurrence. The service area office will
advise FAA Headquarters of the proponent's conclusions. A
record of this coordination must be included in the airspace
21-1-17. LEAD REGION
a. The regional office that is responsible for the
geographical area containing the affected airspace processes
the SUA proposal. When a proposal overlaps regional office
geographical jurisdictions, the concerned service area
office must coordinate to determine which office will serve
as the lead region for processing the proposal. Coordination
between regions/service area offices is also required when
the affected geographical area, and the ATC facility to be
designated as controlling agency, are under the jurisdiction
of different regional/service area offices.
b. Concerned regions must ensure that:
1. All affected ATC facilities review the proposal and
provide input to the aeronautical study, as required.
2. For nonregulatory proposals, distribution of
nonrulemaking circulars includes interested parties in each
regional jurisdiction, as necessary.
c. The airspace package submitted to headquarters must
include documentation of regional/service area office
coordination, affected ATC facility comments and copies of
public comments received.