Section 4. Special Use Airspace
a. Special use airspace consists of that airspace
wherein activities must be confined because of their
nature, or wherein limitations are imposed upon
aircraft operations that are not a part of those
activities, or both. Except for controlled firing areas,
special use airspace areas are depicted on aeronautical charts.
b. Prohibited and restricted areas are regulatory
special use airspace and are established in 14 CFR
Part 73 through the rulemaking process.
c. Warning areas, military operations areas
(MOAs), alert areas, and controlled firing areas
(CFAs) are nonregulatory special use airspace.
d. Special use airspace descriptions (except CFAs)
are contained in FAA Order JO 7400.8, Special Use
e. Special use airspace (except CFAs) are charted
on IFR or visual charts and include the hours of
operation, altitudes, and the controlling agency.
3-4-2. Prohibited Areas
Prohibited areas contain airspace of defined
dimensions identified by an area on the surface of the
earth within which the flight of aircraft is prohibited.
Such areas are established for security or other
reasons associated with the national welfare. These
areas are published in the Federal Register and are
depicted on aeronautical charts.
3-4-3. Restricted Areas
a. Restricted areas contain airspace identified by
an area on the surface of the earth within which the
flight of aircraft, while not wholly prohibited, is
subject to restrictions. Activities within these areas
must be confined because of their nature or
limitations imposed upon aircraft operations that are
not a part of those activities or both. Restricted areas
denote the existence of unusual, often invisible,
hazards to aircraft such as artillery firing, aerial
gunnery, or guided missiles. Penetration of restricted
areas without authorization from the using or
controlling agency may be extremely hazardous to
the aircraft and its occupants. Restricted areas are
published in the Federal Register and constitute
14 CFR Part 73.
b. ATC facilities apply the following procedures
when aircraft are operating on an IFR clearance
(including those cleared by ATC to maintain
VFR‐on‐top) via a route which lies within joint‐use
1. If the restricted area is not active and has been
released to the controlling agency (FAA), the ATC
facility will allow the aircraft to operate in the
restricted airspace without issuing specific clearance
for it to do so.
2. If the restricted area is active and has not been
released to the controlling agency (FAA), the ATC
facility will issue a clearance which will ensure the
aircraft avoids the restricted airspace unless it is on an
approved altitude reservation mission or has obtained
its own permission to operate in the airspace and so
informs the controlling facility.
The above apply only to joint‐use restricted airspace and
not to prohibited and nonjoint‐use airspace. For the latter
categories, the ATC facility will issue a clearance so the
aircraft will avoid the restricted airspace unless it is on an
approved altitude reservation mission or has obtained its
own permission to operate in the airspace and so informs
the controlling facility.
c. Restricted airspace is depicted on the en route
chart appropriate for use at the altitude or flight level
being flown. For joint‐use restricted areas, the name
of the controlling agency is shown on these charts.
For all prohibited areas and nonjoint‐use restricted
areas, unless otherwise requested by the using
agency, the phrase “NO A/G” is shown.
3-4-4. Warning Areas
A warning area is airspace of defined dimensions,
extending from three nautical miles outward from the
coast of the U.S., that contains activity that may be
hazardous to nonparticipating aircraft. The purpose
of such warning areas is to warn nonparticipating
pilots of the potential danger. A warning area may be
located over domestic or international waters or both.
3-4-5. Military Operations Areas
a. MOAs consist of airspace of defined vertical
and lateral limits established for the purpose of
separating certain military training activities from
IFR traffic. Whenever a MOA is being used,
nonparticipating IFR traffic may be cleared through
a MOA if IFR separation can be provided by ATC.
Otherwise, ATC will reroute or restrict nonparticipating IFR traffic.
b. Examples of activities conducted in MOAs
include, but are not limited to: air combat tactics, air
intercepts, aerobatics, formation training, and
low-altitude tactics. Military pilots flying in an active
MOA are exempted from the provisions of 14 CFR
Section 91.303(c) and (d) which prohibits aerobatic
flight within Class D and Class E surface areas, and
within Federal airways. Additionally, the Department
of Defense has been issued an authorization to
operate aircraft at indicated airspeeds in excess of
250 knots below 10,000 feet MSL within active
c. Pilots operating under VFR should exercise
extreme caution while flying within a MOA when
military activity is being conducted. The activity
status (active/inactive) of MOAs may change
frequently. Therefore, pilots should contact any FSS
within 100 miles of the area to obtain accurate
real‐time information concerning the MOA hours of
operation. Prior to entering an active MOA, pilots
should contact the controlling agency for traffic
d. MOAs are depicted on sectional, VFR Terminal
Area, and Enroute Low Altitude charts.
3-4-6. Alert Areas
Alert areas are depicted on aeronautical charts to
inform nonparticipating pilots of areas that may
contain a high volume of pilot training or an unusual
type of aerial activity. Pilots should be particularly
alert when flying in these areas. All activity within an
alert area must be conducted in accordance with
CFRs, without waiver, and pilots of participating
aircraft as well as pilots transiting the area must be
equally responsible for collision avoidance.
3-4-7. Controlled Firing Areas
CFAs contain activities which, if not conducted in a
controlled environment, could be hazardous to
nonparticipating aircraft. The distinguishing feature
of the CFA, as compared to other special use airspace,
is that its activities are suspended immediately when
spotter aircraft, radar, or ground lookout positions
indicate an aircraft might be approaching the area.
There is no need to chart CFAs since they do not cause
a nonparticipating aircraft to change its flight path.
3-4-8. National Security
National Security Areas consist of airspace of
defined vertical and lateral dimensions established at locations where there is
a requirement for increased security and safety of ground facilities. Pilots are
requested to voluntarily avoid flying through the depicted NSA. When it is
necessary to provide a greater level of security and safety, flight in NSAs may
be temporarily prohibited by regulation under the provisions of 14 CFR Section
99.7. Regulatory prohibitions will be issued by System Operations, System
Operations Airspace and AIM Office, Airspace and Rules, and disseminated via
NOTAM. Inquiries about NSAs should be directed to Airspace and Rules.