Section 2. Class B Airspace Planning


    1. The criteria for considering a given airport as a candidate for a Class B airspace designation is based primarily on the volume of aircraft at the airport being considered, and an assessment of the midair collision risk in the terminal area.

    2. For a site to be considered as a Class B airspace candidate, the Class B designation must contribute to the safety and efficiency of operations, be necessary to correct a current situation that cannot be solved without a Class B designation, and meet the following criteria:

      1. The airport being considered has a total airport operations count of at least 300,000 (of which at least 240,000 are air carriers and air taxi) and at least 5 million passengers enplaned annually; or

      2. The airport being considered has a total airport operations count of more than 220,000 operations and will exceed 300,000 operations (of which 240,000 operations must be air carrier and air taxi) when the itinerant traffic count from (a) and (b) below are added, and at least 5 million passengers enplaned annually.

        1. 50% of the annual itinerant traffic count of any airport within 15 nautical miles (NM) from the airport being considered that has at least 15,000 annual itinerant operations, and

        2. 25% of the annual itinerant traffic count of any airport that is between 15 NM and 30 NM from the airport being considered that has at least 15,000 annual itinerant operations.

    3. The Service Center must request a staff study to evaluate whether or not to revoke a primary airport's Class B airspace when that airport has not met the Class B airspace criteria for at least a five-year period and is projected to remain below those criteria for the next five years (See paragraph 15-3-6.).

    4. These criteria are subject to periodic review by the Rules and Regulations Group and Service Centers to determine whether adjustments are required.


    Class B airspace locations must include at least one primary airport around which the Class B airspace area is designated.


    1. General Design. There is no standard Class B design. Instead, the size and shape of the Class B airspace area will vary depending upon location-specific ATC operational and safety requirements. The Class B airspace design should be as simple as practical, with the number of sub-areas kept to a minimum. Its vertical and lateral limits must be designed to contain all instrument procedures at the primary airport(s) within Class B airspace.

      1. Designers have the flexibility to use the configuration that best meets the purposes of reducing the midair collision potential, assures containment of instrument procedures, and enhances the efficient use of airspace.

      2. Ensure that the design does not contain lateral or vertical gaps between adjacent airspace where VFR flight could pose increased hazards for Class B operations.

      3. Avoid configurations that create “traps” or “dead-end” corridors for VFR aircraft attempting to navigate the area.

    2. Lateral Boundaries. Boundaries may be defined using a variety of techniques such as latitude/longitude points, Fix/Radial/Distance references, NAVAIDs, alignment to coincide with prominent landmarks or terrain features (where feasible), etc.

      1. The airspace should be centered on the airport reference point (ARP), an on-airport NAVAID, or a “point-of-origin” (defined by latitude/longitude coordinates), as dictated by local requirements.

      2. The outer limits of the airspace should extend to the minimum distance necessary to provide containment of instrument procedures, including radar vectoring, but must not extend beyond 30 NM from the primary airport. This will ensure that the Class B boundaries remain within the 30 NM “Mode-C Veil.” The boundaries should be designed considering operational needs, runway alignment, adjacent regulatory airspace, and adjacent airport traffic.

      3. If a circular design is appropriate, the airspace may be configured in concentric circles to include a surface area and intermediate and outer shelf sub-areas. A combination of circular and linear boundaries may also be used, as required.

        1. The surface area should be designed based on operational needs, runway alignment, adjacent regulatory airspace, or adjacent airports, but must encompass, as a minimum, all final approach fixes.

        2. The intermediate and outer shelf sub-areas may be subdivided based on terrain and other regulatory airspace, but must contain instrument procedures.

    3. Vertical Limits. The upper limit of the airspace should not exceed 10,000 feet MSL. However, high airport field elevation, adjacent high terrain, or operational factors may warrant a ceiling above 10,000 feet MSL.

      1. The surface area extends from the surface to the upper limit of the Class B airspace. This area may be adjusted to coincide with runway alignment, adjacent airports, other regulatory airspace, etc., but must encompass, as a minimum, all final approach fixes and minimum altitudes at the final approach fix.

      2. The altitude floors of sub-areas should step up with distance from the airport. Determination of sub-area floors should be predicated on instrument procedure climb/descent gradients to ensure containment of the procedures. Sub-area floors may be adjusted to have various floor altitudes considering terrain, adjacent regulatory airspace, and common vectored flight paths that are not on procedures.

      3. Sub-area exclusions are permitted to accommodate adjacent regulatory airspace and/or terrain.

      4. Different Class B altitude ceilings may be designated for specific sub-areas if there is an operational or airspace efficiency advantage, provided this would not cause pilot confusion or lead to inadvertent intrusions into, or excursions from, Class B airspace. Address the need for different altitude ceilings in the staff study.

    4. Variations. Variation from the above lateral or vertical design guidance is permissible, but must be justified in the staff study and recommended by the Service Center.

    5. Satellite Airports. When establishing Class B airspace floors, consider the adverse effect on satellite airport operations. When airspace directly over a satellite airport is not required, it should be excluded from the Class B airspace. Special published traffic patterns, and/or procedures may be required for satellite airports.


    If ATC operational factors and traffic permit, consider whether RNAV T-routes could be developed to guide transiting pilots to fly through, or navigate around, the Class B airspace area.


    To the extent feasible, procedures must be developed to accommodate VFR aircraft desiring to transit the Class B airspace (See FAA Order JO 7210.3, Facility Operation and Administration, Chapter 11, National Programs). The following charts can assist pilots in identifying Class B boundaries and to transit or circumnavigate the area.

    1. VFR Terminal Area Charts (TAC). TAC charts are published for most Class B airspace areas. They provide detailed information needed for flight within or in the vicinity of Class B airspace.

    2. Charted VFR Flyway Planning Charts. VFR Flyway Planning Charts are published on the back of selected TAC charts. The Flyway Planning Charts are intended to facilitate VFR transitions through high-density areas. They depict generalized VFR routing clear of major controlled traffic flows. An ATC clearance is not required to fly these routes. If not already published, Class B facilities are encouraged to develop a flyway planning chart.


    Consider enhancements to TAC and VFR Flyway Planning Charts that would increase situational awareness for VFR pilots and others transiting the area, aid the identification of Class B boundaries, and assist pilots desiring to avoid the Class B airspace. Example chart depictions include, but are not limited to:

    1. Identification of key boundary points with a combination of latitude/longitude coordinates and NAVAID fix/radial/distance information (if available).

    2. Prominent landmarks or terrain features easily visible from the air.

    3. VFR checkpoints (“Flags”).

    4. IFR arrival and departure routes to/from the primary airport. Explore the feasibility of including significant IFR arrival/departure routes at secondary airports.

    5. GPS and VFR waypoints placed in and around the Class B airspace to assist pilots in transiting or avoiding the airspace.


      See FAA Order JO 7210.3 (Chapters 10 and 12) for descriptions of TAC and VFR Flyway Planning Charts and the instructions for establishing, modifying, and review of the charts.