What is an Airspace?

You might love to see the airplanes flying over your head but did you know who governs the airspace?

Airspace is the term used in Aviation industry to represent the portion of the atmosphere above a country or a particular territory. Airspace may even contain territorial waters as it includes 3-dimensional part of the atmosphere. However, it differs from the scientific term aerospace. There are two types of airspace, Regulatory, and Non-regulatory. Regulatory is divided into class A, B, C, D, and E while non-regulatory is used for military operations. This is further divided into two parts.

- Controlled Airspace

Controlled Airspace allows air traffic, which is under positive executive control, but it is not necessary for control to operate under visual flight rules within the airspace. Most countries have designated controlled airspace.

- Uncontrolled Airspace

Airspace in which air traffic control is not under any executive authority, but it does require advisory.

Often, before a flight enters the territory or airspace of another country, it has to take permission from the authorities. This is the primary reason why airlines often resort to fly over international airspace.

Airspace is further divided in categories depending on areas and zones.

According to international law, there are two boundaries, which exist covering the three dimensions of an airspace.

1. Horizontal Boundary

According to International law, country's airspace states the boundary is limited to 12 nautical miles or 22.2 km from the countries coastline. Airspace not in country's territorial limit is tagged as International airspace. In maritime law, international airspace is in high seas. However, the nearby country is responsible for the air traffic in that international airspace over the ocean. For example, United States is responsible for air traffic over Pacific Ocean.

2. Vertical Boundary

On vertical, extend there is no international agreement. It complete belongs to the country. However, the outer space does not come under national jurisdiction. According to Federation Aeronautique Internationale, has provided a Karman Line, which marks a boundary at an altitude of hundred kilometer or sixty-two miles between Earth's atmosphere and outer space. In some cases, it is about 80 kilometers. For instance, United States send their space shuttles over Canada above the altitude of 80 km without requesting permission to fly. Though used as boundary, there is no working benchmark. Violation of vertical airspace only matters when the national sovereignty is questioned.

Beyond these, there is public airspace and private air rights, which defines the airspace. To protect these national laws are employed.