Prohibited Areas are one of the six special use airspaces. They, like Restricted Areas, are regulatory in nature which means you can get in serious trouble if you fly through them.
- Prohibited areas (regulatory)
- Restricted areas (regulatory)
- Warning areas
- Military operation areas (MOAs)
- Alert areas
- Controlled Firing Areas (CFAs)
I covered all the special use airspace categories which you can access by clicking the blue links above.
For now, though, let’s talk Prohibited Areas.
The AIM defines a Prohibited Area as, “airspace of defined dimensions…within which the flight of aircraft is prohibited. Such areas are established for security or other reasons associated with the national welfare.”
Okay, great, but what does that actually mean?
It’s pretty straight forward actually, you are never allowed to fly into prohibited airspace. Any questions?
Actually, there are some things you need to know about Prohibited Areas.
How do you identify a Prohibited Area?
Since they are forbidden, it’s probably a good idea to know where they are, right?
Here is a classic Prohibited Area in Washington, D.C.. The blue arrows point to hash-marked areas.
Notice Prohibited Areas also have a number assigned to them. In this case, it’s P-56. You will need the number of the Prohibited Area in order to get more detailed information on it.
Wikipedia also has a complete list of permanent Prohibited Areas which is kind of fascinating.
I thought all of them related in some way to national security, but that’s not the case. Since when does Disneyland fall under national security?
Prohibited areas range from Disney world, Naval stations, Presidential homes, key NASA facilities, Area 51 and even a canoe area. Take a look:
So, now you know how to identify them, here’s the next step:
How do you find the dimensions of a Prohibited Area?
Most of these areas do not extend to infinity and beyond. There is a height limit to them which is great news because it means you could potentially fly above them instead of around them.
You need to locate the Special Use Airspace table on the side of the VFR Sectional to find detailed information about your particular Prohibited Area.
In this example, I used Skyvector.com which is an awesome free program with up-to-date aviation charts.
Note: when you first get on Skyvector.com it will default to “World VFR.” To see the table with specific information on Prohibited Areas, you have to click on a named chart like “Washington” or “Cincinnati.”
Once you are on a named chart, locate the Special Use Airspace table.
Prohibited Areas always come first on the Special Use Airspace table because they are the most restrictive:
Notice for P-73, the dimensions only go up to 1500 feet MSL which means you can fly over the Prohibited Area.
When are Prohibited Areas active?
I am pretty sure all of them are active continuously, but I could be wrong. I didn’t feel like looking at every single on in the US.
It’s easier to find one you are interested in and look at the chart on the side of the VFR Sectional.
You can also check out this website which will give you all the active and inactive Special Use Airspace across the United States:
Who do you talk to fly in a Prohibited Area?
The answer is NO ONE BECAUSE YOU AREN’T ALLOWED IN PROHIBITED AREAS!
Sorry to yell at you with all caps, but I can’t emphasize it enough.
The Special Use Airspace table will never list a controlling agency. There is no need to control aircraft when they aren’t allowed in that airspace.
What is the difference between Prohibited Areas and Restricted Areas?
A lot actually.
I wrote a whole article on Restricted Areas, but let me summarize it for you:
Restricted Areas: you can fly through them when they are not active if you contact the controlling agency and they are “cold.” They usually contain activity which could result in you inadvertently getting shot down (aerial gunnery, artillery, bombing ranges etc).
Prohibited Areas on the other hand rarely have military activities like artillery (look at the list above). You usually can’t contact a controlling agency because there isn’t one. You have to get prior permission to enter a Prohibited Area and good luck finding that information.
Unlike Restricted Areas, you are not allowed to fly in Prohibited Areas ever unless you have a need and prior permission (like flying the president to the White House).
If I could summarize this whole article I would say this:
Never fly in Prohibited Areas unless you are one of the pilots who flies the POTUS to the lawn of the White House.
You will lose your pilot’s license if you fly in a Prohibited Area.
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