You may be quite surprised to know that South Africa has indeed got five classes of airspace and not four! It may not have been brought to your attention, but indeed, Grand Central Airport in Midrand is the proud owner of South Africa’s only Class D airspace. Not a large area taking into perspective the entire country, but definitely worth knowing what happens there, considering it is in the heart of the greater Johannesburg transport hub.

For the vast majority of general aviation pilots, all five of these airspaces can generally be broken down into controlled and uncontrolled airspace. Controlled airspace means you have a controller who ‘polices’ what and when you do things, and in uncontrolled airspace you should be wide awake, as you need to be aware of other traffic, and also make your own reports. So as a reminder to myself, and perhaps some of you, I thought it would be useful to recap what these airspaces are, and what can expect:

Controlled airspaces (A, C, D):
A few important things to remember if you are planning to enter these airspaces:-

  • Get permission before entering, otherwise you will make someone at Air Traffic Services (ATSU) rather angry and you could possibly put your safety and that of other aircraft in danger. DO NOT cross those lines unless you have asked, and have been granted permission to do so.
  • File a flight plan. It is compulsory that a flight plan is received by ATSU at least ten minutes before you expect to enter controlled airspace. Personally, I think filing a flight plan should be necessary for all flights, even short hops – someone will always have an idea where you are, should something go wrong!
  • 2-Way radio. You must be able to maintain radio contact with ATSU at all times. If you can’t maintain 2-way contact, you will need to get special permission.


Class A
No VFR flights allowed – these airspaces are usually very high anyway, so only high performance IFR flights are found here. All aircraft are well co-ordinated with Air Traffic Control (ATC), and separation services.

Class C
The most common controlled airspace in South Africa, catering for both IFR and VFR traffic, so it can get a bit hectic! ATC controls all aircraft, and IFR traffic is safely separated from other IFR, as well as VFR traffic. You must, however, be aware that VFR traffic is NOT separated from other VFR traffic, so you need to be especially careful if you are VFR. ATC does provide traffic information for this combination, so as long as you pay attention you will be safe.

Class D
So this is the new one in South Africa. Similar to Class C, all aircraft are provided with ATC, but the exception is that only IFR – IFR receive separation. This is especially important for VFR flights who now are responsible for their own separation from VFR AND IFR flights, so be sure to maintain your altitudes precisely! Traffic information is provided as per Class C airspace.

Uncontrolled airspaces (F,G):

In uncontrolled airspaces, ATC will not instruct you what to do, but if you have radio contact, they are available to provide you with information, so don’t hesitate!

Class F
IFR traffic receives advice regarding other traffic, yet VFR only receives information regarding the other traffic, so attention and careful decision making are required.

Class G
aircraft only receive information, so be sure to report your position and intentions accurately.

Airspace infringements will not just land you in ‘hot water’, but are very dangerous, so make sure that you plan your flight properly, especially if you are flying to large centres, using accurate and up-to-date information. If you feel you are a bit disorientated, no matter what the reason, do not hesitate to contact ATC sooner, rather than later – they are there to ensure the safety of all, and have helped many a pilot in a pickle with a smile!