FAA’s Airport Reference Codes

The Airport Reference Code (ARC) is a coding system developed by the FAA to relate airport design criteria to the operational and physical characteristics of the airplane types that will operate at a particular airport.

The ARC has two components relating to the airport design aircraft. The first component, depicted by a letter, is the aircraft approach category and relates to aircraft approach speed. The second component, depicted by a Roman numeral, is the airplane design group and relates to airplane wingspan. In the case of Design Group I, an additional designation of “small aircraft only” relates to aircraft with gross weights of 12,500 pounds or less.

Generally, aircraft approach speed applies to runways and runway length related features. Airplane wingspan primarily relates to separation criteria and width-related features.

Airports expected to accommodate single-engine airplanes normally fall into Airport Reference Code A-I or B-I. Airports serving larger general aviation and commuter-type planes are usually Airport Reference Code B-II or B-III. Small to medium-sized airports serving air carriers are usually Airport Reference Code C-III, while larger air carrier airports are usually Airport Reference Code D-VI or D-V.

Category Approach
Speed
(knots)
A < 90
B 91 – 120
C 121 – 140
D 141 – 165
E 166 or more
Design
Group
Wingspan
(feet)
I to 48
II 49 – 78
III 79 – 117
IV 118 – 170
V 171 – 213
VI 214 – 262

In order to determine the appropriate ARC for an airport, a “design aircraft” is first determined. The design aircraft is typically the most demanding aircraft (in terms of an airport’s physical features) that conducts at least 500 annual operations at the airport.

Table – FAA Airport Reference Codes for some Representative Aircraft
Approach Speed (kts)
wingspan (ft)
MTOW
(lbs)
ARC
Cessna 150
55
32.7
1,600
A-I
Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee
65
35.1
2,425
A-I
Piper PA-28R Cherokee Arrow
70
29.9
2,491
A-I
Beech Bonanza V35B
70
33.4
3,400
A-I
Cessna Centurion
75
36.7
4,012
A-I
Beech 55 Baron
90
37.7
5,071
A-I
DeHavilland Canada DHC-7 Dash 7
83
93.2
47,003
A-III
Cessna 182 Skylane
92
36.1
2,800
B-I
Cessna Stationair6
92
35.8
3,638
B-I
Beech 60 Duke
98
39.4
6,768
B-II
Cessna Citation V
107
52.2
15,900
B-II
Beech King Air F90
108
45.9
10,950
B-II
Beech 100 King Air
111
45.9
11,795
B-II
Cessna Citation CJ2+
115
49.8
12,500
B-II
Embraer EMB-110 Bandeirante
92
50.2
13,007
B-II
Cessna Citation CJ3
130
53.3
13,870
B-II
Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia
120
65
26,455
B-II
DeHavilland DHC-8-100 Dash 8
100
85
34,502
B-III
ATR42-200/300
104
80.7
36,817
B-III
Fokker F-27 Friendship
120
95.1
44,996
B-III
ATR72-200/210
105
88.9
47,399
B-III
Learjet 24
128
35.1
13,001
C-I
Learjet 25
137
35.4
14,991
C-I
Challenger 601
125
64.3
44,600
C-II
Cessna Citation Ten
130
69.2
36,600
C-II
Embraer ERJ135
130
65.8
41,887
C-II
Embraer ERJ145
135
65.8
48,501
C-II
Gulfstream G350
140
77.8
70,900
C-II
Bombardier Q400
129
93.3
65,200
C-III
Fokker F-28 Fellowship
125
88.8
72,995
C-III
Embraer 170
124
85.3
79,344
C-III
Gulfstream G500
140
93.5
85,100
C-III
Gulfstream G550
140
93.5
91,000
C-III
British Aerospace BAE-146-200
125
86.4
93,035
C-III
Embraer 190
124
94.3
105,359
C-III
Boeing 737-400
138
94.8
150,000
C-III
Boeing MD-90
138
109.7
156,000
C-III
Boeing BBJ
132
117.4
171,000
C-III
Boeing 727-200
138
108
209,500
C-III
Boeing 767-300
130
156.1
350,000
C-IV
Gulfstream IV
149
77.8
74,600
D-II
Boeing 747-200
152
195.7
833,000
D-V
(source: FAA Advisory Circular, AC150/5300-13A, Airport Design)

For an example of how ARC is considered in the process of updating an airport Master Plan, see: http://haywardairportnoise.org/issuearc.html