Air Traffic Services Brief -- Washington, D.C., Flight Restricted Zone/"DC-3" Airports

Air Traffic Services Brief: Washington, D.C., Flight Restricted Zone/"DC-3" Airports

The issue

General aviation in the National Capital Region (NCR) has suffered greatly due to the implementation of the Washington, D.C. Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) [ formerly the Washington, D.C. ADIZ] and the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ). The FRZ covers approximately the area within a 13-15 nautical mile radius of the Washington, D.C., VOR/DME and severely limits the operations at three airports located within the FRZ.  The three airports referred to as the "Maryland Three," or "DC-3," are College Park (CGS), Washington Executive/Hyde Field (W32), and Potomac Airfield (VKX), and each has suffered substantial economic hardship as a result of the imposed restrictions.

The importance to our members

The FRZ airspace and its associated restrictions, initially implemented under SFAR 94 and since codified into FAR Part 93 and TSR Part 1562, require that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) perform background checks and issue a personal identification number (PIN) to pilots using the "DC-3" airports, a process which is both time-consuming and inconvenient for most pilots and extremely prohibitive for pilots outside the Washington, D.C., metro area. Non-vetted pilots penetrating the FRZ are faced with severe penalties including certificate action.

Background

After the events of September 11, 2001, massive flight restrictions were implemented throughout the National Airspace System that effectively shut down all flight operations with the exception of military, law enforcement, and emergency-related aircraft operations. Beginning on September 13, 2001, restrictions began to be incrementally lifted; however, Washington, D.C., flight restrictions remained in place. On February 13, 2002, the FAA proceeded with emergency rulemaking that codified the FRZ within 13-15 nm of the DCA VOR/DME. The SFAR allowed provisions for the affected airports to develop security procedures that, if approved by the administrator, would allow based pilots to resume minimal operations pending compliance with the procedures detailed in the SFAR itself. Although the SFAR allowed for some provisions, based pilots were still unable to conduct pattern operations or flight to another affected airport. In addition, transient operations were banned.

Effective February 13, 2005, TSA issued an interim final rule that transferred responsibility for ground security procedures at the "DC-3" airports from the FAA to TSA and authorize transient operations, albeit on a very restricted basis. The FAA issued a revised notam for the Washington, D.C., area, allowing vetted transient pilots to operate in the FRZ airspace.

Despite congressional inquiries, economic studies, pilot opposition, and AOPA’s all-out effort to convince officials that the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) was an unreasonable, burdensome security restriction, on Dec. 15, 2008, the FAA announced its permanence as a special flight rules area (SFRA).  The government created the SFRA despite overwhelming opposition from general aviation pilots. More than 22,000 pilots wrote to the FAA opposing the rule.  Special procedures at Leesburg Executive Airport in Leesburg, Va., are not included in the rule and will continue to be controlled by notam.

PIN issuance process

Procedures for the issuance of a PIN vary slightly at each airport. It is recommended that you contact the airport security coordinator at the airport you intend to use to be issued the PIN.

All applicants will be required to complete the FAA Online Course, “The Washington DC Special Flight Rules Area.”  You will need to register online and then enroll in the course.   

TSA Information and Guidance on the Maryland-Three Program

College Park Airport (CGS)
Mr. Lee Schiek, Airport Security Coordinator
Telephone 301/864-5844; e-mail leeschiek@hotmail.com

Potomac Airfield (VKX)
Mr. David Wartofsky, Airport Security Coordinator
Telephone 301/248-5720; e-mail bigcheese@potomac-airfield.com

Hyde Field (W32)
Mr. Ray Isherwood, Airport Security Coordinator
Telephone 301/297-7388; e-mail rtish1@aol.com

Status

October 16, 2002, AOPA petitioned the FAA and TSA to change current language in SFAR 94 that would allow pilots vetted at College Park, Potomac Airpark, and Washington Executive/Hyde Field to conduct flights to any of the "DC-3" airports provided the operators meet the security provisions set forth by the proposed amended rule. Additionally, the petition requested that vetted pilots be allowed to conduct traffic-pattern operations and transient operations be permitted, provided the operators meet the same security provisions.

February 14, 2003, spurred in part by AOPA's petition, the FAA and the TSA allowed operators based at the "DC-3" airports to fly to other affected "DC-3" airports located inside the special flight rules area by the issuance of Notam 2/2720, as explained in the SFAR 94 renewal.

February 13, 2005, TSA issued an interim final rule that transferred responsibility for ground security procedures at the "DC-3" airports from the FAA to TSA and authorizes transient operations, albeit on a very restricted basis. The FAA issued a revised notam for the Washington, D.C., area, allowing vetted transient pilots to operate in FRZ airspace.

August 4, 2005, the FAA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to codify the current airspace restrictions for flight into the FRZ and the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

August 30, 2007, a notam was issued that modified the size and shape of the DC SFRA.  In this notam the dimensions of the DC FRZ remained essentially the same, except that the western boundary was moved slightly eastward.

December 15, 2008, the FAA released its final rule, making the ADIZ permanent as a Special Flight Rules Area, which included the FRZ. The SFRA went into effect on February 17, 2009.