AOPA to pilots: Check notams before flight

Three Camp David violations in one weekend unacceptable

July 11, 2011

By midday Sunday, July 10, general aviation pilots had busted the prohibited airspace P-40 over Camp David in Maryland three times, with President Barack Obama in residence there.

"We don't know the particulars of the three violations yet, so we don't want to pass judgment," said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of security and international operations. "But we do know that every bust makes it that much more difficult when we go to the security agencies and urge them to make restrictions less burdensome."

P-40 ordinarily has a 3-nautical-mile radius, but expands to a 10-nm radius when the president or other VIPs are in residence, with a 5-nm radius no-fly zone and an outer squawk-and-talk ring from 5 nm to 10 nm. In addition, pilots operating in the vicinity of P-40 and the nearby Washington, D.C., Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) are expected to monitor 121.5 MHz.

"We cannot stress enough how vital it is that every pilot operating anywhere in the region, whether local or transient, check notams every time you fly, even if it's just a few laps around the pattern." Spence said. "Be sure to get an official preflight briefing, either from a flight service station or DUATS. Use flight planning software like the AOPA Internet Flight Planner. Fifteen minutes of flight planning may save you 90 days on the ground if you get violated for busting a TFR.”

Flying in the Frederick area—Avoid intercepts!

When AOPA President Craig Fuller returned to his home base in Frederick, Md., this weekend, he learned of multiple Camp David (P-40) airspace violations.

“These actions are costly to our whole community, and so, I have asked our team at AOPA to produce an easy to follow guide that helps all pilots fly through the area,” Fuller wrote in his blog. “As troubling as it is to hear about pilots receiving an F-15 escort to an unplanned landing, it is also unfortunate to learn that some pilots do not enjoy the opportunity of flying in our area because they believe it ‘complicated.’”

Fuller shared his own techniques for avoiding P-40 while flying VFR in the area.