A Secret Service technician fingerprints Jack Robson of College Park, Maryland, in preparation to reopen College Park airport to based pilots.
FAA officials verify pilot credentials in the first steps toward reopening three closed Maryland airports.
President Bush today approved the FAA's proposed special federal aviation regulation that will reopen an existing VFR corridor in the Baltimore/Washington Class B airspace and will establish procedures to allow based operators at Hyde Field, Potomac Airpark, and College Park Airport to resume operations. FAA Deputy Administrator Monte Belger called AOPA this afternoon to say, "The President says it's ok to reopen those airports."
With that approval, the FAA now has to complete some minor interagency coordination before it can issue the actual SFAR and notams that will reopen the corridor to all pilots and the three airports to based pilots.
"Pilots based at these airports will finally be allowed to fly and demonstrate to the entire country that operations from these locations do not pose a security risk to the nation's capital," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Restoring based operations is an important milestone, but AOPA will not rest until all general aviation operations are restored at these important general aviation airports."
Only pilots and operators based at these airports prior to September 11th will be permitted to operate under the SFAR. As AOPA reported last week, the long, intense—and sometimes frustrating—negotiations led by the FAA with security officials resulted in a much anticipated plan for reopening the VFR corridor and getting based pilots back in the air at these Maryland airports, which are inside a 15-mile temporary flight restriction area around Washington, D.C., and have been closed since the attacks on September 11th.
The Secret Service fingerprinted 336 based operators last week in College Park, Maryland. The FAA told AOPA that it should take the Secret Service approximately one week to process the background check. When completed, times will be set up to individually brief operators regarding flight procedures and issue personal identification numbers (PINs) for use when filing flight plans.
In addition to the SFAR, the FAA will also publish a related notam informing pilots of the new rules and airspace boundaries. The airspace is now a 15-statute-mile circle centered on the Washington Monument, with cut-outs for Freeway airport and the VFR corridor to the north of Washington, D.C.