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New rule changes nontower traffic-pattern procedures in SFRA

Lack of pilot outreach criticized

AOPA has expressed serious concerns about a new letter to airmen issued by Potomac Approach Control requiring pilots flying in traffic patterns of nontowered airports within the Washington, D.C., Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) to report their flight’s completion on a “provided telephone number.” Radio reports of termination will no longer be accepted.

Members who would be affected by the new requirements should make their views known promptly to the FAA.

Potomac Tracon said the change in reporting procedure was in response to security officials in the National Capital Region Command Center pressing ATC for expedited identification of aircraft flying in traffic patterns within the SFRA—preferably through a single point of contact.

A letter to airmen from the facility’s acting district manager instructs pilots, prior to departure, to obtain a discreet beacon code via radio or telephone. If airborne, the pilot must inform ATC of intent to conduct pattern work prior to being switched to the common traffic advisory frequency. “When terminating pattern operations, pilots must inform ATC they have completed their pattern work by calling Potomac Approach by telephone at 540-351-6129,” said the letter that takes effect Nov. 5.

“AOPA’s position is that if pilots can utilize either a radio frequency (at certain SFRA airports) or the telephone to request pattern work, shouldn’t they be able to terminate the operation by the same manner?” said Brittney Miculka, AOPA manager of security and borders.

AOPA expressed dissatisfaction to FAA security officials and Potomac Tracon earlier this month, noting that many unanswered questions still remain.  The rule seemed to mark a departure from numerous instances of the FAA working jointly with pilots on localized decision making. “Unfortunately, it appears that Potomac is going forward without additional options, something that AOPA cannot support. AOPA has worked with the FAA on numerous fronts to ensure that information is disseminated in a timely fashion and that the input of the user is taken into account with the final decision,” Miculka wrote to FAA officials. She urged no enactment of the procedure until a more equitable solution could be found in conjunction with a pilot education and outreach program.

AOPA encourages pilots to voice concerns over this new procedure by providing comments to the association.

Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy

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