Flying the DC SFRA
February 1, 2019
One of my life goals is to land a single engine GA plane in all fifty states.
In May, work took me east where I wanted to land in PA, DE, NJ, MD, VA, WV and fly the SFRA. I knew that there were quite a few rules regarding flight in and around DC, so I set out to learn the requirements.
Flying the complicated airspace along the eastern seaboard can be challenging, especially when in and around the Washington, DC Special Flight Rules Area.
The FRZ was created shortly after the 9/11 attacks, and the ADIZ was created in 2003. Since their creation, there have been over 1,000 unauthorized flights into the area; all inadvertent but some close enough to the Capital and White House to require evacuation. As a result, the FAA issued a final rule requiring any pilot who flies VFR within a 60 MN radius of the DCA VOR to complete an online training course.
The online course can be found on http://www.faasafety.gov and must be completed once before flying in the airspace. The completion certificate must be printed out, but does not need to be carried with you. I saved mine to Foreflight, along with several kneeboard resources from the website. The course took me about an hour, and was painless.
I chose to fly with a CFI on my journey so that I could take advantage of his familiarity with the airspace. The airport I flew out of was 58N (Palmyra, PA). My CFI was a military helicopter pilot based out of Camp David, who was a blast to fly with and learn from.
We landed in KGHR (Hagerstown, MD), KMRB (Martinsburg, VW), and then KJYO (Leesburg, VA). On my CFI’s advice, we overflew KFDK (Frederick, MD) on our way to KEVY (Summit, DE). I had already met my goal of flying in the SFRA, and he knew that VFR navigation of the Baltimore airspace would be challenging without being a lot of fun. Next was 26N (Ocean City, NJ) for lunch on the boardwalk. Finally, we flew home.
We didn’t need a SFRA flight plan for our flight into Leesburg since we weren’t doing pattern work or practice approaches, but did have to remember to squawk 1226 when entering and leaving the KJYO area. For the rest of our trip we used Flight Following, and were especially cautious to fly clear of P40 and R4009!
Our flight was uneventful, but I had a blast!
It was pretty amazing to be flying only 10 miles from Dulles, and 25 miles from the Capital! It also gave me a new appreciation for the comparative simplicity of our airspace here in the Great North.