Washington D.C.’s special flight rules now permanent

The FAA has made the special flight restrictions and procedures around Washington D.C. permanent. This rule will become effective starting February 17, 2009.

The special airspace consists of two concentric rings centered over Ronald Reagan Washington National airport (KDCA). The inner ring has a radius of 15 Nautical Miles and is called the Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ). Only aircraft approved by the FAA and the TSA may enter the FRZ. Most general aviation operators are not allowed in it. The outer ring, called the Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA), has a radius of 30 NM around DCA. Flights are allowed within this area under specific conditions, such as the requirement to file a flight plan, establish two-way radio communication and squawk a discrete transponder code.

The special flight rules were first established in a NOTAM after the events of 9/11 in order to protect the airspace around the capitol. Despite the objection of the AOPA and many general aviation operators, the temporary NOTAM will be replaced by a Federal regulation under 14 CFR part 93. AOPA says that over 22,000 pilots wrote letters to the FAA opposing the rule and that it will fight to change it.