Washington D.C. SFRA

by Josh on February 23, 2012

The Washington D.C. Special Flight Rules Area (DC SFRA) can be one of the most intimidating places that a pilot might fly. One might hear horror stories of pilots who get there airplanes taken away or their licenses revoked because of them venturing into the SFRA with the wrong knowledge.  It can be an intimidating place to fly if you do not understand the flight rules. But here, I am going to explain to you some of the basics to a successful flight in the DC SFRA.

First, what exactly is the DCSFRA? Well, the DCSFRA is a 30nm ring of airspace from SFC to FL180 around the DCA VOR. Now this isn’t any old class bravo airspace, there are some pretty heavy flight restrictions on flying in the SFRA. Some of which include, airspeed limitations, altitude limitations, and flying boundaries.  Also, there are 8 “gates” to the airspace in which you depart from. These are the only points in the airspace in which you can enter/ exit.  I am going to explain to you three common situations in the SFRA; departures, arrivals and traffic patterns.

Departures.  First you must ALWAYS file a specially designated SFRA flight plan. This is like a regular flight plan but does have a few differences. For the route of flight portion, you must there put which gate you will be using. These flight plans are completely separate from a regular VFR flight plan. At controlled airports you will open your flight plan by contacting ground and they will give you a squawk code. Shortly after takeoff, tower will hand you over to the departure controllers and you will be with them until you exit the SFRA. Once you exit, your flight plan is considered canceled.                      Non towered airports: after you takeoff, contact departure controllers as soon as you are clear of airport traffic and then they will give you your squawk code and will guide you out of the SFRA.

Arrivals.  For all arrivals you must file your SFRA flight plan before entering the SFRA. When approaching the SFRA you will contact the ATC facility and they will give you a squawk code and advise you when you are cleared into SFRA but advise you to remain clear of bravo airspace. Then report your airport in sight and they will turn you over to tower. Your flight plan is canceled upon landing.

Traffic Patterns at Towered airports. Once you fire the aircraft up on the ground, you should contact ground and request to remain in the pattern. They will tell you to squawk 1234. After takeoff, you must stay in two way radio communication with tower and monitor 121.5.

Non Towered airfield traffic patterns.  First, file your DC SFRA flight plan. Then contact the ATC facility while still on the ground and get your squawk code. Then communicate on the CTAF and monitor 121.5. Then, upon fishing, call ATC on the telephone and cancel your flight plan.

The DC SFRA can be an intimidating place for pilots to fly. But with the proper training, it can be like a piece of cake. For all of the details on the SFRA you can take the FAA’s free course on the SFRA in your own home on the computer at FAA.gov. It takes about 45 minutes and tells everything you need to know to fly in the SFRA about VFR and IFR, they even give you a certificate saying you finished the course. So always remember that if ATC is there to help and if your start going in the wrong direction, or get into trouble, they can always help you out of the SFRA.

Online Ground School

-“Because a good pilot is always learning.”

Private Pilot Blueprint

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: