Flying in the FRZ
“Arriving at destination, on your left.” chimed in my Google maps navigator app. All I saw, was huge houses on either side. As I drove further, the road dipped steeply down into rolling hills and more mansions on both sides of the road. It can’t be right, I thought. How can I miss a runway, even a small, narrow one? All I had seen was a “Learn to Fly” sign, in what looked like a residential neighborhood flanked by houses.
I turned around, and let the map app recalculate, which it did and I looped around the block and got back on to Glen Way again. Soon, I arrived back at the same “Learn to Fly” sign on a lamp post in front of a huge house, with a road before it, going downhill. It was almost time for my lesson, and I wondered if I have to call my instructor for directions!
Only by chance, I looked to the left as I arrived at the sign, and lo and behold spied some parked airplanes, parked cars, a runway and a small FBO building. “Wow! How did we get away with an airport, in the midst of a residential neighborhood?” I wondered.
The Washington DC SFRA spans a 30nm radius surrounding the DCA VOR. An irregular region around DCA is called the Freeze (FRZ) or the VFR No Fly zone. Each airport or group of airports has its own rules and restrictions in the SFRA. Manassas (KHEF) is towered, and other than the requirement to file flight plans and stay below Class Bravo airspace, operations remain very similar to operations at other GA airports.
Leesburg airport is non towered and being a fringe airport, has its own rules and restrictions. While you no longer need to file a flight plan for egress or ingress, you do need to squawk a discrete code.
There are only three airports in the FRZ: College Park, Washington and Potomac. These three airports, require special background check by TSA and procurement of a special pin. Operations within this zone require unique transponder codes, that are obtained prior to flight, only by people who have the special pin.
Potomac Airfield in Friendly, MD, is nestled in a small valley, amidst a sprawling residential neighborhood. It almost feels like an Airpark. Houses line the surrounding roads. A road extends along the runway with houses on either side and almost feels like an extended runway.
“Are there no complaints,” I asked my instructor as we pulled up to the self-service fuel stop on the field. “There recently was one. But it was struck out,” she responded. “We were here before them, and they all signed a disclaimer before moving in.”
This is my fourth airport, flying in the SFRA and the first in the FRZ. I can safely say, this is my most favorite airport!