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!
FAA Flight Safety Course
Flying in the DC 3 Airports
Oops! I think am headed for Dulles Airport
Have you ever been to the College Park airport? Is the museum worth it? I happen to be living in the area through July and am looking for some aviation related activities beyond the Air and Space Smithsonians 🙂
I’ve heard about it, but have never visited it myself. I am sure it is smaller in scale than the two Smithsonian museums. The one near Dulles is a must see if you get a chance, since all the larger exhibits are there such as the Concorde, Shuttle etc.
What sort of events are you looking for?
There are safety seminars hosted by AOPA typically in Fredrick, MD and you can check the AOPA website to see their schedule. Might be some airshows around the Mid Atlantic, again check schedule.
Hope this helps.
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I’ve done all the Smithsonians many times and am looking for new opportunities 🙂 College Park claims states they are the oldest continually operated airport which makes it seem really cool. I go by it all the time – I should just go take a look.
I’d love to get into the air again, but being inside the DC flight restricted zone makes it more difficult than driving down to the airport in Alaska.
Airshows….mmmm, worth a look.
Let me know how the College Park museum is, maybe one of these days I will go check it out.
The airports in DC are mostly not accessible without a car. Not sure how mobile you are,… There is a train to Manassas airport during the week. Also check out flying friends of fairfax meetup group, they usually advertise rides. I think they are planning a flyout to Ocracoke Island in June. Potomac airport is fun, if you want to go fly. There is a flight school and several instructors who teach in their aircraft. While the airspace might seem daunting initially , it becomes natural after a while.
Also check out 99s groups in the area for their activities. The DC 99s meet typically in Gaithersburg.