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KMTN and the CFR on the SFRA around the DCA VOR/DME. OK?

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Published Sat, Jun 12 2010 9:24 PM

As I have mentioned previously, I am training for my Private Pilot's Certificate at Martin State Airport (KMTN) and there are several interesting features of this airport.

Sitting on the edge of the Chesapeake Bay, the airport was founded in 1929 to service the factory just founded by Glen L Martin. Much of the factory's product was rolled straight into the bay and was flown off the water. Thus, whilst the 6,996ft runway 33 points inland, runway 15 ends not so far from the water's edge. Engine out procedure below 650 ft on runway 15 eventually involves a boat ride and a change of clothes.

The local airspace requires tidy flying too. KMTN sits neatly under controlled airspace for Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (KBWI). So no climbing above 2500ft at the airport location or to the South over the bay. Heading North East there is no climbing above 3500 ft until clear of the controlled airspace. You can't head due East as this heads straight into a Military Restricted Airspace Zone over the Aberdeen Proving Grounds and due West the KBWI airspace drops to 1500ft heading over Baltimore and you have to deal with the Washington DC Special Flight Rules Area.

Thus, climb-out from 33 for practice is to the North East and climb-out from 15 is a climb over the water to 2000ft then two left turns and parallel the runway as if you were high in the pattern, before heading out North East to play.

The Washington DC SFRA adds its own special flavour to this mix. Following 14 CFR Parts 1 and 93, any pilot  flying from within 60 miles of the DCA VOR/DME has to take online course and a short exam. Once passed, the system prints you out a certificate that must be carried with you in the plane. So even before I was cleared by the TSA to fly, I had sat through the half hour online course and taken the exam...., which crashed before it printed out the results. So even before I was cleared by the TSA to fly, I had sat through the half hour online course and taken the exam...., twice.

So what's it all about? Well, for if you are a pilot who wants to fly near Washington DC, and plan to get within 30 miles of the DCA VOR/DME, you will have to file a special flight plan for VFR or an IFR flight plan. The flight plan will detail which of the virtual gates you will enter by and by which you will leave. Your aircraft WILL have a two way radio fitted as well as an altitude reporting transponder and you will stay below 180kts unless instructed otherwise. There are special rules for flying into and out of the airports located within and on the fringes of the zone. Also within the SFRA is the Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) that protects the heart of Washington DC. This needs its own flight plan to enter, but for the VFR pilot it is effectively an exclusion zone. 

So, with controlled airspace around a nearby civilian international airport, a military test range and the National Capital, I guess that I am going to quickly learn the advantages of knowing my altitude and position accurately. If not, I fear my Pilot in Command time could be very severely restricted.


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