WASHINGTON, D.C. — Airspace restrictions and procedures implemented around Washington, D.C., after 9/11 in order to make the region safer and more secure are now permanent under a final rule issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The secure airspace is comprised of two concentric rings. The interior ring, called the Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ), describes a 15-nautical-mile radius around Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). The outer ring, called the Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA), describes a 30-nautical-mile radius around DCA.
Flight operations within the FRZ are restricted to flights authorized by the FAA and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Within the SFRA, pilots must file a flight plan, establish two-way radio communications with air traffic control and operate the aircraft transponder on the transponder code assigned by air traffic.
The permanent SFRA is smaller than the Air Defense Identification Zone that initially went into effect in February 2003. At that time it was comprised of airspace that extended 23 miles out from each of the three major Washington metropolitan area airports — DCA, Dulles and Baltimore/Washington International. The FAA reduced the dimensions of the ADIZ in August 2007, freeing up approximately 1,800 square miles of airspace that included 33 airports and helipads. This significantly reduced the economic impact to the general aviation community. This area formed the foundation of the FAA’s proposal for a permanent SFRA.
The move to a smaller, more uniform SFRA area addressed many of the issues identified in the more than 22,000 public comments on the agency’s proposal to make the airspace and operating procedures permanent. The changes were coordinated with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, which are responsible for ensuring security in the Washington area. This rule will help air traffic controllers and security agencies monitor air traffic by identifying, distinguishing and responding appropriately if an aircraft deviates from its expected flight path or is not complying with instructions from controllers.