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AFS-850 National FAASTeam
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Course Review

The Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) is codified in 14 CFR part 93.  The SFRA, which includes the Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ), is National Defense Airspace.  There are serious consequences for violating the established operating requirements and procedures.  Check Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) before every flight. 

Laterally, the SFRA is the airspace within a 30-nm radius of the DCA VOR/DME.  Vertically, it starts at the surface and goes to, but does not include, flight level 180. 


The chart includes markings for a ring located 60 nm from the DCA VOR/DME.  The 60 nm ring is charted because of VFR operational (speed) restrictions.  Between 60 nm and 30 nm, VFR operations are restricted to 230 knots IAS unless otherwise authorized by ATC.  Inside 30 nm, all VFR operations are restricted to an 180 knots IAS or less, unless otherwise authorized by ATC.

To fly IFR to, from, within, or through the SFRA, the aircraft must have an operable two-way radio capable of communicating with ATC on appropriate radio frequencies and an operating automatic altitude reporting transponder. Normal IFR procedures are the same; however, file and activate the IFR flight plan before entering the SFRA, and transmit the assigned discrete beacon code while flying in the SFRA.  Never use 1200.

Aircraft must have an operable two-way radio capable of communicating with ATC on appropriate radio frequencies, and an operating automatic altitude reporting transponder.  File a SFRA flight plan, which is filed for the sole purpose of complying with the requirements for VFR operations in the SFRA. It does not provide any ATC or search and rescue services.  See the course notes for specific reminders on how to file a SFRA flight plan, including use of the directional entry/exit “gates” that pilots use to file the SFRA entry or exit point on SFRA flight plans, identify position and direction of entry or exit when contacting ATC, and void congestion over specific points.  There is no need to fly directly to, or directly over, the specific fix for which a gate is named.


Activate the SFRA flight plan by contacting ATC to obtain the discrete transponder code assigned to your flight.  Call ATC after takeoff.  Check in and monitor the frequency.  The controller will advise when you are outside the SFRA boundary.  Once outside the SFRA flight plan is considered closed.  No further action is required.  The VFR inbound procedure is similar. 


For pattern work at a non-towered airport, file a SFRA flight plan, contact ATC to obtain a discrete beacon code, transmit the assigned code, communicate position via the published CTAF, monitor VHF 121.5 or UHF frequency 243.0, and call ATC via telephone to close SFRA flight plan upon completion of pattern work.


For pattern work at a towered airport, request to remain in the pattern before departure, squawk 1234 unless otherwise instructed, remain in two-way radio communication with the tower and, if able, monitor VHF 121.5 or UHF 243.0.  You may not depart the airport traffic pattern or conduct any other flight operations within the SFRA unless you comply with the standard SFRA procedures.


A NOTAM establishes special procedures for pilots flying directly to or directly from the Leesburg Executive Airport (JYO). The special procedures apply only to direct egress or ingress to the Leesburg Maneuvering Area.  Pilots must remain within the Leesburg Maneuvering Area boundaries at all times. 


Special procedures also exist for certain fringe airports located near the outer boundary of the SFRA. 

VFR transit is permitted, but the pilot must comply with all requirements previously described for VFR operations inside the SFRA. File a SFRA flight plan.  In the “departure” block of the flight plan, list the gate appropriate to the intended point of SFRA entry.  In the “destination” block of the flight plan, list the gate appropriate to the intended point of SFRA exit.  VFR transit of this very complex airspace could be challenging.  Unless explicitly authorized to enter, you will have to navigate around the restricted area, maintain altitudes that keep you clear of Class B airspace, and ensure that you avoid entering the FRZ. 

If you lose radio communications when IFR, follow the two-way radio communications failure procedures found in the Aeronautical Information Manual and 14 CFR part 91. If you lose radio communications when VFR, squawk 7600 and exit by the most direct lateral route.  If you become aware of a transponder problem, contact ATC. If unable to contact ATC, depart the SFRA via the most direct lateral route.  If you are intercepted when you are not in contact with ATC, squawk 7700, tune to 121.5, establish communication, remain calm, and comply with all instructions.

The Washington DC Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) is within, and part of, the SFRA, but this area is subject to additional security requirements and procedures.  Unlike the SFRA boundary, which is a ring established on a 30 nm radius from the DCA VOR/DME, the FRZ has a unique and irregular boundary.

To fly IFR in the FRZ, pilots must file and activate an IFR flight plan, obtain and continuously transmit the discrete transponder code assigned by an ATC facility, and establish and maintain two-way radio contact with ATC.  There are a number of limitations on who can fly in the FRZ, even under IFR. 

VFR operations in the FRZ are extremely limited.   Flight operations under parts 91, 101, 103, 105, 125, 133, and 137 are prohibited in the FRZ without a waiver.  VFR pilots should think of the FRZ as a “no-fly” area.  The only exception is for the Maryland 3 airports:  College Park Airport, MD (CGS), Potomac Airfield, MD  (VKX), and Washington Executive/Hyde Field Airport, MD  (W32)


To operate to or from College Park, Potomac, or Hyde, aircraft, crew and passengers must comply with security rules issued by the TSA.  Pilot must be approved (vetted) and receive a personal identification number (PIN) for use in filing a FRZ flight plan.  Before departing, the pilot must call the Washington Hub Flight Service Station (FSS) to file an IFR or FRZ flight plan for each operation, whether or not the aircraft makes an intermediate stop.  The pilot must provide the assigned pilot identification code, and the Washington Hub FSS will accept the flight plan only after verifying the code.  For information on obtaining a pilot PIN, please see the TSA website. 


When operating an aircraft in the FRZ, it's a good idea to monitor VHF frequency 121.5 or UHF frequency 243.0 (“Guard”) for any emergency instructions.


A SFRA flight plan does not fulfill the requirements for VFR operations in the FRZ.  To operate in the FRZ, such as to or from the Maryland-3, you need a DC FRZ flight plan that can only be filed with the confidential pilot PIN.