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At Ease in the ADIZ: Flying in the Washington DC Metroby

by Susan Parson
Reprinted with permission from FAA Aviation News

Security-related procedures and requirements are a fact of life for today's pilots, especially those who operate in the Washington, DC metropolitan area Air Defense Identification Zone (DC ADIZ) and the DC metropolitan Flight Restricted Zone (DC FRZ). In the continuing effort to balance security requirements with the needs of the flying public, however, the FAA coordinated with the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to make changes that will significantly reduce the "footprint" of the DC ADIZ and DC FRZ.

Effective 0500Z August 30, 2007, the DC ADIZ is defined as a 30 nautical mile ring centered on the DCA VOR/DME. It begins at the surface and extends up to, but does not include, FL 180. The new DC ADIZ, designed to be safer and easier for pilots to navigate, is a circular 30-nautical-mile-radius restricted area, which eliminates the "mouse ears" shape of the former DC ADIZ. Because it is centered on the DCA VOR/DME, it allows pilots to use a single navigational aid instead of the four in use today. It also frees 33 airports and helipads in approximately 1,800 square miles of airspace, significantly reducing the economic impact on the general aviation community. These changes address many of the issues identified in the more than 20,000 public comments on the FAA's 2006 proposal to make the DC ADIZ permanent.

This article summarizes the requirements and procedures for operating to, from, through, and within the DC ADIZ and the DC FRZ. These requirements and procedures are described in detail in three separate Notices to Airmen (NOTAM): FDC 7/0206 covers the DC ADIZ; FDC 7/0211 covers the DC FRZ; and FDC 7/0204 outlines the speed restrictions applicable to Visual Flight Rules (VFR) flight in the area from 30 nm to 60 nm from the DCA VOR/DME. Remember, though, that the NOTAMs are the only official source for this information. Since changes can occur on very short notice, you must always check NOTAMs with Flight Service or DUAT/DUATS before every flight. You can also find NOTAM information, including graphical temporary flight restriction (TFR) data, on the FAA Web site at: http://tfr.faa.gov/tfr2/list.html.

Standard Requirements


For any aircraft operation in the DC ADIZ, standard requirements include the following:

  • Two-way radio
  • Operating transponder with altitude reporting (Mode C)
  • Flight plan appropriate to intended operation (see below)
  • Discrete transponder code (with certain exceptions)
  • Use of 1200 code is never authorized in the DC ADIZ!
  • Speed restrictions for VFR Maximum of 180 KIAS inside the DC ADIZ (within 30 nm of DCA VOR/DME) Maximum of 230 KIAS from 30 nm to 60 nm from DCA VOR/DME
  • Communication with air traffic control (ATC) (with certain exceptions)
    Monitor guard, if able (VHF 121.5; UHF 243.0).

IFR Operations

The DC ADIZ is generally "transparent" to pilots operating under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), but there are several important points to remember. First, you must meet the standard requirements described above. Second'and very important'is that you must file and activate your IFR flight plan before entering the DC ADIZ. This point is especially important for pilots who are departing IFR from a non-towered airport inside the DC ADIZ. Even if weather conditions permit a VFR departure, remember that you must squawk a discrete transponder code before takeoff.

VFR Operations

Special procedures for Leesburg Executive Airport (JYO) entry/exit," fringe" airport exit, and airport traffic pattern work are described later in this article. For all other operations to, from, through, or within the DC ADIZ, you must comply with the standard requirements listed above, including the DC ADIZ flight plan.

A DC ADIZ flight plan for VFR operations in the DC ADIZ is separate and distinct from a standard VFR flight plan. A DC ADIZ flight plan is filed with Flight Service or on DUAT/DUATS for the sole purpose of complying with the security requirements for VFR operations to, from, or through the DC ADIZ. When filing a DC ADIZ flight plan, VFR pilots should specify the entry or exit "gate" closest to the intended point of DC ADIZ entry or departure. These directional entry/exit gates have been established for pilots to use in (a) filing DC ADIZ flight plans (b) establishing two-way radio communications with ATC, and (c) avoiding congestion over specific points. Both VOR radials and prominent visual landmarks define the gate boundaries. Each gate will be associated with at least one dedicated ATC frequency. To use the gates:

Inbound VFR pilots should file the gate closest to the area of intended entry into the DC ADIZ as the "departure" point on the standard flight plan form (Block 5 of FAA Form 7233-1), and file the airport of intended landing as the "destination" point. The pilot may approach the DC ADIZ boundary from any part of the defined gate, call ATC on the frequency associated with that gate; and squawk the assigned discrete code prior to DC ADIZ entry.

Outbound VFR pilots should file the gate closest to the DC ADIZ exit point as the "destination" point on the standard flight plan form (Block 9 of FAA Form 7233-1); call ATC to obtain a discrete transponder code prior to takeoff, continuously squawk that code until well clear of the DC ADIZ; and establish and maintain two-way radio communication with ATC while in the DC ADIZ.

Transiting VFR pilots must comply with all requirements previously described for VFR operations inside the DC ADIZ. In the DC ADIZ flight plan, list the gate appropriate to the intended point of DC ADIZ entry as the "departure" point, and the gate appropriate to the intended point of DC ADIZ exit as the "destination" point. Transiting VFR pilots must remain clear of the DC FRZ, unless they comply with requirements for DC FRZ entry, and remain clear of the Class B airspace, unless they request and receive an explicit Class B clearance.

As explained in the NOTAMs, the DC ADIZ flight plan does not provide search and rescue, ATC basic radar services, or flight following. Workload permitting, ATC will provide these services to VFR pilots inside the DC ADIZ upon request. VFR pilots who want the search and rescue protections of a standard VFR flight plan must separately file a VFR flight plan with Flight Service or via DUAT/DUATS and activate it by calling Flight Service after takeoff.

Special Procedures for Leesburg and Fringe Airports

Special procedures have been established for pilots landing at, or departing from, the Leesburg Executive Airport (JYO). The NOTAM establishing the DC ADIZ very precisely defines a "JYO maneuvering area" for the purpose of JYO entry/exit, and pilots using these procedures for landing at, or departing from, JYO must remain within its boundaries.

Departing Leesburg Pilots must:


  • File a DC ADIZ flight plan, listing /X as the equipment code.
  • Squawk 1226 prior to takeoff from Leesburg (JYO).
  • Activate the DC ADIZ flight plan by announcing aircraft call sign, aircraft type, and intended departure runway on the published CTAF prior to takeoff.
  • Exit the DC ADIZ via the most direct route through the JYO maneuvering area. The DC ADIZ flight plan for departure from JYO is considered closed when the aircraft has exited the DC ADIZ.

Arriving at Leesburg Pilots must:


  • File a DC ADIZ flight plan listing /X as the equipment code.
  • Squawk 1227 prior to entering the DC ADIZ.
  • Activate the DC ADIZ flight plan by announcing aircraft call sign, aircraft type, and intended landing runway on the published CTAF prior to entering the DC ADIZ.
  • Enter the DC ADIZ via the most direct route through the JYO maneuvering area. The DC ADIZ flight plan is considered closed when the aircraft has landed at JYO.

Fringe Airport Procedures


Special exit procedures have also been established for pilots departing the DC ADIZ from the following airports:
  • Barnes (MD47)
  • Flying M Farms (MD77)
  • Mountain Road (MD43)
  • Robinson (MD14)
  • Skyview (51VA)
  • Vint Hill Farms Station (04VA)

Pilots departing the DC ADIZ from one of the fringe airports listed above must:


  • Squawk 1205 prior to takeoff from a fringe airport.
  • Exit the DC ADIZ via the most direct route before proceeding on course.
  • Monitor Guard on 121.5.

Pilots entering the DC ADIZ to land at one of these airports must comply with the standard DC ADIZ procedures described earlier.

VFR Traffic Pattern Procedures

Towered Airport Pattern Procedures: To conduct VFR traffic pattern operations (not including practice instrument approaches) at a towered airport within the DC ADIZ, pilots must:

  • Ask the tower for closed pattern work before takeoff.
  • Squawk 1234.
  • Remain in two-way communication with the tower.

Non-Towered Airport Pattern Procedures

To conduct VFR traffic pattern operations (not including practice instrument approaches) at a non-towered airport within the DC ADIZ, pilots must:

  • File a DC ADIZ flight plan for pattern work.
  • Obtain a discrete transponder code from ATC prior to takeoff.
  • Continuously squawk that code while operating in the VFR traffic pattern.
  • Communicate pattern position via the published CTAF.
  • Have the ability to monitor Guard on 121.5.

Pilots conducting traffic pattern operations within the DC ADIZ may not depart the airport traffic pattern or conduct any other flight operations within the DC ADIZ without complying with standard DC ADIZ procedures.

DC Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ)

The Washington DC Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) is within, and part of, the DC ADIZ, but this area is subject to additional security requirements and procedures. The NOTAM that establishes the DC FRZ precisely defines the dimensions of the DC FRZ. Flight operations under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations parts 91, 101, 103, 105, 125, 133, and 137 are prohibited in the DC FRZ unless specifically authorized by a waiver. In general, therefore, general aviation pilots operating under VFR should think of the DC FRZ as a "no-fly" area.

Maryland 3

There are three general aviation airports located within the DC FRZ: College Park (CGS), Potomac (VKX), and Washington Executive/Hyde Field (W32). Pilots operating to or from the Maryland 3 are subject to certain additional security procedures established by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Editor's note: Information on obtaing waivers can be found at http://www.tsa.gov/stakeholders/airspace-waivers-0. Pilots seeking to operate to or from one of these airports should pay close attention to all procedures outlined in the DC FRZNOTAM (FDC 7/0211).

Lost Transponder or Com

Pilots who become aware of an inability to continuously squawk the ATC assigned transponder code must immediately request instructions from ATC. If unable to contact ATC, the pilot must exit the DC ADIZ by the most direct lateral route.

Online Training

For additional information and guidance material on operating in the DC ADIZ, please take the online training course ("Navigating the New DC ADIZ") located in the Aviation Learning Center at http://www.faasafety.gov.

Susan Parson is a special assistant in Flight Standards Service's General Aviation and Commercial Division.

The information presented in this article was current at the time this magazine was published. For the most current information, check NOTAMs at www.faa.gov.