Flying in the Frederick Area – Avoid Intercepts!

July 10, 2011 by Craig Fuller

As I returned to our home base in Frederick, Maryland on a beautiful Saturday evening, I learned that not one but two aircraft had been intercepted for violating the airspace around Camp David.  These actions are costly to our whole community, and so, I have asked our team at AOPA to produce an easy to follow guide that helps all pilots fly through the area.

As troubling as it is to hear about pilots receiving and F-15 escort to an unplanned landing, it is also unfortunate to learn that some pilots do not enjoy the opportunity of flying in our area because they believe it “complicated.”

So, here is my technique:

If you plot a course from Martinsburg VOR (MRB) across to DuPont VOR (DQO), you will have a line running from West to East that keeps you clear of all restricted airspace (and runs over the top of AOPA’s home at KFDK).

On the West side, if you stay West of Hagerstown to the North (HGR) and Linden (LDN) to the South and overfly MRB Eastbound towards DQO, you will not enter the Camp David area even when it expands, and you will stay North of the Special Flight Rule Area around Washington and outside of the Class Bravo areas for Dulles and Baltimore-Washington.

Over on the East side, you have Philadelphia to the Northeast, but along the route from MRB, go past Westminster (EMI) towards DQO….you can go as far as BAINS intersection before DQO and stay clear of restricted areas.  If headed South, Smyrna (ENO) near Dover, Delaware keeps you well clear of the restricted areas.  And, to the North, I use Lancaster (LRP) and head that direction once past Westminster (EMI).

The key to all of this is the line from MRB to DQO.  Fly it and you will find you can enjoy our area with considerable peace of mind! Follow the link below to see a map of the route that will help you stay safely out of restricted airspace.

Click here for current chart:  Flying FDK area

And, if you do fly the area and have suggestions of your own, share them.  Our AOPA team will be producing the best of the best ideas for publication soon.

  • Carl Peterson

    With all due respect, it’s possible AOPA shares some of the blame for the large number of P-40 busts this past weekend. For whatever reason, AOPA Member Services failed to send out a Special Airspace Bulletin to alert local members that P-40 would be expanded. Many pilots who fly in the DC area, myself included, have come to rely on these bulletins as a valuable heads-up when the president will be in residence at Camp David. Granted, that’s no excuse for not checking notams prior to every flight, but this rare failure of a typically reliable AOPA service may have given local pilots a false sense of security. If AOPA is going to scold these pilots in online articles and blog posts, it should at least investigate why no AOPA bulletin was issued — and, if warranted, confess to dropping the ball.

  • Steve

    Easy answer — treat P-40 as being expanded at all times. There is no excuse for violating P-40.

  • Jim

    I agree with Steve. Not that I fly through the area much, but I’d treat the whole DC SFRA / P-40 area as something to be avoided unless I had made the effort to thoroughly understand the area’s airspace and had a *thorough* pre-flight briefing. There is no excuse for this sort of violation unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade.

  • Robert Wakefield

    I flew into Leesburg Exec. this past weekend from the Northeast. I noticed two things; the first is the P40 expanded doesn’t display on the GPS and the second thing is the SFRA gates don’t display either. However, I may have not noticed it on my GPS. But if it didn’t show, wouldn’t it be a great addition?

  • Bob H.

    @Robert W.,

    Why do you need to see the “gates” on GPS? Gates are a reference to arrival and departure corridors used by ATC to streamline the flow of traffic in and out of airports. They are used to route flight plans to the correct ATC radar sector. With the SFRA and duats, they became a term pilots needed to understand to file flight plans. It has never been explained properly, and most pilots still don’t understand their purpose.

    I agree that P-40 should be displayed as always expanded. Alternatively, make it R airspace and NOTAM it cold. Pilots that check NOTAMS will know when they can use it. Everyone else should steer clear, if they know how to read a sectional. Yes, I do mean that airspace busts will still occur, but possibly less frequently. It’s the wrong way to do it, but the current approach is not working either, so time to think outside the box.

  • Steve

    I always do a standard briefing, which includes NOTAMS and TFR checks, but I dont think I will ever go near DC if I pass my checkride this Sunday. It just doesnt seem worth it…same reason I dont fly commercial anymore. It was bad enough to see my 2 1/2 yr old being stripped of his blankie and bear and being wanded because he might be a “threat’…. “since we dont know who the bad guys are, we’ll treat everyone as a bad guy”. Guilty until proven innocent.

  • Robert W

    It would be a good idea to display the SFRA ring and P40 (expanded) on the GPS just as the Class B is displayed. It may reduce the number of violations.

  • Tom Wagner

    As a local pilot based in Gettysburg (W05) we always assume P40 is “HOT” and do not push our luck due to a sudden change in
    schedules. Case in point, on the 10th TFR was scheduled to expire at 5:00PM. Local visitor from FDK saw 3 helios heading south around 3:00PM indicating that POTUS was leaving and that TFR had expired and his GPS showed same. However since originally not scheduled to close at 5:00 stated it was not worth the risk to ASSUME TFR closed and previous experiences with Flight Service did not give him confidence to risk the shorter route. It always pays to err on the side of caution. GPS and sectional chart to do not give enough specific details to cut corners. GPS is not as accurate in Radar in determing location!!! At most, it takes 15 minutes of flight to avoid tha hassles. Good luck and keep ru;bber side down.

    Tom Stinson 108-3

  • Ken

    Where in this discussion is AOPA on the reality that: A) No pilot wants to intrude into a Prohibited or Restricted Area; B) Not everyone has a moving map display; C) An expanded P-40, along with adjacent airspace areas, limits considerably pilot flight path options; D) Areas, such as P-40, that have no navigational center or defined geographic points (lake, major roadway, tank farm, powerline, etc.) that can be seen from the air are prone to intrusion (I.e., as one sage noted many years ago about the Las Vegas TCA: “all these intrusions will continue unless you redefine the airspace so pilots can actually determine where it is or paint lines in the desert.”); and E) Intrusions into restricted airspace often have one thing in common … it’s a safety of flight and life-saving necessity to comply with VFR and avoid clouds and inadvertent IMC.
    Which is a sensible pilot going to prioritize: Inadvertent, unintentional flight into IMC or passing through an invisible airspace boundary that’s unidentifiable even with a graphic, moving map display? Try flying VFR-On-Top of an undercast, maneuvering around some buildups, and also figure out where the expanded P-40 might be. We all accept that security in that area is paramount and want to ensure full compliance with that effort, but the expansion of P-40 needs to be fixed so pilots can identify and avoid it. It’s in AOPA’s backyard and maybe their expertise should be used to redefine P-40 so average pilots reasonably can avoid it. I’ve personally curtailed virtually all my flying through the Hagerstown area because I have no assurance that neither wind, nor rain, nor cloud cover, nor pop-up NOTAM will doom my flight to some unintended encounter into an area I don’t want to be in in the first place.

  • Mike

    I echo the earlier comment. AOPA dropped the ball here on the notice. I operate out of FDK and have come to rely on those email notices. Frequently, FSS doesn’t have a clue as to the status of the P-40 TFR, and sometimes neither does ATC. Pretty amazing, if you ask me.

    Best advice, pretend it is always expanded and stay clear. V166 from MRB to EMI is safe, always.

  • Bob H.

    Um, aopa wasn’t flying the airplane, and neither was the fss specialist. I get an average of 3 briefings per week – fss always knows the status of p-40 when asked. Amodified quote from top gun is applicable here.

    Son, tax payers don’t own your airplane, what you should do is fly your gd airplane as the pilot in command. Otherwise, do us all a favor, lose the excuses and turn in your wings, like Cougar.

  • Carl Peterson

    Thanks, Bob H, for your paraphrased 1980s-era Hollywood movie advice. But what Mike and I were saying is that there was a breakdown in the otherwise flawless and highly valued AOPA system — one that the association has yet to own up to. The PIC/notam issue was acknowledged in our comments. We understand that the final responsibility lies with us as pilots. But AOPA chose to publicly scold DC-area aviators while conveniently omitting that its own TFR notification system failed this same group of pilots. All Mike and I (and I suspect other DC-area pilots) are saying is that we value a useful service that our dues are paying for, and we’d appreciate it if AOPA would explain why it failed last weekend. Is that too much to ask of an organization that supposedly has our six?

  • Craig Fuller

    Just had a chance to review this thread….Carl is right, our system for posting TFRs and expansions of P-40 has almost never failed in the past several years. But, a NOTAM late last week about the expansion of the Camp David restricted area did not get picked up and a notice from us did not go out. We carefully reviewed our procedures and have added another layer of redundancy and will do everything possible to insure this won’t happen again.

    Whle it’s not clear whether this contributed to the violations, we view this source of information as one of several that assist our members with their flight planning. I think a careful reading of what we have been writing suggests we never scolded anyone. In fact, in this blog, in stories on our site and now in an excellent AOPA LIVE video ( ) we attempt to show how those of us who use this airspace have found ways to always avoid the restrictions.

    I am pleased that these efforts have seen several hundred people click through for more information and we also appreciate the constructive suggestions shared by many of you who fly in the area.



  • joseph griffin

    its never our fault for what we do . blame someone else

  • Mike

    Well most of you travel in slow airplanes. Most fly once a month if your lucky. Point is that if you travel 2400nm in a small plane like I will, starting tomorrow(something I do all the time). You will soon find out that you can spend hours reading and digesting all the notams that are published for that much ground to be covered. I am lucky, I have advanced technology to help me, but bottom line the current notam system for VFR pilots sucks. Also I think that this should be a free country, you should be able to fly at certain altitudes without worry no matter what you flys over. If someone want to bring harm to someone else their is little we can do to eliminate a real threat. The good news, in our country if one of these twisted people or groups gets lucky we can just elect another one. We’re just people… Nobody is really that special….