Posts Tagged ‘Flight Restricted Zone’

Chasing the PIN, part II

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Flight Training Technical Editor Jill Tallman is applying for a personal identification number that will permit her to fly into the Washington, D.C., Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) and land at historic College Park Airport. It’s a three-part procedure involving visits to the FAA, the fingerprinting office at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and the airport within the FRZ.—Ed.

There’s a sort of a rich irony that I, a general aviation pilot, am sitting in a Metro subway car heading to National Airport. My destination this morning is the fingerprinting office at the airport, which is the second step in the process of obtaining a PIN that will allow me to fly to College Park Airport in the Flight Restricted Zone. Ironic, because GA traffic isn’t permitted at National Airport (with certain exceptions—those operators that participate in the DCA Access Standard Security Program may utilize the airoprt). This has been the case since Sept. 11, 2001. But this is where they do the fingerprinting, so here I am.

I get off the Metro and, after a few long hallways and one wrong turn, find my way to the fingerprint and ID office. Here I sign a form that states I have not committed any of a long list of really serious-sounding crimes (including felony assault and treason), and present a check for $27 to a lady behind glass. Then I take my paperwork to another office, where the technician accepts it along with two forms of identification.

She takes a look at my hands and makes a noise I’ve come to recognize when I have to get blood work done and the medical technicians get a look at my small veins. Something’s going to be a problem. She gives me a small amount of a very concentrated hand lotion, which I work into my fingers.

She then places the four fingers of my left hand on the scanning equipment and makes another ┬ánoise. “Your hands are very dry and your fingers are small,” she says. Well, no argument there. It’s the middle of winter—which means dry skin. I wash my hands constantly because of the amount of cold and flu germs floating around–which means more dry skin. And small fingers? I’m just as God made me, as the saying goes.

Unfortunately, the dry skin means the scanner is having a hard time scanning the lines of my fingers to create a clear enough image. “Haven’t you ever been fingerprinted before?” the technician asks. Well, no. Apparently it’s a more common practice in hiring now, but it certainly wasn’t the norm when I joined the workforce. I don’t tell the tech that I’m so old school I half-expected the fingerprinting process would require me to put my fingers on ink pads.

She perseveres, but tells me candidly that she expects that I might have to come back for a second try. (Don’t worry, folks; if I do, I won’t make this a four-part series.) I’ll need to check in with College Park Airport after I drop off the paperwork to them to see what the verdict is: thumbs up or thumbs down?—Jill W. Tallman


Chasing the PIN, part 1

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Flight Training Technical Editor Jill Tallman is applying for a personal identification number that will permit her to fly into the Washington, D.C., Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) and land at historic College Park Airport. It’s a three-part procedure involving visits to the FAA, the TSA, and the airport within the FRZ.—Ed.

The FAA’s Baltimore Flight Standards District Office doesn’t resemble a barb-wire-fenced fortress so much as a plain-Jane industrial-complex office building, which it is. The clay-colored, one-story complex is located not far from Baltimore-Washington International, and occasionally a Southwest jet rumbles by overhead.

When you enter the FSDO’s main entrance, you’re asked to present a photo ID and sign in. You cannot just drop by to see the FAA inspector who will review your paperwork for the PIN. You have to make an appointment.

After you’ve signed in, do you then gain entrance to the FAA’s inner sanctum? You do not. You wait in a sort of a hallway outside the main office while the FAA inspector is summoned. You also transact your business in this hallway.

In my case, the FAA inspector arrived promptly and waited while I presented the required documents: my pilot certificate, original copy of my medical certificate; a government-issued ID; and a copy of a certificate indicating that I had completed the FAA’s online course that explains the Special Flight Rules Airspace and the Flight Restricted Zone. As he gathered these things, he asked, “Why do you want to fly to College Park?”

I must’ve looked askance at him, because he said, “It’s not against the law to ask.”

College Park Airport…then

No, and I guess he wondered why anyone wants to fly within the FRZ, knowing as he does that, if you break the rules, the consequences are severe. The airport, built in 1909, is the oldest continuously operated airport in the United States. It’s also a nice little place, the type of airport that, in the days before Sept. 11, 2001, would’ve been a favorite hangout. The folks who manage and operate the airport work hard to keep it open, in spite of the restricted access. They wrote and posted a plain-language, step-by-step guide to getting the PIN, which I have followed from the moment I first decided to do this.

My daughter attends the University of Maryland’s College Park campus and often jogs

College Park Airport…now

or rides her bike near the airport. Her friends are often startled and intrigued when she tells them her mother is a pilot. Even if I can’t take them all up sightseeing, as I would if they were to come out to my home airport, I can still fly in and out, purchase fuel, and help keep this historic piece of aviation remain where it is.

The FAA inspector took my paperwork into the office to make sure I had no violations on my record and came back a few minutes later. We talked for a few more minutes about airspace violations, and that was that.

Next stop: The Transportation Security Administration’s offices at National Airport, where I will be fingerprinted.