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 noise. “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