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.”
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
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.