Ottawa to Washington DC
I have wanted to visit Washington D.C. for the longest time. My first visit was many years ago (I was 18 then, can you believe it) with my high school friend Jack. We managed a trip to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and I remember how I was in awe of the space ship displays.
There are strict procedures to flying within 60nm of the D.C. area. A quick 40 minute online course allows you to fly the Special Flight Rules Area using appropriate procedures. If you want to fly any closer, then you need to get fingerprinted and submit to an FAA and FBI background check before you are issued a PIN for filing special flight plans. This allows access to the Maryland Three airports, of which one is College Park (KCGS). KCGS allows you to get close enough to the city that you are only a 10 minute walk away from the College Park Metro station.
In the past, the fingerprinting and background checks had to be initiated in D.C., and would typically take up almost a whole day. Our good old friend Vlad got it done over a year ago. Recently, a little over a year ago, they eased up on the application procedures like allowing to have fingerprints taken by local law enforcement and submitting forms and signatures remotely. This also includes a Facetime or Skype interview with the airport management. While there are still some hoops to jump through as a Canadian, I managed to get it done with minimal travel from Ottawa. I will be creating another post on the process that worked for me. Meanwhile here is a presentation I found on the interweb for those that just can’t wait. (Check out the Maryland Three airports for more information as well):
EDIT: I have posted some info on how to get the PIN for the FRZ here:
I was anticipating this trip, as I was celebrating my 60th birthday, and what better way than to fly to a great destination with Shirley for an extended weekend celebration. We booked the Friday off and monitored weather. Two days before the trip I received a call from the College Park airport manager saying that they had the PIN for me (THE secret decoder ring), allowing me access to fly into the airport. YES! The stars had aligned. Forecasts showed great weather along our route and at the destination.
I have to say that the staff at College Park was very helpful and supportive in obtaining my FRZ access quickly. Public thanks go to Lee Sommer (KCGS manager) and Katie Hefner (KCGS asst. manager).
Flying IFR instead of VFR inside the Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) is somewhat easier (more foolproof), so that is what we planned to do.
I had planned out the flying routes (no canned routes available), filed a flight plan for CYRP to KART, eAPIS (passenger manifest), contacted US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) for an appointment and made last minute preparations. Hotels were getting scarce, and either way, they are super expensive in DC. We decided to try out airbnb, and that was one of the many great decisions on this trip.
We were up around 5am on Friday and obtained last minute weather briefings from the FSS folks in Canada and USA, spoke to our friends at CBP to confirm the appointment at Watertown (KART), and filed the FRZ flight plan with Potomac.
The flight only took 40 minutes, and we monitored our flight progress with the GPS ETA so as to arrive as per the agreed time of 8:00am.
A quick showing of credentials to the CBP officer, and we were ready to top off on fuel as a precaution. We received our expected route by phone (as filed), and departed (8:30am), picking up our clearance airborne.
Shirley managed to capture a lake shaped as a horse (maybe a fox).
After a short 2 hour flight, we had reached D.C. (or at least College Park MD). The Washington Monument can be seen in the background (look hard). When you are flying, it seems like it is so much closer.
College Park Airport: “world's oldest airport in operation, established in 1909 when Wilbur Wright arrived at the field to train two military officers in the US Army.”
Brought our own improvised propeller lock - hefty bicycle cable with a motorcycle disk lock. That should do the trick. The airport also provides a lock and cable if visiting aircraft don’t have their own.