The Northeastern coastal airspace is some of the most complex in the United States. While areas like Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Fransisco Class B are complex, at least they encompass only a single airspace structure over a single large airport. However in the Northeast from the Norfolk, Va area north through Boston we have a series of overlapping airspace structures encompassing multiple busy airports such as DCA, Dulles, Baltimore, Pittsburg, EWR, JFK, LGA, and Boston along with a myriad of restricted areas protecting military and political infrastructure in addition to air bases such as Langley, Andrews, Patuxent, and Philips. And don’t forget the DC SFRA (Special Flight Rules Area) created to protect the US Capital area for which special training is required and proof must be provided upon request. Learn to fly here and you should be able to adapt to airspace rules just about anywhere else.
After becoming a CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) it was initially thought that I would be primarily used to conduct Discovery Flights, Flight Reviews, and checkouts or transition training for pilots wanting to fly a new to them aircraft type. I was pleasantly surprised that I soon took on several primary students working towards their initial private pilot certificates along with a variety of experienced pilots seeking additional ratings or training to get legally current or proficient. For a new CFI I actually found it a bit intimidating; providing training to pilots with such experience; active C130 pilots and retired Army and Naval Aviators. But true to the spirit of aviation each and every pilot has been a joy to work with, accepting of me, and provided me with as many learning moments as I have them.
One incredibly interesting pilot came to me wanting to get current and checked out so he could start flying again after a short break. He asked what he needed to do so I asked him to give me an idea of his past experience. He proceeds to tell me that he retired from the military 16 years ago where he gained his certificates and experience in a variety of military aircraft. A vast majority of his flying was instrument rules military operations and he had flown very little since retirement, only a few hours in the past two years. Certificates never expire unless revoked or suspended so he still held certificates for airplane single engine, multi-engine, instrument flight, and commercial fixed wing and helicopter. He wanted to get back to flying single engine private airplanes which he has not flown since initial military training 36 years ago. Gulp…. Quite a task for a brand new CFI to work through with the pressure of another relying on you to get him current, legal, and to a point where he feels comfortably proficient. Being a diligent military pilot he realized he needed to get refresher training starting from the basics and working his way upwards.
I verified that his certificates were still valid though he did need to get them reissued in the plastic drivers’ license form since his were issued on paper with old typewriter printing. He then signed up for a password to IACRA, a website the FAA uses to eliminate paper; everything is done over the internet. Another website to fill out an FAA Airman Medical form and he was off to get a new airman medical. We then talked over the minimum requirements to fulfill a flight review and checkout in our aircraft, as well as additional training to fulfill his desire to refresh his airmanship skills and knowledge of private general aviation flying as opposed to instrument military operations. Finally he would need to refresh his knowledge of instrument rules flight and then go to another CFI qualified to administer a special evaluation called an IPC (Instrument Proficiency Check) to renew his instrument currency to fly through the clouds, aka Instrument Meteorological Conditions.
Taking what we discussed I went through the ACS (Airman Certification Standards) for each of his ratings and made a list of tasks and skills to refresh his training. I also included tasks to address changes in airspace and technology that would be totally new to this pilot. Finally, I consulted AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilot’s Association) for items important to what is referred to as a rusty pilot. The pilot in question attended an AOPA Rusty Pilot Seminar and upon my request completed some online courses from the FAA and AOPA websites. At our next meeting we discussed the plan I had constructed, broke the tasks down into logical blocks, and plugged them into a 15 lesson schedule; 12 flights and 3 classroom sessions. He requested several cross-country flights from Carroll County Regional KDMW east-southeast through the DC SFRA and layered Class B, Class D, and Restricted Areas to the Maryland eastern shore and back so that he could gain experience with this airspace and practice with an instructor present.
On the flight pictured we flew southeast navigating under the BWI Class B airspace, transitioning Martin State Class D, avoiding the restricted and prohibited areas and then south to Coastal Delaware Airport for pattern work. Continuing onto Ocean City Regional for additional pattern work prior to flying southwest and then north through the VFR Flyway path within the DC SFRA. This gave him practice with a variety of airspace and ATC procedures along with experience transitioning the DC SFRA in a narrow invisible tunnel of airspace less than 2 miles wide and 500 feet high cutting between BWI/IAD and DCA and the FRZ (Flight Restricted Zone). Executing this flight allowed him to see and experience all the airspace and rules we had discussed in prior classroom sessions.
Fly Safe, Fly Often