A pilot I know (lets call him Joe) recently had a minor run in with the FAA after he skirted the edge of the Washington DC Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) while returning to Leesburg (JYO). Here are the details:
- Joe was returning from KOMH.
- Joe was trying to get on the ground quickly to avoid a wall of convective sigmet from the west, moving east quickly and threatening to engulf Leesburg and his landing in a small GA plane.
- Joe was in contact with the Leesburg Tower Note: Leesburg is NOT usually a towered airport. However Leesburg has been a test site for mobile air traffic control tower and that tower was operational when this occurred.
- Joe was instructed by the tower to "Proceed directly to Leesburg". He immediately turned directly towards Leesburg (right turn shown on chart), received permission to land and landed.
- Joe was provided with a number to call by the tower.
- Joe was interviewed by someone in the FAA, told he had skirted the SFRA, received a warning and the case was closed with no further action.
Though the case was closed it was still the FAA's position that a violation of the SFRA rules had occurred.
What I find confusing about this case is that, if ATC instructed Joe to "proceed directly to Leesburg", doesn't that mean they cleared him through the portion of the SFRA he will need to fly through to comply with their instruction?
Research done for this question
- I have taken the SFRA training required to fly VFR in the SFRA and have again reviewed this material after hearing of Joe's incident. I've found nothing in that material that conclusively answers this question.
- I have reviewed this question/answers about flying in the Washington DC SFRA.
- I have reviewed this general question about flying in SFRAs.
- I have reviewed the NOTAM associated with Ingress/Egress to/from Leesburg airport.
- I have reviewed already asked questions and did not find this specific question having already been asked.