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Don't Fly Into These 12 Areas Without Permission

It's your responsibility as PIC to ensure you've received the proper permission to fly in certain sections of airspace. Avoid a violation by paying special attention to these areas...

Want to know more about the national airspace system? Check out our training course.

1) Destin, Florida Special Flight Rules Area

Transiting the Florida coastline gets complicated around Destin (KDTS). There's a unique SFRA that catches dozens of pilots off guard every year. Even though you're flying VFR and outside of controlled airspace, you might be subject to special flight rules that necessitate your communication with ATC.

Destin is currently a non-towered airport, yet sits inside Class D airspace controlled by the Valpariso Tower. Construction is underway at Destin to finally install a control tower, which will make this unique section of airspace a little less confusing. If you fly into Destin, you'll notice large signs at the end of all taxiway/runway intersections, which alert pilots to the special flight rules procedures for the area.


2) Class A, B, C, D Airspace

This one's pretty self-explanatory. Make sure you you're cleared into the airspace you're about to fly through. For Class A, that means an IFR clearance above FL180. Listen for "cleared into the Bravo" for Class B. If ATC acknowledges your callsign in C or D, you can enter the airspace unless otherwise advised.


3) Washington DC Special Flight Rules Area

Under FAR 91.161, any pilot flying within 60NM of the DCA VOR/DME must have completed "Special Awareness Training for the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area." Within 30NM of the DCA VOR/DME, numerous special procedures commence, with unique flight plan and SQUAWK code assignments. Furthermore, pilots are cleared through "gates" in this 30NM ring to access airports close to Washington DC.


4) Washington DC Flight Restricted Zone

It's pretty hard to mess this one up and not know about it. If you've managed to slip through the DC SFRA unnoticed and begin to approach the DC FRZ, you should expect to be intercepted pretty quickly. The flight restricted zone is about 30 miles wide and extends up to 18,000 feet. The only flights allowed into the FRZ are individually and specially authorized by ATC and the military. Many flights into this area require onboard air marshals.


5) Wildlife Areas

Special conservation areas protect national parks, recreational areas, monuments, and other areas general aviation aircraft should avoid. They are identified by a blue line with blue dots on the inside. The name of the conservation area is also listed in or near the area. Although you aren't required to by regulation, you should maintain at least 2,000' AGL above these areas.

NOAA regulated marine sanctuaries are identified with a magenta line, with magenta dots on the inside.Marine sanctuaries have a box near them that identifies the the minimum altitude for overflight.


6) Prohibited Areas

Established for security and other national welfare concerns, it's rare to receive a clearance to fly through a prohibited area. If you need to fly through a prohibited area, you'll have to contact the controlling or using agency (found on the chart legend) before your flight and coordinate with ATC. If your reasons are good enough, you might get permission under certain circumstances.


7) Restricted Areas

While not impossible to fly through, restricted areas are, you guessed it, highly restrictive. They vary in altitude and dimensions, often containing unusual and hazardous operations, like missile launches, air combat training and artillery firing.

You can't fly through an active Restricted Area without permission from the controlling or using agency. Even if the restricted area is "cold" or inactive, you should still call the controlling agency to get a definitive answer on whether you can fly through it. Asking your local FSS or ATC tower controller isn't sufficient, so you really should contact the controlling agency. Why? While they might be able give you information on if it's active or not, they can't give you final authorization to enter the airspace, since they aren't the controlling agency.

8) Noise Sensitive Areas

While not charted, and not regulatory, noise abatement procedures around airports can be found in the FAA's Chart Supplement or by talking to local airport officials. There's no procedure for getting "permission" to fly around noise sensitive areas, but you should always keep them in the back of your mind. Keeping people on the ground happy will ensure your freedom to fly doesn't become more restricted.


9) Temporary Flight Restrictions

TFRs can pop up quickly, so it's important that you check FDC NOTAMs for your route every time you fly. Whether it's the President visiting town, or a long-standing TFR for unmanned aircraft operations, you don't want to fly through without permission. In the summer, wildfire TFRs are commonly established to protect aerial firefighting crews. Learn how to avoid them here.

10) Grand Canyon Special Flight Rules Area

Flights below 18,000 feet MSL around the Grand Canyon are subject to a series of special flight rules. They include flight-free areas, corridor locations, and altitude restrictions for VFR traffic. Since the SFRA is regulatory in nature, providing traffic separation for dozens of tour operators and protecting the park as a whole, it's important that you comply with the restrictions to avoid a violation.

Follow the rules so that all pilots can continue to enjoy flying over sections of the Grand Canyon.


11) The Air Defense Identification Zone

Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZs), are areas along the United States border where entering aircraft need to provide identification to ATC. As a VFR pilot, to enter the US through an ADIZ you need to file a DVFR (Defense VFR) flight plan at least 15 minutes before you plan to cross the ADIZ for US aircraft, and 1 hour before for foreign aircraft. You must have a two-way radio and Mode-C transponder on board. Additionally, you must be in contact with ATC and cross that ADIZ within a certain time and distance of your planned crossing point.


12) National Security Areas

While not regulatory, and only advised through government request, National Security Areas outline places where pilots are asked to voluntarily avoid flying. They typically surround high-security or sensitive facilities on the ground. Charts mark National Security Areas (NSAs) with a magenta dashed line. The chart includes details for each area, including the altitudes you are requested to avoid.

Don't let national security areas become restricted areas, and avoid flying through them. Be a good neighbor as a pilot by being courteous to the people and facilities on the ground. Adhering to these requests will keep flying less restricted in the future.


What other airspace do you need permission to fly through? Tell us in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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