T-28 Trojan Foundation

Helen Murphy © 2009-2018  All Rights Reserved

Aerobatics Inside Washington DC’s Restricted Airspace
by Andrew Swart

The air show season finale for the Trojan Horsemen (T-28 Aerobatic Formation Demonstration Team) was to be at Joint Base Andrews.  The base is not only inside Washington DC’s roughly 4,000 square mile air defense zone now known as the DC Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA), but is within the central Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ, or “freeze”) that contains the Capital buildings, the White House, the Washington Mall and monuments, and Reagan airport.  Complex procedures govern all operations inside the SFRA, and, furthermore, no aircraft may operate in the FRZ without a written waiver.  Pilots must precisely follow their assigned routes and behave predictably, knowing that enforcement is provided by armed F-16s in real-time.  “Point A to point B” flights routinely comply with the restrictions, such as airlines at Reagan airport, and military aircraft, including Air Force One at Andrews.  But wouldn’t launching a flight of six, former military aircraft to perform high-speed, dynamic maneuvers in the heart of the FRZ, within sight of the Washington Monument, trigger alarms, or worse?  How does a team of six warbirds perform aerobatics inside some of the most heavily restricted airspace in the world?  (See airspace diagram)

This is the story of our Andrews air show weekend, with a focus on two additional challenges:  getting everyone to Andrews, and then performing the show inside the FRZ…