FAA extends Washington no-fly zone, kills a dozen model clubs in one swoop

December 30, 2015 1:23 | By | Add a Comment

Think the news about RC model registration was bad? The FAA was just getting started.

Effective christmas day 2015 (i.e. now), the FAA is enacting a 30 mile radius around Washington DC in which no RC model may be flown by any civilian. The FAA has imposed this restriction by ways of a TFR, which stands for Temporary Flight Restriction. This appears to be an extension of a prior TFR which banned flight operations within 15 miles of Reagan National Airport (KDCA), or a reinterpretation of an older NOTAM (FDC 0/8326) issued back in 2010 which banned all commercial aviation.


The acronym “TFR” is a misnomer, for these are anything but temporary and usually stay indefinitely or for many years to come. The 15-mile exclusion zone for RC models was time-limited until June 2016 but could be extended indefinitely. If it is indeed a reinterpretation of the old NOTAM, then this is already billed as “permanent”.

This ban affects a number of RC model clubs and flying fields, all of which have to cease operation overnight after having been notified on Christmas evening. The clubs are hopeful that they will be able to resume flying in January, but the FAA has made no indication that this measure is indeed “temporary”. Right now and until this TFR is lifted or the corresponding NOTAM interpretation changed, any hobbyists who want to fly their RC models will have to travel outside the 30-mile radius or face civil and criminal prosecution with large fines and/or severe prison sentences.

Update: The graphical map has been updated to show the correct center of the TFR, along with the correct radius in nautical miles. Details about NOTAM FDC 0/8326 added.

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