High Rock : P-40, NOTAMs, and Periodic Site Closures

     The High Rock hang gliding site at PennMar sits at the very edge of the prohibited airspace P-40, inside restricted airspace R-4009. P-40 is the protective ring surrounding Camp David:

Notice the little sailplane symbol at about the 10:00 position of P-40? That's there for our hang gliding operations. Normal flight in the High Rock area, with a landing in the valley out in front, is usually not a problem. However, flying too far behind launch, at any altitude, will place you in the prohibited airspace. The local rule-of-thumb is not to fly beyond the very obvious radio towers behind launch.

     In the aftermath of the 9/11/2001 attacks, the FAA temporarily increased the radius of P-40 to 8 nautical miles. This enlargement of P-40 CLOSED High Rock to ALL flight:

     Subsequently P-40 was reverted back to its normal size (allowing hang glider operations), but then a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) was issued by the FAA on the weekend of September 28-30 which prohibited all flight operations within 8NM of P-40 . It appears that these TFRs may become the exception rather than the rule. Here's what the September 28, 2001 TFR looked like:

FDC 1/0589 ZDC MD.. FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS THURMONT, MARYLAND
SEPTEMBER 28-30, 2001 LOCAL.

PURSUANT TO TITLE 14, SECTION 91.141 OF THE CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS,
AIRCRAFT FLIGHT OPERATIONS ARE PROHIBITED WITHIN THE FOLLOWING AREA
UNLESS OTHERWISE AUTHORIZED BY ATC. NOTE: MILITARY AIRCRAFT PARTICIPATING
IN THE P-40 FIGHTER CAP ARE EXEMPT FROM THIS RESTRICTION.

8.0 NMR BLW 12,500 FEET AGL OF 393853N/772800 OR THE FDK351014.8 FROM
0109281900 (1500 LOCAL 9/28/01) UNTIL 0109302300 (1900 LOCAL 9/30/01).
THURMONT MARYLAND

     When the President or VP are at Camp David, not only is P-40 at 8 NM radius, but there will be fighter combat air patrol (CAP) over the area, with instructions to force out or down all aircraft attempting to enter the airspace. We leave as an exercise to the reader the effects that an F-15 or F-16's 400 knot visual ID fly-by would have on our fragile birds.

     It is essential for all of us to check for a TFR for P-40 every time we plan to fly there. Before flying High Rock, unless you have confirmation from other HG pilots that no TFR is in effect, on that day, call 1-800-WX-BRIEF and ask the FAA briefer if there are any TFR or advisories for Thurmont, Maryland or P-40. If there is a Thurmont MD TFR showing a radius of 8 NM, then High Rock is CLOSED that day. Note that the NOTAM advisory will also state that it does not apply to fighter aircraft flying CAP over P-40 (hint, hint).

     The FAA does not provide NOTAMS on-line: you have to call a briefer as described above. However, the military has a site that appears to be updated frequently enough to be reliably used for determining High Rock's status. The site is:

     https://www.notams.jcs.mil

     Enter KZDC, which is the code for the ARTCC (air route) to Washington DC, in the ICAO box, then hit the View NOTAMs button. Using local airport codes like KHGR for Hagerstown or MD98 for Fort Richie will NOT produce the Thurmont MD advisory, if in effect.

     In the resulting list of route advisories, scroll down the entire list to check for any marked for Thurmont. You are likely to see a 25-mile restriction in effect around all of Washington DC. You will only see the P-40 restriction if the prohibited area has been enlarged as described above.