As much as we hate to admit there are certain airspaces we can’t fly over. Some are considered restricted while there are others even prohibited.What’s the difference? And what happens if a pilot decides to fly over a restricted area?
As declared in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) Chapter 3-4-3: “Restricted areas contain airspace identified by an area on the surface of the earth within which the flight of an aircraft, while not wholly prohibited, is subject to restrictions.” In other words, the restricted area might be a place of unusual, maybe even invisible, activities that will put the flight in great danger, in short it is for our own safety.
While a Prohibited Area is defined as, “airspace of defined dimensions…within which the flight of aircraft is prohibited. Such areas are established for security or other reasons associated with the national welfare.” That pretty much explains it, you’re not allowed to fly over a prohibited area. A pilot will lose their license if they fly over a prohibited area.
On a lighter note, a restricted area can be easily avoided, and even though they might add an extra 15 minutes to the flight, that’s not an issue, but sometimes the restricted area can delay a flight for an entire hour, therefore the only option then is to obtain permission from the controlling agency since under these circumstances a normal call to air traffic control won’t be enough. Its starts with calling the controlling agency prior to the flight in order to let them know of your intentions and get any necessary approval beforehand.
If the restricted area is “cold” or “closed” and currently isn’t being used, and more importantly there is a valid reason of why you have to go through the restricted area, the approval might be granted, however in the end it’s up to the controlling agency. Be that as it may, if you didn’t get the approval to go through the airspace, you have no other choice but to go around.
It’s unfavourable to go into a restricted area without permission. We were once flying somewhere close to a restricted area, not even through it, and were firmly told to stay clear of the restricted airspace, but a Cessna 182 wasn’t as lucky, it was within four miles of the White House, causing a panic and immediate evacuation. If the FBI hadn’t deduced that the pilot had made an innocent navigational error, the situation could’ve ended poorly.
In conclusion, if you’re planning a flight over a restricted area don’t forget to do your research and ask yourself, am I on a VFR or IFR flight plan? What are the altitude restrictions? When is it open? And who is the controlling agency? Once all these questions are covered, you’ve then prepared everything appropriate to fly over the restricted airspace, thus good luck and have a safe flight.