TFR Gateway into N57

Monday, February 14, 2022


by Bob Huxster, member EAA Chapter 240.

A few weeks ago, I was returning home to N57 from Florida on the weekend in my C172. There was a weather window between winter precipitation events that made flying the weekend preferable. There was also a Presidential TFR. I was aware of the gateway airport concept but ignorant of how it worked. Here’s what I now know, after trial by fire.

 The NOTAM describing the TFR gives a phone number to call for the gateway program. This program allows you make an appointment at one of the three gateway airports where you and any passengers will be vetted, and your baggage and your plane inspected. You will then proceed without any stops to your destination inside the inner circle (do not stop at the restroom on the way out the door). The appointment needs to be made at least 24 hrs. in advance.  What I did not know, is that you need to be able to tell the ‘coordinator’ taking your phone call where you want to have your inspection. This will be an FBO. In my case, this was Jet Aviation at Dulles. I could have asked for Signature, the other GA FBO there. If you ask the coordinator where, he or she will likely not know, or even understand what you are asking. (I was initially told ‘Hanger 6’, which is actually at KILG, obviously not helpful). You need to have a plan and tell them what you want. It wouldn’t hurt to call the FBO and give them a heads up that you have asked for your gateway inspection at their facility.  I have to thank Jimmy Reagan who helped me sort this out late Saturday night.

So, after finally established where the meeting would occur, I flew on my first trip into Dulles, on an IFR flight plan (but could have been VFR), and landed on RW19C. I took the first taxiway off this 11,000 ft. runway and arrived promptly at Jet Aviation, about an hour early.

Controllers and ground were very friendly and did not make me feel out of place. Entering the FBO (very nice lounge), I’m expected. Three TSA agents and two Secret Service (although the card I received said Homeland Security) were there an hour early and waiting for me. I was asked to get any luggage from the plane and use the restroom now, as I wouldn’t be able to after the meeting. You need a government issued ID (driver’s license is fine) which was photographed with the agent’s phone. There was some ‘casual’ conversation which I think was designed to take my measure (Maybe I’m over thinking this, but maybe not).  The bags where inspected. All less than 30 min. Then depart without any stops. $55 for landing and parking fees (nothing for the inspection).  I filed IFR to N57, but a VFR plan would work. You have to be talking to ATC with a transponder code.

Departure from Dulles was on RW30, which is at the south end of the airport, a two-mile taxi past all the terminal gates. The Tower hands me off to Potomac departure, and eventually to Philly approach, and finally I am given ‘Direct New Garden’. Landing was uneventful, no F16s.  Now it turns out that Biden left early, and even though the TFR was still displayed as active on the internet and ADS-B, anybody could have flown in to New Garden by the time I got there. I was asked to switch to 1200 before landing, which would not have happed if the TFR was still in effect (‘Keep the code until you are on the ground’).

So you CAN fly into New Garden during a TFR if you’re up for some adventure. You still cannot fly out, don’t try.