Can I fly through a restricted area if the local ARTCC says it's inactive?
Answered By AOPA
You’re on a flight to grab lunch and you’ve invited one of your flying buddies to go along with you. Along your route of flight there is a restricted area and in the interest of shortening your ETE by about half an hour you ask the local ARTCC if the restricted area was “cold” or “hot”. The controller responds that the restricted area in question is not active or “cold”. You proceed to turn the aircraft to fly directly through the restricted area to your lunch destination. Your friend in the right seat questions this and says that even though ATC says it’s inactive you still can’t fly through it. Is he right?
1 Replies
AOPA Staff Answer
It all depends on whether or not the ARTCC that you spoke to on the radio is the controlling agency listed on the sectional. All the restricted areas appearing on a sectional, as well as their controlling agency, will be listed in the legend area/margins of the sectional. So if you did contact the correct agency then you’re good, right? Well here’s what FAR 91.133 states:
“(a) No person may operate an aircraft within a restricted area (designated in part 73) contrary to the restrictions imposed, or within a prohibited area, unless that person has the permission of the using or controlling agency, as appropriate.”
So you’ve talked to the right person, but does a verbal confirmation that the restricted area is “cold” meet the permission required in 91.133? Thankfully, there is a letter of interpretation from the FAA’s Office of Chief Counsel that tries to clear this up ( - (2010) Legal Interpretation.pdf) . To summarize what is included in the letter; a clearance to fly through a “cold” restricted area is not required, as long as that determination is from the using or controlling agency, and that verbal confirmation that the restricted area is “cold” does not constitute a clearance, permission, or authorization to operate VFR in the airspace. So you’re good to go.