FBO: Madison (MSN) Your Gateway to the State Capital

DCA Gateway FBO

Wisconsin Aviation's Madison FBO is a designated "Gateway FBO" for flights into Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA), Washington, D.C. This designation allows for a much easier planning process for those flying into DCA from MSN.

To receive this authorization for a flight, aircraft operators must:

  • Have threat assessments conducted by TSA on their flight crewmembers and passengers.
  • Carry a TSA-approved, armed security officer on the flight.
  • Have the TSA inspect the aircraft and screen the passengers, their carry-on property, and property carried in the cargo hold of the aircraft before departure.
  • Make the flight's last point of departure from a fixed-base operator approved by the TSA as a "gateway airport."

Why do we have to go through a gateway FBO?
TSA requires that passengers on flights to or from DCA have to be screened by TSA security screeners. The security screening is the same as that required for passengers on commercial airlines and generally takes only a few minutes. TSA also requires that aircraft and crew that fly to or from DCA without passengers (for instance, repositioning flights) have to be screened by TSA personnel.

Only specific airports ("gateway airports") are equipped to accommodate this screening process. Only these airports have been approved by TSA as gateway airports for flights to DCA. Currently, there are 67 such airports (see map below). All flights to DCA have to proceed via one of these gateway airports. Flights from DCA can proceed directly to any airport.

For instance, if you plan a trip from Washington, DC, to Boston-Bedford's Hanscom airport (BED), operating the flight from and to DCA is an ideal solution, since we do not have to stop at a gateway airport that is not on your planned route of flight. You simply board the airplane at DCA for your outbound flight, and the same is true for your return flight to DCA.

If you plan a trip from Washington, DC, to an airport that is not a gateway, DCA can still be a component of an optimal travel plan. We simply pick you up at DCA and fly you to your destination. In this case, for the return flight, we suggest that we fly to Dulles, or another surrounding airport in the Washington, DC, area. We can still fly you to DCA on the return flight, but that would involve stopping at a gateway airport to clear security, and we feel that this might delay your flight unnecessarily.

Do I have to go through security like I would if I were traveling on the airlines?
At the gateway, you and your baggage will be screened by TSA security screeners. The screening process is very similar to that at a commercial airport, except that you do not have to wait in line! Generally, when you are ready to board our aircraft, TSA will need no more than a few minutes to complete the screening process of all passengers and their baggage.

We also do not require you to "check in" early for your flight as you would have to with an airline. As for all our flights, we will depart as soon as you get to the airport. However, we do ask that you please not be late for DCA flights. Although TSA will attempt to accommodate changes to departure times, TSA may not be able to accommodate every rescheduling of the departure time, depending on the availability of TSA screeners at the new requested departure time.

What baggage can I have access to on the flight? May I take a carry-on bag?
Your carry-on baggage on DCA flights is subject to the same security restrictions as it would be for any other Wisconsin Aviation flight. Please note that those security restrictions are not as limiting as the list of prohibited items used by the airlines. For instance, your carry-on baggage may not contain items that may be used as weapons, but it may contain liquids over 3 ounces.

However, some prohibited items may simply be carried in your "checked" baggage. Checked baggage will be stored by the crew in an exterior baggage compartment to which you will not have access in flight. Depending on aircraft, the availability of exterior baggage compartment space may be limited. Your Wisconsin Aviation scheduler will be happy to help you make the right choices about prohibited items in your baggage.

Can I use any FBO I choose at the gateway?
For the same reason that only specific "gateway" airports can accommodate the security measures required for DCA flights, there are only certain FBOs at each gateway airport that can accommodate these security measures.

Until what time can I make changes to my itinerary?
We have to submit an initial trip itinerary to TSA at least 24 hours before the flight's departure. TSA uses the information we provide about passengers, crew, and aircraft to conduct a security check.

At TSA's discretion, we may be able to make changes to the departure times within the last 24 hours before the originally scheduled departure. However, within the last 24 hours before the flight's departure, we cannot add passengers to the itinerary, or change gateway or destination airports.

However, we can delete passengers from the passenger manifest up to departure time of the flight. If you are not certain whether a passenger in your party will or will not be traveling with you, it is best to ask us to list that passenger on the manifest. We can always delete, but not add, names on the passenger manifest.

Does your stop at a gateway before picking me up at DCA affect the crew's duty day?
Since our crew has to reposition the aircraft to a gateway airport, where aircraft and crew can be security-screened by TSA, this reduces the crew's remaining available duty day.

However, we may be able to reposition the aircraft to DCA on the day prior to your flight. In that case, you will have the crew's full duty day available for your trip.

Why do you need an armed guard on board? I'm not a criminal.
When access to DCA was restored after the attacks of September 11, 2001, it was felt that the hijacking of aircraft was a threat specific to operations at DCA. Since general aviation aircraft generally do not have lockable cockpit doors, TSA requires that an Armed Security Officer (ASO) has to be on board each passenger flight to and from DCA, for the sole purpose of preventing unauthorized access to the flight deck.

Wisconsin Aviation selects only highly-qualified and trained current or former law enforcement officers with a particular background in customer service and specific aviation experience as ASOs.

Why is the cost so expensive?
One reason that flights to or from DCA are more expensive is that we have to fly to DCA via a gateway airport. If we have to reposition the aircraft to a gateway that would not ordinarily be on the route of flight, you will be charged the cost of that repositioning leg.

Another reason for the higher cost of operations at DCA is the requirement for heightened security measures. TSA charges a security fee, and we have to hire the services of an Armed Security Officer (ASO) for the flight.

However, we are certain that once you have experienced the time savings and convenience of flying to and from DCA, you will not want to drive through the DC rush hour to get to Dulles or another surrounding airport.

Why wouldn't I just save myself the hassle and depart from Dulles instead?
For some customers, choosing to fly out of Manassas or Dulles Airport might be a preferred option due to the potential cost savings. However, other clients may find DCA's close proximity to the nation's capital to be extremely important, which is why Wisconsin Aviation is pleased to have met the rigorous TSA requirements in order to offer this charter service to you.

However, if you plan to leave from DCA before 6:30 am, or plan to return to DCA after 10 pm, we suggest that you use another airport, since operations at DCA are prohibited after 10 pm and before 6:30 am.

TSA's Interim Final Rule (PDF 1.7 MB), which was developed in coordination with other Department of Homeland Security agencies and the Department of Defense, takes into consideration the special security needs of the airport. Under TSA's security plan, 48 flights in and out of DCA will be allowed each day. All aircraft will be required to meet the security measures set forth in the DCA Access Standard Security Program (DASSP), which include:

  • TSA inspection of crew and passengers.
  • TSA inspection of property (accessible and checked) and aircraft.
  • Identification checks of passengers by TSA.
  • Submission of passenger and crew manifests 24 hours in advance of flight.
  • Enhanced background checks for all passengers and fingerprint based criminal history records check (CHRC) for flight crew.
  • Armed Security Officer (ASO) on board each flight. Click here for more information on the Armed Security Officer program.
  • All operations are subject to cancellation at any time.
  • All DASSP flights must depart from an approved gateway airport and participating Fixed Base Operator (FBO). Click here to view the DASSP Gateway Airports and FBOs.
  • All unscheduled operations to/from KDCA require an FAA slot reservation. Please obtain an FAA slot reservation through the FAA ARO website: www.fly.faa.gov/ecvrs/index.html

For more information, contact Wisconsin Aviation at 608-268-5000 or send an email to: Jeff.Davis@WisconsinAviation.com