On November 23, 2010 the FAA’s Office of the Chief Counsel issued a Legal Interpretation to a representative of the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators, Inc. (“SAFE”) which addresses VFR operations within a restricted area.
As you may know, FAR 73, Subpart B designates restricted areas and prescribes limitations for operating within those areas. Specifically, FAR 73.13 precludes operation within a restricted area unless permission has been received from the using agency (FAR 73.15) or the controlling agency (FAR 73.17).
However, according to the interpretation, “a clearance is not required to operate VFR through a restricted area when the controlling or using agency, as applicable, has made a determination that the restricted area is ‘cold’.” This conclusion assumes that the operator has contacted the controlling or using agency (usually via radio on the frequency identified on the applicable Sectional chart) and been advised the the restricted area is “cold”. It is also important to note that the controlling or using agency’s communication that the area is “cold” is not a clearance.
Thus, if the restricted area isn’t in use, VFR operations may be conducted in the area. Depending upon the size and location of the restricted area, this could save an operator both time and money.
You can locate other legal interpretations issued by the Office of the Chief Counsel on the FAA’s website here.