11 Places Planes Can't Fly Over in the U.S.

Jacqueline Nell/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images
Jacqueline Nell/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images

From the obvious to the controversial to the mysterious, here are 11 places in the U.S. over which taking a plane just won’t fly.

1. George Washington's Home // Mount Vernon, Virginia

George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Restriction: Surface to 1500 feet above Mean Sea Level.

I cannot tell a lie: Flying over Mount Vernon, the home of the Father of our Country, is a big no-no. The wooden mansion, built for George Washington between 1758 and 1778, has endured much wear over the years, and in an effort to prevent further damage caused by vibrations from overhead aircraft, a no-fly zone was established around the airspace above the National Historic Landmark. As a result of this restriction, even aerial photography of the home is rarely allowed.

2. and 3. Walt Disney World // Orlando, Florida and Disneyland // Anaheim, California

Disneyland park during a ceremony at Sleeping Beauty Castle
Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images

Restriction: 3000 feet above ground level.

Restrictions on airspace are sometimes made on a temporary basis, usually at places where a great many people congregate (like the Super Bowl). And perhaps no place attracts larger crowds with more frequency than Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts. After the September 11 attacks, Disney successfully had a “temporary” no-fly zone restriction slipped into a nearly $400 billion federal spending bill in 2003, which established the restricted airspace over its Anaheim and Orlando theme parks. The restriction remains in place to this day, and has faced legal challenges from a Christian group, the Family Policy Network. The group has argued on free speech grounds for the right to use the airspace to tow banners behind small planes in opposition to Disney’s unofficial but popular annual “Gay Days.”

4. Bush Family compound// Kennebunkport, Maine

Restriction: Surface to 1000 feet above Mean Sea Level.

The Bush family compound is located on a peninsula known as Walker’s Point in the scenic southern Maine town of Kennebunkport. The home has been in the family for over a century, and is the summer residence of former president George H.W. Bush. Over the years many important people have been through its doors, including Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher, and it has been the scene of numerous Bush family weddings. Given the sensitive nature of the compound, and the frequency with which both former presidents Bush and their families still visit, the airspace above the compound is restricted to aircraft.

5. Pantex Nuclear facility // Amarillo, Texas

Restriction: Surface to 4800 feet above Mean Sea Level.

The Pantex Plant is a high-security nuclear facility located about 17 miles northeast of Amarillo, Texas. Its mission is “to ensure the safety, security and reliability of the nation's nuclear stockpile." The facility dismantles excess nukes, keeps tabs on our existing ones, and maintains cold-war era missiles that are still knocking around after all these years, and therefore there is a ten-mile no-fly zone around it. As you might expect, the site is also closed to the public.

6. Washington, D.C.

Aerial photo of the Washington Memorial with the Capitol in the background
Andy Dunaway/USAF via Getty Images

Restriction: Surface to 18000 feet above Mean Sea Level.

After the September 11 attacks, the airspace over our nation’s capital became some of the most highly restricted in the world. The Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Homeland Security together established concentric no-fly areas around Washington D.C. The outer ring of this boundary, known as the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) requires any aircraft entering the space to identify themselves. Within that zone exists a smaller area of 15 nautical miles around Reagan International Airport called the Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ). They don’t mess around in that FRZ, either. In 2005, the pilot of a Cessna 150 aircraft was just five miles from the White House before it was greeted by the sight of an F-16 fighter jet dropping flares in its field of vision to send a signal it had wandered into unfriendly skies. Oops.

7. Camp David // Thurmont, Maryland

Camp David, Maryland
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Restriction: Surface to 5000 feet above Mean Sea Level.

Countless photographs of U.S. presidents in windbreakers have been taken at Naval Support Facility Thurmont, better known as Camp David, a presidential retreat and meeting place going back to Franklin D. Roosevelt. The compound has frequently played host to presidents’ families and visiting dignitaries, and numerous high-profile pacts have been struck at the retreat over the years, including the Camp David Accords, a peace deal between Egypt and Israel brokered in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. Due to the high-profile nature of the visitors and activities at Camp David, the airspace above the private compound has a three-mile no-fly zone around it.

8. Kennedy Space Center // Merritt Island, Florida

space shuttle Endeavour lifts off from Launch pad at Kennedy Space Center
NASA via Getty Images

Restriction: surface to 5000 feet above Mean Sea Level, adjustable to unlimited with notice.

Florida’s “Space Coast” is a popular spot for space fans to see a rocket launch, but the only view you’re going to get is from the ground. Merritt Island houses NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Due to military and NASA activities on and around the island, airspace around the island is restricted to all civilian and commercial air traffic.

9. Area 51

Restriction: Surface to Unlimited.

Located in the western United States desert is the fabled Area 51. Its precise location is either in Nellis Air Force Range in Nevada or Edwards Air Force Base in California, but airspace above the general area is restricted to all aircraft, military and civilian. (Cue The X-Files theme.) Area 51 became the stuff of legend after the so-called Roswell Incident, and is allegedly where a recovered alien space ship was stored after crashing in New Mexico in 1947, spawning legions of alien enthusiasts. The Air Force says it uses the area to test new military technology, and declassified documents from 2013 revealed that the U-2 Spy Plane Program in the 1950s and '60s was worked on at the base. The spot of nearly empty desert boasts air space that's more restricted than that of the nation's capital.

10. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness // Northern Minnesota

View point over the Boundary Waters
iStock

Restriction: Surface to 4000 feet.

This million-acre expanse of pristine wilderness runs 199 miles along the Canadian border. The area’s nearly 1200 lakes, dramatic views of glacier-carved canyons, and untrammeled natural beauty make it a paradise for outdoor adventurers. President Harry Truman established the no-fly zone over the area back in 1948 and we thank him for it.

11. Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay // Georgia

Restriction: Surface to 3000 feet.

Another bit of restricted airspace we can safely file in the “no duh” category is the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia. This base houses the U.S. Navy Atlantic Fleet’s Trident nuclear-powered submarines, ballistic and guided missile submarines, and the Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic (SWFLANT)—which is essentially a missile factory. The base’s functions include maintaining, overhauling, and modernizing the sub fleet, including its weapon systems. Despite the heavy artillery housed here and a strict no-fly zone, over the last decade pilots have violated its airspace eight times and there have been four crashes within the base’s borders.

11 Facts About the Library of Congress

Thomas Jefferson Building of the LOC. Image Credit: TheAgency via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Thomas Jefferson Building of the LOC. Image Credit: TheAgency via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

For more than two centuries, the Library of Congress (LOC) and its staff have served as invaluable resources for American legislators. But their mission isn’t limited to U.S. politics. The Library of Congress catalog includes iconic films, historical documents, and your tweets about lunch. In short, it's a cultural treasure. Here are 11 facts worth knowing about the Washington, D.C.-based establishment.

1. The Library of Congress is the nation's oldest cultural institution.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is America’s oldest federal cultural institution. It was established by the same bill that officially moved the capital from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. The library was conceived of as a resource available exclusively to members of Congress, containing "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress." That remains the case today, though citizens can read books on site or request them at their local library through an interlibrary loan.

2. Thomas Jefferson helped rebuild the Library of Congress catalog after a fire.

Not long after it was established, tragedy struck the Library of Congress: Its contents were destroyed when the Capitol Building was set on fire by British troops during the War of 1812. Approximately 3000 books (mostly law-related) were lost in the blaze, but luckily a friend of Washington D.C. owned a collection that was even bigger. Thomas Jefferson’s personal library comprised well over 6000 volumes, making it the largest library in the country at the time. He agreed to sell all of his books to Congress for $23,950 in 1815. Jefferson's contributions significantly expanded the scope of the library, by including books on art, science, and philosophy. (The increased diversity of the collection was a subject of criticism at the time, to which Jefferson responded by saying "there is in fact no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.”) Sadly, the library met with another tragedy when a second fire tore through it on Christmas Eve 1851, burning two-thirds of Jefferson’s contribution.

3. James Madison first proposed the Library of Congress.

Seventeen years prior to the LOC's official formation, James Madison proposed the idea of a special library for Congress. He planted the idea as a Continental Congress member in 1783 when he suggested compiling a list of books to which lawmakers could refer. As president, Madison approved the purchase of Jefferson’s personal library in 1814.

4. It makes Congress's job a lot easier.

Members of Congress drafting legislation don’t necessarily need to do the nitty-gritty research themselves: There’s a whole team [PDF] of lawyers, librarians, economists, and scientists employed through the Library of Congress to do it for them. Established in 1914, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a legislative department within the LOC responsible for supporting lawmakers through every step of the lawmaking process. Based on what’s asked of them, CRS employees supply House and Senate members with reports, briefings, seminars, presentations, or consultations detailing research on the issue in question. The CRS is currently staffed with 600 analysts. In any given year, a single researcher responds to hundreds of congressional requests.

5. It's the largest library on Earth.

With over 164 million items in its inventory, the LOC is the world’s largest library. In addition to the 38 million books and other printed materials on the premises, the institution contains millions of photographs, recordings, and films. It also houses some record-breaking collections: more maps, comics, newspapers, and phonebooks can each be found there than any other place on Earth. The whole thing is stored on about 838 miles of bookshelves.

6. The Library of Congress contains some surprising items.

The Library of Congress is home to an eclectic collection, with books ranging in size from a tiny copy of “Ole King Cole” to a 5-foot-by-7-foot photo book filled with color images of Bhutan. Some items, like a Gutenberg Bible and a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, feel right at home in the historic library. Others, like Rosa Parks’s peanut butter pancakes recipe, are a bit more unexpected. Additional noteworthy artifacts include Bob Hope’s joke collection, George Gershwin’s piano, and the contents of Abraham Lincoln's pockets the night he was shot.

7. The Library of Congress owns materials from around the world.

The Library of Congress isn’t solely dedicated to American documents. The institution possesses materials acquired from all around the globe, including 3 million items from Asia and 10 million items in the Iberian, Latin American, and Caribbean collections. Over half of the books in their inventory are written in a language other than English. In total, over 460 languages are represented, and their end goal is to eventually have at least one item from every nation. The LOC also maintains overseas offices in New Delhi, India; Cairo, Egypt; Islamabad, Pakistan; Jakarta, Indonesia; Nairobi, Kenya; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to acquire, catalog, and preserve items that might be hard to access otherwise.

8. It preserves America's most important films.

Since the National Film Preservation Act was passed in 1988, 700 "culturally, historically, or aesthetically" significant films have been selected for the LOC archives. Up to 25 entries are chosen each year by a board of industry professionals, and the only rule is that submissions must be at least 10 years old. Beyond that, they can be anything from beloved comedy blockbusters like Ghostbusters (1984) to health class classics like The Story of Menstruation (1946). Pieces added to the National Film Registry are kept in a climate-controlled storage space where they can theoretically last for centuries.

9. The Library of Congress serves patrons of all abilities.

In 1931 the Library of Congress launched The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). Today the service offers free Braille and audio books, either through digital downloads or physical deliveries, to people with visual impairments or other issues that limit their reading abilities. Offerings include a wide array of books and magazines, as well as the world’s largest collection of Braille music. NLS librarians are currently undertaking the painstaking process of scanning every sheet of Braille music onto their computer system. Once that project is complete, the National Library Service’s entire collection will be fully digitized.

10. Only three librarians of Congress have been actual librarians.

When nominating someone to head the largest library in the world, presidents rarely choose actual librarians. They’re more likely to select a scholar, historian, or some other veteran of academia for the job. Of the 14 Librarians of Congress we’ve had, current title-holder Carla Hayden is one of just three to come into the role with prior librarian experience. (She is also the first woman and the first African American to hold the job.) On top of running the world’s largest library, Hayden is also responsible for managing relations with Congress, selecting the Poet Laureate, and overseeing the U.S. Copyright Office.

11. It receives every public tweet you write.

The government isn’t just responsible for cataloging tweets coming out of the White House. In 2010, Twitter agreed to donate every public tweet in its archive to the Library of Congress. That amounts to several hundred million tweets a day. In addition to documenting the rise and fall of #dressgate and live tweets of The Walking Dead, the archive would also act as an invaluable data source for tracking language and societal trends. Unfortunately, that archive isn’t much closer to being completed than the day the deal was announced. The LOC has yet to develop a way to organize the information, and for the past seven years, unprocessed tweets have been have been stored out of sight on a server. There’s still no word on what the next step will be, but that might change with the newest Librarian of Congress. Unlike her predecessor, Carla Hayden is known for taking a digital-forward approach to librarianship.

Merriam-Webster Just Added Hundreds of New Words to the Dictionary—Here Are 25 of Them

iStock.com/xxz114
iStock.com/xxz114

The editors of Merriam-Webster's dictionary know better than most people how quickly language evolves. In April 2019 alone, they added more than 640 words to the dictionary, from old terms that have developed new meanings to words that are products of the digital age.

Entertainment fans will recognize a few of the new words on Merriam-Webster's list: Buzzy (generating speculation or attention), bottle episode (an episode of a television series confined to one setting), and EGOT (winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony) have all received the dictionary's stamp of approval.

Some terms reflect the rise of digital devices in our everyday lives, such as unplug and screen time. Other words have been around for centuries, but started appearing in new contexts in recent years. According to Merriam-Webster, snowflake can now mean “someone who is overly sensitive," purple can describe an area split between Democrat and Republican voters, and Goldilocks can mean “an area of planetary orbit in which temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold to support life."

You can read 25 of the new words below. And for even more recent additions to the dictionary, check out Merriam-Webster's list from last September.

  1. Bioabsorbable

  1. Bottle episode

  1. Bottom surgery

  1. Buzzy

  1. EGOT

  1. Garbage time

  1. Gender nonconforming

  1. Geosmin

  1. Gig economy

  1. Go-cup

  1. Goldilocks

  1. On-brand

  1. Page view

  1. Peak

  1. Purple

  1. Vulture capitalism

  1. Qubit

  1. Salutogenesis

  1. Screen time

  1. Snowflake

  1. Stan

  1. Tailwind

  1. Top surgery

  1. Traumatology

  1. Unplug

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