Answers for Pilots: Threats of enforcement

January 1, 2008

The FAA has included new language into temporary flight restriction (TFR) notams that has gotten AOPA’s guard up, by stating that criminal penalties can be assessed as the result of violations. AOPA had feared that the FAA would seek criminal penalties against anyone who violated a TFR—even if the incursion was inadvertent—and called on the FAA to clarify its intentions. FAA Acting Administrator Bobby Sturgell responded to AOPA stating, “I want to reassure you that pilots who commit inadvertent violations of TFRs protecting security airspace are not subject to criminal charges and fines under Regulation 49 U.S.C. 46307.”

Conscientious pilots do not intentionally violate TFRs, although some have had inadvertent airspace incursions. But sometimes, in spite of the best efforts at being informed, a pilot may inadvertently bust a section of restricted airspace. What then?

Two things are immediately helpful. The first is AOPA’s Legal Services Plan, which provides aviation-specific legal assistance for as little as $29 a year. If you are enrolled, all you need to do is pick up the phone (800-USA-AOPA). One caveat: You must be enrolled in the plan before you need it—just like insurance, it is not retroactive.

The second avenue of help comes from NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS). This program has been ongoing since 1975 and provides qualifying pilots immunity from FAA enforcement action.

Pilots complete an incident report (ARC Form 277B) that, if filed within the 10-day time period (keep a copy or mail it certified, return-receipt requested), will likely waive any disciplinary action resulting from a violation. Note that the ASRS program is for incidents—not for accidents or criminal activity—and only for pilots qualified to hold the certificate under which they were operating at the time of the incident, and whose records hold no violations within the previous five years. 

If the threat of enforcement looms for an inadvertent airspace incursion, be protected with AOPA’s Legal Services Plan and NASA’s ASRS program.

Membership Q&A

Answers to frequently asked questions about your AOPA membership

Q: I’m on Automatic Annual Renewal, but I’ve got a new credit card. Should I e-mail the new card information to you?

A: Because e-mail is not a secure way to communicate private information, we strongly encourage all of our members to call us at 800-USA-AOPA (800-872-2672) between 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday with the updated information or to use our secure Web application ( Click the “View/modify your membership info” link in the blue log-in box under the Membership Services tab on the home page. Then log in using your member number or username and password, for your security, and scroll down the page a bit to Member Information. On the right side of the page, click “Update your Automatic Renewal credit card.”

Q: How can I find out about job opportunities with AOPA?

A: Our Human Resources staff lists current openings on our Web site. Look in the upper right corner of the home page and click the “About AOPA” tab. Then click the “Career Opportunities” link to learn more about working for the association and to view the positions that are currently available.

Q: I forgot my password for the AOPA Web site. What should I do?

A: If you have an e-mail address on file with AOPA, click the “Forgot your username/password?” link below the blue log-in box within the Membership Services tab. After clicking the link, type in your e-mail address and your zip code, and we’ll e-mail your information to you. If you don’t see the message in your inbox shortly after you put in your request, check your e-mail box’s spam/junk mail folder as well in case your Internet provider places it there instead of directly in your inbox. You can also call our Member Services center. We offer after-hours self-service for resetting your password at that number.

Member Services contact information:

Phone: 800/USA-AOPA (800-872-2672), 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday
After hours: Renew your membership, reset your web password, or enroll in Automatic Annual Renewal using our self-service touch-tone phone option.
E-mail: [email protected]
Web: Update your personal information, renew your membership, and much more by clicking on the “View/modify your membership info” or “Renew your membership” links in the blue log-in box under the Membership Services tab.

Kathy Dondzila

Kathy Dondzila | Manager, Technical Communications, Pilot Information Center

Technical Communications Manager, Kathy Dondzila, joined AOPA in 1990 and is an instrument-rated private pilot.