Latest presidential TFR offers glimmer of hope for GA

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July 14, 2010

The FAA has issued a notam for a two-day presidential temporary flight restriction over Bar Harbor, Maine. But this TFR has one major difference from its recent predecessor in Las Vegas: The lone airport in the traditional “GA no-fly zone” will be open to general aviation pilots who have undergone security screening.

While pilots were recently prohibited from operating at the three major GA airports in Las Vegas during a 19-hour visit by the president, there have been instances in which gateway airports allowed pilots to access facilities located within the inner 10-nautical-mile-radius area known as the “GA no-fly zone.” However, in order to participate in the security screening program at the gateway airports, pilots had to submit a waiver 72 hours in advance of their anticipated departure time.

The Bar Harbor TFR, in effect from 11 a.m. local July 16 through 11:30 a.m. local July 18, establishes Bangor International Airport as a gateway facility for pilots flying into Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport, and the amount of advance time required to submit a waiver has been decreased to 48 hours. Pilots may undergo security screening at Bangor or Bar Harbor daily between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. local, July 16 through 18. Even though the airport will remain open to GA, two sightseeing operations will be forced to shut down during that two-day timeframe.

The gateway airport model worked well during the president’s vacation to Martha’s Vineyard last summer, but it proved difficult to comply with in Chicago over Memorial Day Weekend because the president left the area several times. Seven last-minute TFR changes were issued during that weekend, making it nearly impossible for pilots to stay current on the latest restrictions.

AOPA President Craig Fuller had written to Department of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano twice regarding the need for GA to be a part of the TFR planning process. Fuller cited the extreme measures of the Las Vegas “blanket prohibition” last week and the problems associated with the Chicago TFR over Memorial Day weekend.

The association is working with the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, and the FAA to open a dialog between the federal agencies and the GA community to ensure that the impact on GA is mitigated.  “The FAA and TSA continually go to bat for GA on the issue of presidential TFRs but unfortunately, sometimes their efforts are overruled,” said AOPA Vice President of Operations and International Affairs Craig Spence. 

“This is a clear effort to assist GA seeking to utilize Bar Harbor Airport,” said Fuller. “Pilots need to strive for zero TFR incursions because violations raise many concerns, and the mistakes made by one or two can affect several hundred people in the GA community.”

Pilots who will be flying in the Bar Harbor area or the airport during the TFR timeframe should carefully plan their flights; frequently check notams with flight service for last-minute changes; and make sure they are familiar with the process to request a waiver 48 hours in advance; undergo a security screening; and review the flight operations and ATC communications required in the 12- and 30-nm rings of the TFR.