Is that an F-16 off your wing? Beware TFRs near DC, Chicago

May 16, 2012

The sudden appearance of an F-16 off the wing of a general aviation aircraft is an unsettling experience. AOPA staff filmed the phenomenon during a practice intercept exercise.

If you are flying near Chicago or the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area between May 18 and 21 and spy an F-16 or a Black Hawk off your wing, you’re in big trouble. The FAA has issued notams restricting flight in both areas for the G8 and NATO Summits. Security is extremely heightened because of the numerous world leaders who will be attending both events.

“These temporary flight restrictions are extremely sensitive, and pilots should exercise extreme caution when flying anywhere near Chicago or the Washington, D.C., area,” said Tom Zecha, AOPA manager of aviation security. “Carefully review the notams to ensure that you don’t make a mistake—there’s no room for error with these TFRs.

“Pilots should especially note that the TFR near Washington, D.C., goes way beyond expanding the prohibited airspace area around the presidential retreat Camp David. The TFR extends all the way into the Washington, D.C., Special Flight Rules Area and surrounding states including Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.”

The TFR for the G8 Summit will be in effect from noon Eastern Daylight Time on May 18 to 8:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on May 19. The 30-nautical-mile-radius TFR includes an inner 10-nm-radius GA no-fly zone and extends from the surface up to 17,999 feet msl.

“Everyone is on heightened alert,” Zecha said. Flight service briefers already are warning pilots flying at airports that lie within the 30-nm-radius G8 Summit TFR of the upcoming restrictions May 18 and 19. They are stressing to pilots that the TFR is not the typical 10-nm radius expansion of Prohibited Area 40 for the president’s visits. It’s a 30-nm-radius TFR and inner no-fly zone.

Pilots in the Chicago area also need to be preparing for the TFRs that will be in effect from May 19 through 21. Chicago will have two 30-nm-radius TFRs, each with an inner 10-nm-radius GA no-fly zone, that will be in effect at various times. Pilots should carefully study both of the TFRs and their effective times.

Flight operations within the airspace between the 10- and 30-nm-radius rings must have a discrete transponder code, and the pilots must be on a VFR or IFR flight plan and remain in two-way radio contact with air traffic control. For those who might fly near the TFR boundaries, AOPA recommends giving wide berth; everyone flying in the vicinity of or within the TFRs should carry a copy of intercept procedures.

“Our goal,” Zecha stressed, “is to have zero airspace incursions of the G8 and NATO summits.”

Alyssa J. Miller

Alyssa J. Miller | AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor

AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Miller has worked at AOPA since 2004 and is an active flight instructor.