TFR violations hamper efforts to ease restrictions

May 9, 2012

Violations have declined, but the general aviation track record when it comes to temporary flight restrictions is nothing to be proud of. For every TFR, on average, there is a violation—usually caused by a single-engine aircraft pilot who launched in ignorance of airspace changes ahead.

AOPA has joined an unprecedented dialogue, a cross section of aviation groups sitting at the table with representatives of a host of government agencies, from the FAA to NORAD and the U.S. Secret Service. GA groups hope to ease the size, if not the number, of TFRs, a difficult argument to make when so many careless pilots wander into exclusion zones created to protect the president and other VIPs. In 2009, there was an average of 1.6 violations per TFR; in 2011, an average of 1.1 violations. The 416 presidential TFRs established were violated 588 times, and single-engine GA aircraft account for 75 percent of that total.

AOPA, industry organizations, and government agencies are collaborating to eliminate inadvertent violations—an enormous waste of resources that the government is working hard to conserve. The dialogue began with meetings at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida April 30 and May 1, with discussion covering every possible means of notifying pilots about flight restrictions short of going door-to-door. The talks also included possible easing of restrictions, such as allowing access for some pilots and crews through a vetting process, a “risk-based” approach to security.

“While AOPA and other industry groups are aggressively working to reduce the impact of TFRs on general aviation operators, it becomes almost impossible to make any headway given the number of violations that continue to occur,” said Tom Zecha, AOPA manager of aviation security. “Industry and government need to continue to work together if a solution is to be found.”

The conversation was slated to continue May 10 at NORAD headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo.