The FAA has acknowledged what many pilots already know: Flight service station briefers don't always tell them about temporary flight restriction areas (TFRs). Now the agency vows it will fix the problem.
In a letter [ text | PDF] to AOPA President Phil Boyer, Acting FAA Administrator Monte Belger said the FAA is implementing a "TFR Action Plan" to improve the flow of TFR information to general aviation pilots.
The FAA is responding to AOPA's demand for action to improve the notam system to provide pilots with timely, accurate, and understandable information, particularly concerning TFRs.
"AOPA is encouraged by this strong response from Mr. Belger," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government and technical affairs. "Ongoing security-related airspace restrictions and inadvertent incursions are some of the most pressing problems facing general aviation. It is critical that FSS personnel and pilots have the most current information."
Following the September 11 attacks, there have been a proliferation of TFRs and other restricted airspace, along with highly publicized incidents of aircraft intruding into the "no-fly" zones.
AOPA has substantial evidence that FSS briefers don't have or are not relaying the most accurate, up-to-date flight restriction information to pilots. Specifically, AOPA learned that many pilots are not receiving TFR notams when they contact FSS for a briefing or, worse, are being given inaccurate information.
This week, the FAA implemented AOPA's recommendation to chart the Washington, D.C., special flight rules area on the Washington Terminal Area Chart. In addition, the agency is developing VFR waypoints to assist pilots in navigating around the airspace.
AOPA has also been asked to participate in a government/industry educational initiative aimed at developing a TFR presentation as part of the national Air Safety Program.
The FAA has also committed to implementing graphical notams as soon as possible. It is currently testing a Jeppesen product that would plot TFRs on aeronautical charts. In mid-July, the FAA published several security TFR maps on its Web site. The FAA also installed a "hot-link" capability from DUAT to the FAA Web site.
According to Belger, the FAA has also sent a notice to FSSs, holding them accountable for providing the information while conducting pilot weather briefings. The FAA will place special emphasis on TFR dissemination in all future evaluations of the system.
"We intend to work diligently with the FAA to fix the notam problem." said Boyer.
Meanwhile, AOPA members may want to consider joining the AOPA Legal Services Plan, which provides legal advice and representation in defending against an FAA enforcement action for a TFR violation.