In an effort to head off last January's last-minute flight restrictions for President Bush's State of the Union address, AOPA is calling on Homeland Security Secretary-designate Tom Ridge to decide now whether or not there will be a similar TFR for the 2003 address. Last year the TFR was issued just four hours before the speech, trapping many GA pilots.
"While AOPA is not advocating for a TFR for the President's upcoming State of the Union address," said AOPA President Phil Boyer in a letter to Ridge, "we only have to surmise that with all of Congress, the administration, and many celebrities in the same place, airspace around the nation's capitol will be a concern."
Boyer's letter continued, "Earlier this year we met with you personally to discuss AOPA's concerns about the 'last minute' issuance of temporary flight restrictions. We specifically talked about the late issuance of a TFR that effectively closed nine Washington-area airports during the President's State of the Union address on January 29, 2002. Some pilots were in the air on a rare, beautiful January flying day when four hours prior to the speech the restrictions were announced. Your response was that the very short advance notice given for the State of the Union TFR ' would not happen again.'"
Boyer also called on Ridge to keep in mind the existing 15-nm "no-fly" zone around the nation's capital as he and others considered whether or not further restrictions will be implemented.
"Governor Ridge, I know that you are well aware of the important role general aviation plays in the nation's transportation system, and I can assure you that GA pilots support the domestic war on terrorism," said Boyer. "For these reasons, AOPA asks that your office to meet its commitment to keep the nation's pilots up to date on the status of airspace restrictions. I urge you to finalize airspace security plans and notify pilots well in advance of this year's address."