Ever since September 11, security-related temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) have been popping up all over the country. You're not alone if you've found the FAA's TFR notams confusing. Frequent changes have also made it difficult for the system to keep pace. Following AOPA's lead, the FAA started developing graphical TFR products. While it represents a big step forward as far as interpreting the information, the FAA only plans to make the products available to flight service stations (FSSs). In a letter to the FAA, AOPA has asked that the depictions be accessible to pilots and that AOPA be included in the FAA work group tasked with developing them.
AOPA pointed out that while it's important for briefers to have the graphics, it's critically important for pilots to have the information as well to maintain safety and efficiency of the system.
AOPA Online pioneered the use of graphical TFR representations via the Web shortly after the FAA issued such notams in the wake of the September attacks.
Prior to September, the notam system could handle distribution of TFRs for the likes of presidential movements and fighting forest fires. But since September, it's been next to impossible for FSS specialists and other air controllers to keep up with new and revised TFRs well enough to be certain that pilots are properly informed, AOPA said. Dissemination of TFR information has been hampered recently by antiquated text-only notam formats on a now-overloaded distribution system, sometimes resorting to fax machines and telephone calls, says AOPA.
"The safety and efficiency of the air traffic system are compromised by the current notam distribution deficiencies," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government and technical affairs. "We are pleased that the FAA is tackling the problem, and we would like to participate in the process to ensure the final product meets the needs of general aviation and is available to users outside the FAA as soon as possible."