Temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) will be implemented for the scheduled April 4 space shuttle launch. That TFR could affect some pilots flying toward Lakeland, Florida, for Sun 'n Fun activities. AOPA has learned that a notam will be issued that will encompass restricted areas R2932, R2933, R2934, and portions of warning areas W497A, W158A, and W158C ( see graphic). Flight operations within this airspace will be prohibited from the surface to unlimited and will remain in effect throughout launch operations.
In addition to activating the charted restricted and warning areas, the FAA has confirmed to AOPA that it will likely establish a 30-nm-radius TFR "no fly" zone around the launch pad from the surface to FL180, with a less restrictive area between 30 and 40 nm ( see graphic). No Part 91 general aviation and no VFR operations will be permitted within the 30-nm "ring," while flights in the 30-40 nm area will require communications with ATC and an assigned transponder code. This restriction will impact operations at 10 public-use airports, including:
New Smyrna Beach (EVB), Massey (X50), Sanford (SFB), Orlando Executive (ORL), Daytona Beach International (DAB), Merritt Island (COI), Space Coast Regional (TIX), Dunn (X21), Orlando International (MCO), and Melbourne International (MLB). Previous launches triggered notams establishing flight restrictions 18 and nine hours, respectively, prior to launch.
When released, the latest shuttle notam is expected to activate flight restrictions only six hours prior to launch. "The continued reduction in the lead time used for activating flight restrictions is an encouraging trend," remarked Melissa Bailey, AOPA's vice president of air traffic services. "While these TFRs restrict GA activities, we appreciate the government's sensitivity in shortening the time the restrictions are in place," said Bailey.
Should the shuttle launch be scrubbed due to weather, NASA plans to try again on Friday.
Pilots are advised to contact St. Petersburg Flight Service Station prior to operating in the vicinity of this airspace.