With the opening ceremony only 23 days away, the FAA has published its Olympic Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) establishing a 45-nm area of restricted airspace around Salt Lake City Airport (SLC) beginning on February 8. That SFRA was first published in December and then inexplicably withdrawn. Only aircraft operations accredited by the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command that have complied with the security programs set forth in the SFRA and are under positive air traffic control may operate in the Olympic ring airspace. Transient aircraft must clear a security check at one of four "gateway" airports that are more than 180 miles distant from SLC.
AOPA pushed hard for procedures to accommodate the needs of local pilots but has been unsuccessful so far.
"While AOPA understands the need for security at the Olympics, we are disappointed that security officials ignored AOPA's recommendations to allow local operations in a manner that did not jeopardize security," said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
AOPA continues its work with congressional representatives in hopes of securing a last-minute change to the gateway airport provision.
The SFRA establishes:
Despite efforts by AOPA to include Provo as a general aviation gateway airport to accommodate local general aviation aircraft operations, no new airports were added since the publication of the December 27 edition of the Notices to Airmen. This makes it very difficult for smaller general aviation aircraft to comply with the security requirement, because approved airports are so far away. The closest airport is over 187 nm away in Grand Junction, Colorado.
AOPA also advocated for VFR routes through the 45-nm Olympic ring airspace to allow local operators access, while meeting the needs of the Secret Service to separate traffic from the Olympic venues. However, after much deliberation between the FAA, UOPSC, and security officials, the restrictions did not provide for any such activities.
Barring any changes, the Olympic ring SFRA will begin on February 8, 2002, and continue through February 24, 2002. Pilots are reminded to check notams carefully before flying and visit AOPA's Web site for the latest information on the Olympic restrictions.