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NASA to keep shuttle launch times secret until last momentNASA to keep shuttle launch times secret until last moment

<BR><SPAN class=twodeck>AOPA works to ensure pilots receive adequate notice</SPAN><BR><SPAN class=twodeck>AOPA works to ensure pilots receive adequate notice</SPAN>

NASA announced today that, for security reasons, it intends to keep the exact times for future shuttle launches a secret until 24 hours prior to liftoff. This has raised concerns from Florida pilots, who are most impacted by flight restrictions that accompany shuttle launch operations. In previous launches since September 11, AOPA has worked with the FAA to disseminate graphical TFRs and other flight-critical information via the Web. "Knowing the times for launches has been important for pilots flying in Florida," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government and technical affairs. "We will continue to work with NASA and the FAA to get pilots the information they need on a timely basis." The availability of launch information is not only important in minimizing the length of these restrictions, it also helps to ensure that civil pilots do not expose themselves to the threat of enforcement or military intercepts by aircraft assigned to patrol the restricted airspace. Several senior NASA managers are AOPA members and understand the impact of shuttle-related temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) on local pilots. They have pledged to AOPA that they will minimize the restrictions as much as possible, consistent with security concerns. NASA's next shuttle mission is scheduled for April 4.

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