The Senate Appropriations Committee thinks the FAA should provide pilots with maps of where to find restricted airspace. In its version of the FAA funding bill for fiscal year 2003, the committee is directing the FAA to provide pilots with advisory graphics of the information contained in notams (notices to airmen), including depictions of the location and size of temporary flight restriction areas (TFRs).
"Since September 11th, there has been a proliferation of security TFRs that impact pilots nationwide," said AOPA Senior Vice President Andrew V. Cebula. "The FAA's increased use of TFRs has resulted in a need to change the way this information is conveyed to pilots, and graphical depiction of the restricted airspace is a necessity."
Currently, pilots can only learn about "no-fly" areas from text-based notams that are either read to a pilot by an FAA preflight briefer or are received through the computer-based DUAT briefing system. Except for the well-known TFRs over Washington, D.C., Camp David, and Crawford ranch in Texas, there are no FAA maps available of the more than 35 security-related TFRs across the country.
AOPA noted that the current system is much like handing a businessperson the keys to a rental car in an unfamiliar city, pointing them in the general direction of travel, and wishing them luck in successfully navigating a highway system as complex as the L.A. freeways, with no map and all the street signs covered up.
The FAA is currently developing a graphical notam product for its flight service station briefers. The congressional directive would require that the graphical notams be provided to pilots as well as briefers. The committee said it believes these graphics should also be conveyed through DUAT and other sources, including the Internet.
For more than two years, AOPA has lobbied the FAA at all levels, from Administrator Jane Garvey on down, for graphical notams. The association even went to Congress to secure funding for the FAA to develop graphical notams.
AOPA has felt so strongly about the need for graphical depictions of TFRs that the association has been providing them on its Web site since November of last year. However, graphics provided by AOPA and other non-FAA organizations are not considered to be part of an "official" pilot briefing, as required by FAA regulations.