AOPA member comments to President Bush have made it crystal clear that last-minute distribution of presidential TFRs in California last week created serious problems for them. Within a week of urging pilots to write Bush, AOPA had received more than 100 copies of letters sent to the White House.
AOPA continues to battle with the federal government over timely dissemination of notams establishing TFRs because pilots need lead time to plan around the closed airspace. The impact on pilots outside and inside the Golden State was enormous based upon this sampling of the letters and operational-difficulty reports requested by AOPA. All the respondents voiced support for necessary security measures, but the government's inability to work with conscientious pilots drew their ire.
"If you are not planning to bar every (rental) truck from entering the cities you visit, then please don't ban general aviation either," said a retired naval officer who flies clients for business and rents helicopters for aerial photography. His livelihood "was effectively shut down because of the excessive bureaucratic blunderings of several federal departments." He complained about being grounded at San Diego's Montgomery Field while weather conditions "were near perfect...to conduct my aerial photography. Notams that restrained my business were not issued until hours before they were put into effect, making it impossible to make other plans."
An aerobatic pilot told the White House, "This is insane. The radius of the TFR is ridiculous. My practice area between the small towns of Santa Paula and Fillmore will have absolutely no effect on the president's visit, despite the fact that I might be grounded from flying even locally for the next two days. Even the TFR around Bush's ranch (in Texas) when he is not there is completely uncalled for; isn't this obvious by the number of incursions by people passing through? Stop blaming general aviation for perceived problems and go about fixing the real problems."
A business-jet pilot wrote in an operational-difficulty report that "no notam existed on DUATs for closure to GA aircraft. We were notified a few hundred miles out of SNA (John Wayne Airport-Orange County Airport) that a presidential TFR existed to expire at 1415Z." The pilot slowed the aircraft to delay arrival after that time, but the TFR was extended 45 minutes. The jet had to land at Long Beach first, then hop over to SNA. Apparently the notam was issued only locally, the report said. "The FBOs had been notified the night before about the closure; however, the notam never appeared on DUATs. We double checked DUATs after landing at Long Beach."
A San Diego pastor wrote Bush upon learning that parameters of a TFR set for that date had not been announced. "How can we plan our flights without prior and proper notification and without reasonable and workable TFR solutions?" he wrote. "I had to fly an emergency trip to Central California (in June) to pick up a church family that had been in a serious car accident." A presidential TFR for a Bush visit to Los Angeles "made that a difficult trip," he said.
"It is no secret that you are visiting us...so why can't the TFRs be announced in a timely manner?" asked a retired Air Force major and active GA pilot. "It is unreasonable for a pilot to check notams the night before and then go fly in the morning to find that his license is in danger because he flew through a TFR. There is no reason to keep a TFR secret!" he wrote.
A San Diego pilot's letter said, "My concern is that as of 5 p.m. Washington, D.C., time today, the FAA had not yet formally issued the notams detailing the TFRs. I think that is an inconvenience to me...that could be mitigated by your office."
Excerpts from other respondents include, "I will consider voting next time for someone that is more responsive to the flying public's needs," "When the president comes to town, I lose $27,500 in gross income, or 5 percent of my yearly gross," "If we give up freedom for safety, we deserve neither," and "The unimpeded conduct of air travel and commerce is also of serious import to the economic welfare of the nation."
AOPA urges pilots to keep the pressure on with more letters or faxes, which carry more weight than e-mails. Write The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20500 or send a fax to 202/456-2461. Please copy AOPA at [email protected].
Operational problems encountered in a TFR or ADIZ should be reported online.