The FAA has issued large temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) over New Year's Eve celebrations in New York City and Las Vegas, Nevada.
"Security-related TFRs usually single out general aviation aircraft, which have never been used in a terrorist attack," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "The restrictions are an additional burden for pilots to carry. AOPA believes they should only be issued based on credible threats—not on a political need to be seen taking strong measures."
The FAA published large TFRs for New York—one covering the footprint of the Class B airspace, from the surface to FL180, with a requirement that all aircraft squawk a discrete beacon code and maintain two-way communications with ATC. There will also be a 5-nm-radius no-fly zone over midtown Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, from the surface to FL180. The TFRs will be in effect from 6 p.m. local New Year's Eve until 2 a.m. local New Year's Day.
The agency also issued the Las Vegas TFR with a 20-nm radius centered on the LAS VOR and a southeast extension over Hoover Dam, with a squawk-and-talk requirement. There will also be a 10-nm-radius no-fly zone centered on the LAS VOR. The Las Vegas TFR will be in effect from 8 p.m. local until 3 a.m. local on New Year's Eve.
In both New York and Las Vegas, air carrier operations are not restricted from operating in the no-fly zones.
General aviation has taken a number of proactive steps to increase GA security. AOPA created Airport Watch to use the eyes and ears of pilots throughout the country to watch for and report suspicious activities at local airports. The program was developed in consultation with the Transportation Security Administration, which provided a toll-free nationwide number (866/GA-SECURE or 866/427-3287) for pilots to report their suspicions.
AOPA also posts security-related TFR notams on AOPA Online and sends ePilot airspace alerts to ePilot and ePilot Flight Training subscribers in the vicinity of the restricted area.
At AOPA's suggestion, the FAA now requires all pilots to carry a government-issued photo ID as well as their pilot certificates.
Immediately following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the General Aviation Coalition, of which AOPA is part, issued a list of a dozen ways to improve security. Most have been adopted by the government, either as rules or best-practice guidelines.
"AOPA and all GA pilots understand the need to maintain national security in the face of credible threats," said Boyer. "But ever since the airlines were allowed back in the air after the attacks, GA has been the scapegoat—the victim of unfounded fears.
"That's why AOPA members funded GA Serving America, a Web site dedicated to educating government leaders, policy makers, and the general public about what GA is and everything it does to improve everyday life," Boyer continued. "We've got to help decision makers better understand GA if we want to see realistic regulation of the nation's airspace."