In response to concerns from security officials, the FAA has issued a new nuclear power plant notam. Pilots are still advised not to "loiter or circle" in the vicinity of nuclear power plants, but now TSA is brandishing a stick; pilots who fly suspiciously around the power plants can expect to be interviewed by law enforcement personnel. And if law enforcement isn't convinced the pilot's flight activities were innocent, the pilot's name may be added to TSA's incident reporting system database.
The FAA issued this advisory notam rather than reinstating the 10-mile TFRs around all nuclear facilities that were put into effect for a little over a week in October 2001. Some security officials had been pushing for re-closing the airspace around some 90 nuclear facilities, affecting more than 700 public and private airports.
TSA maintains that the incident reporting system is NOT the same thing as the agency's security list, which TSA can use to revoke a pilot's certificate for being a "security threat."
"Nevertheless, the government must not use this advisory to take away pilot rights or to harass pilots who are conducting normal flight operations," said Phil Boyer, AOPA president.
TSA has assured AOPA that pilots conducting operations to or from airports close to these facilities will not be considered loitering. "However, pilots circling as to loiter in the vicinity of these facilities or using the nuclear plants for the purpose of ground reference maneuvers would certainly be questioned," a TSA official said.