AOPA members responded quickly when on Friday the association declared " Enough is enough" and asked them to tell President Bush what his personal security arrangements do to pilots. Security personnel have been demanding 30-nm-radius temporary flight restrictions whenever the President leaves Washington, D.C., causing major disruptions for pilots in whatever city he visits.
One pilot from central Florida told President Bush, "The TFR prohibits flight instruction in any form for the duration of the TFR. I make a living teaching flying.... Your last two trips grounded all flight training at 40 airports in the Tampa Bay area."
"This is not about pilots being inconvenienced," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "It's about general aviation being made the whipping boy for all the security lapses that allowed the September 11 terrorist attacks. Security officials seem to think that by restricting GA aircraft—which have never been used in a terrorist attack precisely because they would be an ineffective tool—they have enhanced the President's protection."
[Let Pres. Bush know what presidential TFRs do to your flying. Write the President at: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20500.]
"I have time to write this letter because my intended flight, like all other operations at Grand Prairie, was canceled by your trip to Dallas today," wrote one Texas pilot to the President. "The Flight Service Station in Fort Worth was overwhelmed and could not even give a briefing. In fact, I couldn't even find out when the restrictions would be lifted until I got home and got on the web."
"Mr. President, I am a supporter of your Administration," wrote another member from Houston. "I think you have demonstrated courage, steady resolve, and adherence to principle that I truly believe represent the finest of America's values. But I urge you to carefully consider the impact of the policies that are intended to protect your security and the security of our Nation on the very freedom we all cherish."
"We understand that there will be flight restrictions whenever the President travels. It's written into the federal aviation regulations (FAR 91.141)," said Boyer. "We support reasonable, necessary steps to protect the President.
"But until someone makes security officials step back and take a realistic look at the threats, we're likely to keep seeing these huge restrictions, which have a significant impact on business and personal travel and cause substantial economic impact as well. We're expecting two more on Thursday when the President travels to Philadelphia and Detroit.
"AOPA will continue to work through our daily contacts with the FAA and with the Transportation Security Administration to get those restrictions eased. But individual pilots can really help us make the case by expressing their opinions and concerns," Boyer said.
At the same time, AOPA continues to collect horror stories about pilots trying to operate in the presidential TFRs or in the Baltimore-Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). One pilot told of spending $300 for an instrument rating lesson, during which the pilot and instructor were left holding on the ground or in the air for so long that they were only able to make two approaches during a two-and-a-half hour lesson.
And a student pilot lamented, "If my role models—who make it a living to demonstrate safe, prudent flying—can't avoid getting cited for violating airspace even when we all see them practicing the best behaviors, then how am I going to survive flying in this environment?"
Pilots are encouraged to use the online form to relate their experiences with the TFRs or the ADIZ.