AOPA on Wednesday told FAA Administrator Marion Blakey that she needs to fix the problem of late notice for presidential-movement temporary flight restrictions (TFRs).
In a letter to Blakey, AOPA President Phil Boyer expressed the frustration of general aviation pilots, saying, " Less than 12 hours advance notice has become the norm, and the problem is growing increasingly worse with each passing week." Boyer said AOPA understands the nightmare of coordinating with all the various security organizations but then stressed, "The FAA has a responsibility as the regulator of aviation to press for a more timely release of this TFR information, and then to execute its rapid release once all the agencies have agreed."
Boyer called the late notification especially troubling, because AOPA has been able to determine the President's travel plans days in advance through publicly available information.
"A perfect example is Friday, July 18, when AOPA learned that the President was planning to be in the Philadelphia and Detroit areas the following Thursday (almost a full week in advance)," Boyer wrote. "However, at the normal close of business on Wednesday, July 23, the FAA had NOT published the flight restrictions for the very next morning, in areas of heavy general aviation operations."
Boyer noted that heightened security and stricter enforcement of flight restrictions since the September 11 terrorist attacks have forced AOPA to change the way it does business, having staff on call 24 hours every day to post the latest information available on AOPA Online, and notify pilots in the vicinity of a newly imposed TFR via e-mail. But he said he sees no such commitment from the FAA.
"What steps has the FAA taken to respond to the post-9/11 flight environment and the necessity of providing timely information to pilots?" Boyer wrote. "We have not seen any significant changes with regard to staffing levels, or the establishment of a 24/7 regime like ours, with regard to the dissemination of notams. AOPA has an expectation that the FAA should work just as hard as industry to provide adequate advance notice by publishing important TFR notams with more than 12 hours lead time."
"I can assure you America's general aviation pilots do not want to violate presidential TFRs," concluded Boyer, "but with last-minute notification, they are not given a fighting chance!"