AOPA's two-year-long struggle to have the FAA make official, valid graphical depictions of temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) available to pilots will finally bear fruit on Sunday, June 15, 2003. The FAA will launch its graphical TFR Web site, giving pilots for the first time government-issued information that shows what airspace is restricted. Ironically, pilots now will have a better TFR picture than most flight service station briefers because of equipment limitations.
"FAA Administrator Marion Blakey stood before hundreds of pilots at AOPA Expo last October and said, 'You need a good picture; you're going to get it,'" said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "But she was brand-new on the job then and didn't know how long it would take to draw that picture."
"We've been working on this for over two years, since well before the September 11 terrorist attacks," Boyer said. "The attacks and subsequent national security flight restrictions just made the need all the more apparent.
"It's taken pressure from AOPA, Administrator Blakey, her predecessor Jane Garvey, two congressional mandates, and an investigation by the Department of Transportation's inspector general, but pilots finally have a twenty-first-century tool that can really help them stay out of restricted airspace," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government and technical affairs.
AOPA had lobbied Congress for language directing the FAA to provide graphical TFRs and had raised the issue in meetings with Kenneth Mead, DOT inspector general.
AOPA felt so strongly about the need for graphical TFRs that the association has worked with Jeppesen to provide them on its Web site since November 2001. However, AOPA felt the issuance of graphical TFRs, like other notams, is a function that should be performed by the FAA. Not only does it have the resources to provide the widest dissemination, but as the issuing agency, the FAA is also the final authority as to the accuracy and content of any such graphic.
To its credit, the FAA has made an effort to provide graphical depictions of what they termed "special interest" notams, such as presidential movement or national security restrictions. But those were not always available in the timeliest manner and represented only a handful of the restrictions pilots need to be aware of.
AOPA lobbied long and hard for the graphical TFR program to provide the graphics in near-real time and to make all flight restriction types—firefighting, national security, presidential movement, aerial demonstrations, sporting events, national disaster areas, and space flight operations—available in a graphical format via the Internet.
The FAA is working to correct the deficiency that prevents many flight service station (AFSS) personnel from seeing the same information available to pilots. Having graphical TFRs available to all flight service stations will address a longstanding problem of disseminating clear and accurate TFR notams during preflight briefings.
With nearly 400,000 members, AOPA is the world's largest civil aviation organization, working to protect the interests of general aviation. Nearly two thirds of all U.S. pilots are members of AOPA.