The FAA has issued a notam establishing a small temporary flight restriction area (TFR) over downtown Chicago. The notam becomes effective at 11 a.m. Saturday. The TFR is the same as the TFR issued briefly in January last year, covering the downtown area but permitting normal flight operations along the lakefront and around Meigs Field airport. This approach was sought by AOPA once it was clear that political pressure would be successful in obtaining the TFR. Both the FAA and TSA have made clear that there is no "credible threat" from the air to downtown Chicago.
AOPA has sent a special ePilot alert to Chicago-area pilots on the notam. ePilot alerts are e-mailed to pilots whenever there is a change in airspace restrictions. To receive alerts for your area, sign up at www.aopa.org/alert/.
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley had been demanding that Chicago get the "the same thing as Mickey and Minnie," referring to the TFRs over Disney World and Disneyland issued earlier this week when the threat level was increased to high. He had been turned down by the FAA, but he pushed the demand up to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. The Illinois governor and many members of the Illinois congressional delegation fell in behind Daley.
AOPA President Phil Boyer has sent letters to Daley and other politicians seeking airspace restrictions, suggesting that they be careful about what they ask for.
"In the absence of a credible threat, it is inappropriate for the federal government to institute arbitrary airspace restrictions or allow the closing of vital general aviation airports," Boyer wrote. "You should consider the negative effects of media attention that is generated by airspace restrictions put in place during this time of war and heightened concerns over terrorist threats.
"Tourist and business travelers will interpret the restrictions to mean that there is an imminent threat of a terrorist act and will cancel plans to visit your city. For example, after a restriction was put into place for Orlando, Florida-based Walt Disney World, an Associated Press story states that, 'Not everyone is convinced Disney World is safe.'"