Pilots, do you know where the President is? You'd better. While AOPA has fought it vigorously, the new norm is now for a 30-nm-radius temporary flight restriction (TFR) around President Bush wherever he alights during his travels. It happened Wednesday in Chicago and will happen twice on Thursday in New Britain, Conn., and Kennebunkport, Maine. (AOPA has added special " Presidential Movement TFR" links on its "notams and TFRs" Web page.)
"AOPA will continue to argue against these huge TFRs," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Absent a specific and credible threat, we see absolutely no justification for expanding beyond the 10-nm radius that has adequately protected the president since 9/11."
In fact, AOPA will make that case once again next week when Boyer meets with Deputy Secretary of the Homeland Security Department Gordon Englander.
"For the time being, security officials are winning the argument," Boyer continued. "Because, let's face it, the job of the people protecting the President is to ignore everything else and do whatever they believe is necessary for his safety. But that doesn't mean we give up. AOPA will keep trying to convince them that 30 nm goes beyond what is necessary."
Boyer recently wrote directly to HSD Secretary Tom Ridge, warning of the severe economic impact such large TFRs would have.
"Security officials, who have shown little interest in understanding the general aviation flight environment, are pushing for this increase (and in fact have been pushing for it for over a year) simply because they want it, without any justification or even support from the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration," Boyer wrote.
Boyer has also written to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey regarding the large presidential movement TFRs. "The most troubling question is why does the security community feel such restrictions are needed? I urge you to take action to educate the Secret Service about the effects that TFRs have on aviation."
But AOPA has done more than complain. In a letter to Steve Brown, head of the FAA's Air Traffic Service, AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula offered a two-pronged approach to reduce the size of presidential-movement TFRs.
"First, the FAA must work with security officials to reduce the size and scope of presidential and other security TFRs," wrote Cebula. "Second, the FAA must improve communication of the TFRs to local pilots."
On Capitol Hill, when it appeared that the restrictions around Camp David would be pushed out to 30 nm, AOPA enlisted the aid of Maryland's senators and two representatives. Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), and Reps. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) wrote letters to HSD Secretary Ridge, questioning the proposal.
"The people who protect the President have a critical, thankless job to do," concluded Boyer. "But they must be made to understand that their security decisions can disrupt the national transportation system and have serious negative economic impacts on thousands of law-abiding American pilots."