In the bizarre new world of innumerable temporary flight restrictions (TFRs), the FAA determined that a law requiring TFRs over major league games meant that the agency couldn't issue a waiver for the Cleveland National Air Show Friday night because the Cleveland Indians will be playing nearby.
"Ridiculous," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, and the association rolled out its heavy artillery at the FAA, TSA, and on Capitol Hill to try to get the decision changed.
In the end, the FAA said the military acts could fly during the ball game but not the civilians. At the last minute, show organizers had to change the schedule for Friday night's performance, ensuring that civilian acts would be back on the ground before the TFR for the game takes effect.
But, organizer say, this may be the last year for the 40-year-old air show if the interpretation of the law preventing operations near a major league stadium during a game remains unchanged.
"This situation is absurd," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We're applied pressure at every possible point to change this decision."
At issue is Public Law 108-7, enacted at the insistence of Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and the Division 1 schools of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Ironically, the law, which prohibits flight within 3 nm miles of a major league baseball, NFL, or major NCAA game, was couched as a "security" measure, but it also prevents banner towers from flying advertisements above sports stadiums. (See " AOPA fights so that Cleveland Air Show can go on.")
AOPA's Capitol Hill staff worked with members of the Ohio delegation, providing them with information and briefing points. And those Ohio representatives have used that information in their contacts with the highest levels of the FAA, TSA, and the Department of Transportation.
Ohio's delegation includes Republican Sen. George Voinovich, the former Ohio governor and mayor of Cleveland from 1979 to 1988. Yet even with Ohio being one of the key states to the outcome of the Presidential election, federal officials in the Bush administration are standing firm on their interpretation of the law.
So on Thursday, air show organizers decided that the civilian acts would fly before the start of the baseball game, the military demonstrations would fly after 6 p.m., and ticket holders to any of the shows over the Labor Day weekend could get into Friday night's performance free.
But Cleveland National Air Show organizers say this may be the last year for the 40-year-old air show if the law preventing operations near a major league stadium during a game remains unchanged.
"This air show has a history going back to 1929 and has been a very popular Cleveland event for the past 40 years," said Boyer. "It would be a real shame if it were to die because of an overly restrictive interpretation of the law."
Update: September 2, 2004