Target of interest. It sounds so sterile, almost clinical. But if you become one, we can guarantee it will get your heart thumping, your adrenaline flowing, and earn you an up-close and personal view of some military hardware and/or an interview with a federal agent. So how do you avoid becoming a target of interest? Be very aware of the temporary flight restriction (TFR) area surrounding Boston next week during the run of the Democratic National Convention (July 26-30). And know that if you get within about 35 nautical miles of Boston's Logan airport (BOS) flying anything other than straight and level, you may become a target of interest.
Because of the security concerns surrounding the convention, a 30-nm-radius TFR, centered on the BOS vortac, will be in force during the convention. (The TFR extends beyond the Class B airspace.) Logan airport will be off-limits to general aviation, as will the airspace for 10 nm around BOS. Within the area 20 to 30 nm from BOS, you must file and activate a flight plan, be in communication with air traffic control, and have a discrete transponder code. And leave the transponder code dialed in every moment you're operating within the TFR. Do not switch to 1200 just because ATC has released you over to the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) or unicom.
You may only fly directly to and from airports within the TFR. No maneuvering, no traffic pattern operations, no sightseeing. You'll become a target of interest if you do. In fact, any kind of maneuvering just outside the TFR may well brand you as a target of interest. Get at least 35 nm away from BOS before practicing your turns around a point.
Boston-area pilots also may be having some friendly chats with TSA airport security inspectors (ASIs) at their home airports. The ASIs just want to make sure everyone understands the TFR notam and the proper procedures for operating within the TFR. They'll also be asking pilots to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.
Meanwhile, during a conference call with TSA, FAA, AOPA, and Boston-area airport managers, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has once again asked us to remind you of the procedures they use to communicate with an "aircraft of unknown intentions." If a military fighter fires a flare near you, it means, "Pay attention! Contact ATC on the local frequency or 121.5. Follow the interceptor's visual ICAO signals." (The AOPA Air Safety Foundation has a handy reference card listing the ICAO intercept signals.) "Non-compliance may result in the use of force," NORAD says.
IFR pilots should note that they'll need a slot reservation for instrument arrivals at Hanscom Field (BED), Beverly Municipal (BVY), Lawrence Municipal (LWM), and Norwood Memorial (OWD) airports. (See the FAA's Special Traffic Management Program.)
And finally, take a moment to review AOPA's Airport Watch program. There are concerns that terrorists may attempt to disrupt the national conventions, so pilots are asked again to be alert for - and report to the toll-free hotline (866/GA-SECUR[E]) - any suspicious activity.
Oh, and fly carefully and have fun.
July 21, 2004