There won't be any temporary flight restrictions over Sen. John Kerry's campaign stops. That's because he hasn't asked for them so far.
"On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of pilots who rely on predictable access to airspace for their flight activities, I want to personally thank you for your common-sense approach to security in not requesting airspace restrictions for your campaign travels," AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote in an August 2 letter to Kerry.
As the official Democratic nominee for President, Kerry receives Secret Service protection. He is also entitled to request TFRs over his travel routes and campaign stops. He has not done so. (In the case of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, it is the Secret Service that asks the FAA for TFRs.)
"Any time pilots get together, the subject of the flight restrictions is a regular topic of frustration," Boyer said, "especially for those in politically high-profile states that have been the sites of numerous Presidential visits.
"They question why they, as pilots, are being considered a threat, arguing that these large restricted areas are not necessary and do not enhance security," Boyer said in the letter to Kerry.
Ground-based security measures are the most effective way to ensure the safety of candidates, their staff, and citizens, AOPA said.
The last-minute TFRs can also create a trap for innocent pilots. That's because the FAA cannot always provide TFR notams far enough in advance to be included in pilots' planning, leading pilots to inadvertently violate airspace restrictions.
"As a pilot, you must realize what a major disruption these 'pop-up' flight restrictions cause for air commerce," Boyer told Kerry. "This has been especially true in the case of bus tours where the airspace restrictions travel along the route of the tour, requiring pilots to carry not only an aeronautical chart, but also a road map!"
Last July, AOPA urged members to let the White House know how TFRs affect their ability to use their aircraft for personal and business transportation. Despite an outpouring of response, the Secret Service continues to demand large and complex TFRs for President Bush's travel. (See " Enough is enough!" and " White House hears from AOPA members on Presidential TFRs.") The week of the Democratic National Convention alone (which itself brought a 60-nm-diameter TFR around Boston) saw 20 TFRs for President Bush and Vice President Cheney. The TFRs caused major disruptions to air traffic.
"We all understand that the terrorist threat is real. We must take appropriate security measures to protect our leaders and our democratic process," said Boyer. "But we should also remember the words of Benjamin Franklin; 'They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.'"
August 3, 2004