By AOPA ePublishing staff
If you inadvertently run into a temporary flight restriction (TFR), you could still be escorted from the area by a military aircraft and face FAA certificate action, but you won’t face criminal penalties.
Because of a change in wording in security notams, AOPA had feared that the FAA would seek criminal penalties against anyone who violated a TFR—even if the incursion was accidental—and called on the FAA to clarify its intentions.
FAA Acting Administrator Bobby Sturgell has set the record straight.
In a Nov. 26 letter to AOPA President Phil Boyer, Sturgell wrote, “I want to reassure you that pilots who commit inadvertent violations of TFRs protecting security airspace are not subject to criminal charges and fines under 49 U.S.C. 46307. The FAA will refer to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution only TFR violations of National Defense Airspace that involve Knowing or willful conduct.”
Sturgell explained that enforcement actions for unintentional TFR incursions have not changed much since 2002 and that criminal penalties have always been a possibility for those who knowingly or willfully violate a TFR.
“Pilots who perform detailed preflights and check notams multiple times before they take off can still be caught by a last-minute pop-up TFR along their route,” said Boyer. “We’re pleased that the FAA won’t seek criminal penalties against these pilots.”
December 4, 2007