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Criminal penalties for TFR busts?

By Alyssa J. Miller

Any rogue pilot who repeatedly violates temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) could threaten hundreds of thousands of law-abiding pilots who might inadvertently fly into a TFR. But AOPA is working to protect pilots who fly by the rules.

The FAA has added new language to its TFR notams, telling pilots that they could face criminal penalties for violating the airspace: "Any person who knowingly or willfully violates the rules concerning operations in this airspace is subject to certain criminal penalties under 49 USC 46307."

The FAA has always had the ability to assess these types of charges, but it has never stated it so bluntly.

AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote the FAA on Oct. 12 to ensure that pilots who inadvertently violate TFRs won't be subject to criminal charges or hefty civil penalties.

"Security-related flight restrictions can occur virtually anywhere in the country with little advance notice. It is not uncommon that the average pilot has to pick through pages and pages of irrelevant and unrelated notams to find these important airspace restrictions," Boyer wrote to acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell.

AOPA has done its part in providing members with advance notice via e-mail messages, graphical depictions of the TFRs, and real-time updates on AOPA Online. AOPA's e-mail notifications have proven to be a valuable resource to pilots who are truly trying to fly by the rules in today's complex airspace.

"We work to prevent unnecessary TFRs. The ones that are in place are intended to protect national security," Boyer said. "We must do our part to abide by these rules—no excuses, no exceptions."

October 16, 2007

Alyssa J. Miller

Alyssa J. Miller

AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor
AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Miller has worked at AOPA since 2004 and is an active flight instructor.

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