Nearly nine years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the large presidential temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) that were created as a result, a new way of protecting the president while allowing general aviation operations in the same area may be on the horizon.
The recent TFR over Martha’s Vineyard for President Barack Obama’s vacation created a gateway airport system and security screening models that allowed GA pilots to operate within the 30-nautical-mile ring and the inner 10-nm-radius no-fly zone. In order to operate within the no-fly zone, pilots had to request a waiver online from the FAA at least 72 hours in advance of their flight and submit to TSA screenings at designated gateway airports. Previously, all operations at airports within the inner 10-nm ring of a presidential TFR were grounded.
“Pilots proved that this systems works and that the FAA does not need to ground GA operations when the president travels,” said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “Our ultimate goal is to eliminate these TFRs. Even though the Martha’s Vineyard TFR model still required pilots to jump through several hoops, it is a step in the right direction.”
However, the mistakes of a few could threaten the progress, according to Spence.
“A few careless TFR violations occurred during the week, and that’s just not acceptable,” Spence said. “Pilots must check notams and do their part to comply with TFRs so that it does not hurt the industry’s efforts to demonstrate that the airspace should remain open.”
AOPA had suggested numerous alternatives to the standard presidential TFR, including the gateway system that was ultimately used at Martha’s Vineyard. The association collected feedback from pilots who requested waivers and used the gateway airports, and will share that information with the Obama administration and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.