While East Coast travelers faced challenging conditions in the air and on the ground leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, AOPA and the FAA worked quickly to ease a travel concern that cropped up for general aviation pilots planning to fly to Nantucket Memorial Airport in Massachusetts.
Vice President Joe Biden stayed in Nantucket for several days during the holiday, and the 3-nautical-mile radius, 2,999-foot-high temporary flight restriction that follows him threatened to shut down the airport to all traffic except IFR arrivals and departures and emergency services. This created problems for VFR-only pilots, including pilots who were not instrument current but had planned to fly in to the airport sometime over the holiday.
AOPA was alerted to the situation late on Nov. 28 and quickly reached out to the FAA to have the notam amended to permit VFR arrivals and departures that were squawking discrete transponder codes and in two-way communication with air traffic control.
“The FAA responded immediately and changed the notam within two hours,” said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of operations and international affairs. “We appreciated how quickly the FAA worked to resolve this problem after hours on a holiday weekend.”
Because of the TFR’s small size, it has rarely impacted airports. However, AOPA is working with the FAA to have the VFR “squawk and talk” procedures added to the notam going forward.
“We were pleased to be able to serve our members so quickly during the busy travel holiday,” Spence said. “Our mission remains keeping airspace open and accessible to pilots. While we understand the importance of security measures for the president and vice president, we want to ensure a practical process for pilots to continue to have access to airspace and airports through procedures such as squawking a transponder code and talking to ATC.”