TFR a painful break for California aviation companyTFR a painful break for California aviation company

General aviation flying around Palm Springs, California, will come to an abrupt halt for four days starting Feb. 12 when a temporary flight restriction (TFR) takes effect during a presidential visit to the area.

From the student training that’s usually a sure thing in the area’s perennial VFR weather, to sweethearts hiring a pilot to fly them above the desert at sunset on Valentine’s Day, the phone usually rings off the hook in February at Desert West Aviation, based at Bermuda Dunes Airport

But only heartache awaits this year because flights will be grounded from Feb. 12 to 16 during the effective period of the TFR, said David Shapiro, owner of the flight school and aircraft rental business.

“That’s a lot of hours that we have to sit on the ground and not make money,” he said. “Usually it is a big weekend for us.”

A particularly harsh burden falls on his contract pilots. They don’t make money when they don’t fly.

“It’s not fair to them,” he said.

The FAA has ordered the TFR for a portion of a wide-ranging trip to California by President Barack Obama during which he will visit Palm Springs and hold a two-day summit at Rancho Mirage with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. 

The TFR, FDC 6/2180, will prohibit most flight from the surface to 17,999 feel msl in two affected areas and at times noted in the TFR text.

Shapiro said he expects to lose roughly 50 revenue hours on his three-aircraft rental fleet during the TFR. About 20 customers of his flight school will be relegated to ground school projects—but the financial impact won’t end there.

The usual comings and goings of bizjets and other aircraft won’t happen, putting a big dent in the fuel sales that are a fixed-base operator’s lifeblood. Locally, demand for hotel rooms and auto rentals usually generated by airport activity will sag over the long weekend.

“It’s aggravating,” said Shapiro, a former movie-industry executive who became a pilot around age 50 and moved to the desert where the quality of life was more to his liking, and where running an aviation business filled a void that early retirement had created.

AOPA works with security and aviation authorities to reduce the impact of flight restrictions on general aviation, and reminds pilots that their compliance with TFR requirements—assured by checking notams frequently—helps accomplish that purpose.

AOPA has notified pilots in a TFR Alert that Bermuda Dunes is one of several airports affected by the Palm Springs TFR; the others are Palm Springs International Airport, Jacqueline Cochran Regional AirportYucca Valley AirportRoy Williams Airport, and Banning Municipal Airport

Shapiro said he considered repositioning his aircraft to an airport outside the TFR for four days, but wasn’t comfortable with staging his flights from a remote location. Instead he’ll focus on preventive maintenance and other “work around the office” and he’ll try not to think about the revenue that—at about $190 an hour for an aircraft and pilot—won’t be coming in between Feb. 12 and 16.

“I just suck it up,” he said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Aviation Writer
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.
Topics: Advocacy, Airspace

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