President Donald Trump was expected to resume his seasonal visits to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, soon, and the general aviation businesses at nearby Palm Beach County Park Airport were bracing for a new round of forced shutdowns when temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) go into effect in the local airspace beginning Nov. 21, as happened frequently last winter and spring.
On Nov. 18, the FAA published an updated notice to airmen containing details of a TFR that would be in effect from Nov. 21 at 5:15 p.m. to Nov. 26 at 7:30 p.m. Officials also urged the aviation community to work to help reduce TFR incursions.
For the fixed-base operator at Palm Beach County Park Airport, also known as Lantana Airport, a weekend shutdown can mean $30,000 in lost revenue, and the losses can climb to $50,000 for a long holiday weekend. Longer shutdowns would have an even more drastic impact, said Jonathan Miller, president of Stellar Aviation, Lantana Airport’s FBO.
“We’ve never dealt with a week, or two weeks. Those could be several hundred thousand dollars,” he said.
Security officials have continued to discuss TFR operations with local businesses since Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago under VIP security procedures began in December 2016, but “at Lantana, nothing has changed. We will be closed for the duration of any of the visits,” Miller said.
AOPA has urged security agencies to consider permitting an approved program for pilot vetting and security screening at Lantana Airport, modeled on methods in effect for the so-called Maryland Three airports near Washington, D.C., said Nobuyo Sakata, AOPA director of aviation security.
Miller also has raised the issue with officials, and he believes that a vetting-and-screening system could provide relief, and access, at Lantana during TFRs.
The plight of businesses affected by TFRs has been a focus of local news media coverage, with a newspaper reporting that last May Congress passed legislation providing some reimbursement for increased costs incurred by local governments in places where Trump has residences, but private-sector operators have been granted no relief.
Long term, Palm Beach County is examining the cost of taking on upgrade projects that would be required for nontowered Lantana Airport to satisfy security criteria and allow some activity during TFRs, Miller said.
Miller said he has focused on cost containment, including negotiating lease terms for his business operations that ensure that he does not have to make "significant investments" until the TFR issues are resolved.
“But that doesn’t help my cash flow,” he said.
In the message notifying users about the TFR planned for the Thanksgiving holiday period, the air traffic control manager at Palm Beach International Airport also noted that “It is time to ensure notams are read before flight,” and he urged pilots to work to reduce incursions from the 51 TFR violations that previously occurred in the airspace.