No matter where you fly, security-related procedures and requirements are a fact of life for today’s pilots. Although the FAA works closely with the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to balance security requirements with the needs of the flying public, temporary flight restrictions (TFR) abound in the modern aviation environment. The upcoming presidential campaign season means that all pilots-especially those accustomed to operating under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) in Class E and Class G airspace – need to be especially alert to the existence of TFRs, including “rolling TFRs” that follow presidential and vice presidential candidates around the country. As a refresher, this article reviews the taxonomy of TFRs and provides information on where to look for up-to-date information on these restrictions.
TFR Basics. A temporary flight restriction is a regulatory action that temporarily restricts certain aircraft from operating within a defined area in order to ground. TFRs are issued via the Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) system, and specifically by means of a Flight Data Center (FDC) NOTAM. The regulations define several different types of TFRs, but one thing is common to them all: since TFRs are, by definition, “temporary” in nature, it is extremely important to check the FDC NOTAMs before every flight you make – even those in your home airspace.
Presidential TFRs. With the presidential campaign underway, chances are good that you will, at some point, be affected by TFRs issued under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) section 91.141, “Flight restrictions in the proximity of the presidential and other parties.” This rule, which is also used to establish TFRs for the protection of presidential candidates, states that, “No person may operate an aircraft over or in the vicinity of any area to be visited or traveled by the President, the Vice President, or other public figures contrary to the restrictions established by the Administrator and published in a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM).” Not surprisingly, violation of a TFR issued under this regulation could lead to adverse consequences. TFRs for cities hosting the national political party conventions are issued under 14 CFR section 99.7, which covers Special Security Instructions.
Special Event TFRs. Several different regulations permit the FAA to establish temporary flight restrictions for a variety of special events.
Air Shows and Sporting Events: For aircraft operations in the vicinity of aerial demonstrations and major sporting events, 14 CFR section 91.145 lets the FAA establish TFRs to protect persons or property on the ground or in the air, to maintain air safety and efficiency, or to prevent the unsafe congestion of aircraft in the vicinity of an aerial demonstration or sporting event. In practice, TFRs issued under 14 CFR section 91.145 are issued primarily for air shows. The FAA determines when a 91.145 TFR should be issued for a sporting event on a case-by-case basis.
Stadiums: FDC NOTAM 3/1862, issued under 14 CFR section 99.7 on Special Security Instructions, restricts flight over stadiums during major league baseball, National Football League (NFL), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and motor sport events. The so-called “stadium TFR” prohibits all aircraft and parachute operations at or below 3,000 feet above ground level (AGL) within a three nautical mile (n.m.) radius of any stadium with a seating capacity of 30,000 or more people where an event is occurring. This TFR applies to the entire U.S. domestic national airspace system, and takes effect from one hour before the scheduled event time until one hour after the event ends.
Disaster/Hazard Areas: The FAA has authority under 14 CFR section 91.137 to restrict aircraft operation in designated areas, unless they are participating in disaster/hazard relief efforts. The three types of TFRs issued under this regulation serve to:
- Protect persons or property on the surface or in the air from a hazard associated with an incident on the surface [14 CFR section 91.137(a)(1)].
- Provide a safe environment for the operation of disaster relief aircraft [14 CFR section 91.137(a)(2)].
- Prevent an unsafe congestion of sightseeing or other aircraft above an incident or event which may generate a high degree of public interest [14 CFR section 91.137(a)(3)].
Space Flight: The FAA has authority under 14 CFR section 91.143 to issue FDC NOTAMs restricting flight in areas designated for space flight operations.
Before Every Flight. An official weather briefing from Lockheed Martin Flight Service (FSS) or one of the direct user access terminal (DUAT) vendors, DTC DUAT or CSC DUATS, is the best way to ensure that you get the most up-to-date information on TFRs that may affect your route of flight. You can also get graphical TFR information from the FAA’s Web site . This site allows you to select the TFR information you need by scrolling through a list that includes the FDC NOTAM numbers. Alternatively, you can sort TFR data by date, state, or issuing air route traffic control center (ARTCC). As the name implies, the graphical TFR site also provides a graphical map of the affected area.
For detailed information on each type of regulatory TFR, you may want to review FAA
Advisory Circular (AC) 91-63C, which includes recent changes to 14 CFR part 91. Finally, consider taking one of the many online training courses on airspace. Through the FAASafety.gov course catalog, the FAASafety Team (FAASTeam) offers compact online courses that address TFRs and special use airspace, as well as a specific course on the Washington DC Air Defense Identification Zone (DC ADIZ). The AOPA Air Safety Foundation also offers several free online courses covering these topics.
Preflight preparation is important for every flight, so remember to check for, and carefully review, any FDC NOTAMs that establish a TFR before attempting to fly in, or in the vicinity of, such restrictions. (FAA Aviation News – SepOct 2008)