Temporary Flight Restrictions and NOTAMS
As seen in the January 2017 issue of Model Aviation.
By now, most readers have heard the term TFR, and perhaps even been affected by one. A Temporary Flight Restriction is a type of NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) issued by the FAA that defines an area with restricted air travel because of a hazardous condition, a special event, or a general warning for the entire airspace.
In the past, TFRs were primarily used to restrict air traffic above extraordinary ground-based situations to protect the individuals involved and to facilitate the ingress and egress of aircraft working the situation. Typically, TFRs are used to facilitate firefighting efforts, law-enforcement situations, and rescue operations during natural disasters. At times they are used during large spectator events and open-air assemblies such as air shows and sporting events. They are also used during serious mishaps such as airplane crashes and most recently, wildfires.
Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, TFRs have been increasingly used for security purposes to thwart potential terrorist activity. They are now being used to protect VIP travel around the country, high-profile international events such as the Olympics, political conventions, and NASA activities such as space shuttle operations at the Kennedy Space Center.
Model aviation has not always been significantly affected by TFRs; however, in the post-September 11 era, model airplanes have come under much closer scrutiny and the performance capabilities of the current aeromodeling technology has heightened the perceived threat attributed to model aircraft.
TFRs come in all shapes and sizes, and fortunately, model aviation is only affected by those with the most stringent restrictions. TFRs affecting model airplanes were first issued in 2004, as part of the security measures put in place for the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.
Since that time, hundreds of TFRs have been issued restricting model airplane operations in locations across the country. TFRs are usually in effect for anywhere from a few hours to a few days; however, some have restricted model aircraft activities for several weeks.
TFRs that have an impact on aeromodeling typically involve a 32-nautical-mile circle around a given set of coordinates. The circle establishes an area in which model airplane operations are prohibited during the specified times of the TFR. The prohibition of model airplane operations is specifically stated in the TFR in a paragraph restricting all sport aviation groups: “Outdoor radio control model aircraft operations are prohibited within the **nm circle for the specific times listed below. Control Line and Free Flight modelers should use discretion when operating within the TFR.”
From a security standpoint, the concept is to create a “sterile” area in which all nonessential air traffic is grounded and in which only those aircraft that are under positive air traffic control are allowed to fly. As such, anything else that pops up is immediately considered suspect.
The AMA is committed to keeping its members informed and is doing everything possible to get TFR information out to the membership in a timely manner. The AMA is currently included in the initial email distribution used in publishing the TFRs. When a new TFR notice comes in, it is immediately posted on Facebook, Twitter, and the AMA website. The AMA membership records and club roster are searched, and an email distribution is sent to all members and clubs in the affected area.
From a modeler’s point of view, the first reaction might be, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” and the inclination might be to dismiss it and ignore the TFR, but under federal regulation, the US government can “pursue criminal charges,” so this issue is something to take seriously.