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Are 35 nm Presidential TFRs Becoming the Standard?

May 14, 2009 — On April 29, a notice to airmen (NOTAM 9/6257) was issued for President Obama’s visit to St Louis, Missouri, but the Secret Service and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) threw aviators a curve ball when the “standard” 30-nautical mile temporary flight restriction (TFR) was expanded to 35 nm. When EAA inquired about the expanded radius, a spokesperson replied without elaborating, “...it was determined that a viable threat existed in the St. Louis area and the secure airspace had to be increased.”

This past Monday another 35 nm presidential TFR was announced via NOTAM 9/8386 (#12) for May 13-14 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the president’s scheduled town hall meeting there Thursday morning. EAA is concerned that this is the new standard.

Presidential TFRs have become an accepted part of flight for general aviation since they were created post-9/11. Aviators have come to expect standard 30-nm radius TFRs to follow the president, along with the prohibition of many flight activities within the TFR, including parachute operations, ultralight vehicle flights, hang gliding, balloon operations, agriculture/crop dusting, animal population control flight operations, banner towing, model aircraft operations, model rocketry, flight training, practice instrument approaches, aerobatic flight, and glider operations.

EAAs primary concern is that presidential TFRs have a very large and direct adverse impact only on general aviation aircraft.  General aviation has never been proven to be a threat to our nation or to the president, and increasing the TFR’s size only expands the adverse monetary impact on all general aviation activities - not any other mode of travel, like trucks, buses, trains, cars, etc.  Further, due to the sensitive nature of presidential TFRs the public is unable to challenge what we consider to be a further unwarranted restriction on general aviation and related business activities.

EAA will continue to pursue the matter of increased presidential TFRs with TSA to ensure that there is no “TFR creep,” with possibilities of even larger no-fly areas. These recent examples also reinforce the need for pilots to check all issued NOTAMs carefully before flight, especially when your flight path is anywhere near a known presidential appearance.

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