TFRs Are Here, They're Weird, Get Used To It

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With the end of the U.S. election campaign, the ubiquitous VIP TFRs are expected to slow down for a while, but TFRs in their various forms certainly seem to be here to stay. What isn't here, at least not yet, is any systematic or standardized format to help pilots navigate these restricted areas. While many of the restrictions share a two-ring structure, the rules for flying within each ring are not always the same, and the widths of the rings vary. A "typical" structure that is followed in most cases seems to be evolving, but so far the only way to really know how to deal with each TFR is to study the appropriate NOTAM for that particular site. And don't think that just because you are on a flight plan and talking to ATC that it's OK to follow an ATC vector into the TFR -- sometimes it is, but sometimes it isn't. "A pilot who's cited for violating a TFR may have some defense if he can prove he was indeed vectored or authorized by ATC, but that doesn't say much for his situational awareness," FAA spokesman William Shumann told AVweb. Some TFR NOTAMs specify that transits "authorized by ATC" are OK, but perhaps only in the "outer ring," while the "inner ring" will have stricter rules. "We at the FAA are still frustrated at the violations of TFRs and the DC ADIZ that occur after our educational efforts and the cooperation from AOPA and other GA groups in trying to alert pilots," Shumann said. However, he added, "my unscientific impression is that most TFR violations are by pilots who weren't aware of the TFR and weren't 'squawking and talking.' Often they're not talking at all. All we can say, as we have many times, is that each violation is treated individually."