FAA Launches Graphical TFRs

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Service Launched Sunday...

Temporary Flight Restrictions, though ever-changing, would appear to be a permanent fixture, so the FAA is (finally) doing something that might actually help pilots comply. Starting yesterday, the agency began posting its own sanctioned graphical depictions of TFRs on the FAA Web site. There have been some graphical TFRs on the FAA site for more than a year but they were for "special interest" NOTAMs, generally relating to presidential movements or national security. The new system should provide graphical TFRs of all flight restriction types but if you went there yesterday, you may have had a very hard time noticing any difference -- the new material will be loaded over a period of time and the first 90 days will be a test phase. Public responses will be used to modify presentation of the material. The move is drawing hearty congratulations from AOPA, which, along with other aviation groups, has been lobbying for the service since just after 9/11. AOPA provides graphical TFRS on its Web site but President Phil Boyer said the FAA is the proper place for them. "Not only does it have the resources to provide the widest dissemination, but, as the issuing agency, FAA is also the final authority as to the accuracy and content of any such graphic," said an AOPA release. Ironically, flight service stations won't have access to the graphics because their computers are so outdated. The FAA is addressing that deficiency.

...President Carries 30 Miles Of Breathing Space...

It's not spelled out whether the president's hectic travel schedule will get the graphic treatment. A 30-nm TFR appears to have become the standard treatment wherever Air Force One touches down (aside from the one that encircles it while it's in the air) and as President Bush hits the campaign trail as many as three TFRs per day are being created. AOPA has added "Presidential Movement TFR" links to its home page to try and keep track of the wandering chief executive but pilots should always get the official word from flight services on any NOTAMs on their route before wheels up (and just hope the NOTAM doesn't arise after they do). Most groups agree 30 nm is excessive but they also seem to agree that it isn't going to change anytime soon. However, there is some pressure from the government to eliminate defense-related TFRs that blossomed after 9/11. As part of the FAA Reauthorization bill, the House included language encouraging the FAA to work with the Department of Defense to evaluate whether all those military-base and storage-dump TFRs are really necessary. The move was led by Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.). The military TFRs in northwest Washington State are like a slalom course for local pilots, who must make significant detours for what used to be point-to-point flights. The FAA has cancelled two military TFRs in recent months. The TFR over Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, home to the only squadron of B-2 bombers, was cancelled more than a month ago and on June 10 a TFR in the Valdez, Alaska, Class E airspace area was cancelled.

...EAA Wants Nuke Threat Quantified

In the meantime, while the world's security agencies have no idea about the location of a 727 gone missing three weeks ago in Africa, the mainstream media's apparent preoccupation with GA threats to nuclear facilities has EAA demanding that the government respond. On June 10, USA Today ran a story on the number of airports that are located near nuclear plants. EAA said the story dwelled on "what if" scenarios that did not cite any scientific evidence that airplanes, any airplanes, are a threat to nukes. EAA spokesman Doug Macnair said the various threat scenarios that gain mainstream publicity are effectively undermining the public's confidence in the safety of GA and that could doom the industry. EAA said it wants the TSA to "clear the air" on nuclear-plant safety and any other supposed hazards posed by GA. The article did acknowledge that the reactors themselves are considered safe from an airborne attack, but did question the vulnerability of other buildings, including spent fuel storage areas. "The article is precisely why EAA maintains that a top priority for the TSA general aviation policy division should be to conduct a legitimate and comprehensive threat assessment of general aviation," said Macnair. The official word on GA safety from the TSA should put this type of speculation to rest, he said. "Light aircraft do not pose a threat to nuclear facilities and especially spent fuel storage so we need to get this issue off the table for good," he said.