...While Pilots Continue To Violate TFRs

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Some other tidbits in the GAO study have to do with temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) and how often they are violated. According to the GAO, numerous operators and airports have suffered a "negative economic impact" -- that's government-speak for "losing money" -- as a result of TFRs and other steps. The GAO cited, but did not assess, an NBAA study estimating that GA operators and businesses have lost more than $1 billion from the impact of TFRs since September 11, 2001. Perhaps most significantly, the GAO cited both the TSA and the FAA, as well as industry organizations, to decry the "increase in the number, size, and duration of TFRs and, at times, limited notice given prior to their establishment." For example, the GAO said "the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone has been violated over 1,000 times, constituting over 40 percent of all TFR violations since September 11, 2001." Yet, according to the GAO, "no TFR violations have been shown to be terrorist related."

We knew that, of course, but it's comforting that a government agency has finally brought to light this fact. However, that admission is of little comfort to the poor schmuck who gets violated. For its part, the FAA told GAO that the "number and severity of disciplinary actions imposed on pilots violating TFRs have increased since September 11. However, FAA officials were unable to provide statistical information on the number and severity of disciplinary actions for pilots violating TFRs before or since September 11." In other words, the FAA is being told by higher-ups to crack down on TFR violations but, unbelievably, does not have -- or has not released to the GAO -- any data on its enforcement actions. At the end of the day, what, if anything, will happen as a result of the GAO report is anyone's guess. Our guess is that the overall GA security situation will remain pretty much the same as it is, with TFRs continuing to be imposed by the federal government as the least-expensive way for it to maintain the public's perception that it is doing something about aviation security. While that's probably not acceptable for many operators, few of the alternatives are better.