Guest Blog: New Jersey Needs The Maryland 3 Airspace Rules

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As we in central New Jersey endure a fourth year of summer Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) covering the area surrounding the Trump Bedminster Golf Course, I have to reflect on the fight those of us in general aviation have waged to bring a sensible solution to a situation that has damaged the aviation community in our area.

When President Trump was elected, it became obvious he would spend significant amounts of time at Mar-a-Lago in Florida and his Bedminster, New Jersey, Golf Club. Mid-Atlantic Aviation Coalition (MAAC) and the New Jersey Aviation Association (NJAA) promoted the idea of using the existing rules governing the three Maryland airports near Washington, D.C., shut down initially after 9/11 (aka the “Maryland 3 Rules”). The FAA provided a program to screen pilots who wish to fly to/from these airports and provide them a code to allow regular entry. This program has been successful for nearly 20 years and the background check process has promoted aviation and ensured security around our nation’s capital.

Congress heard our calls and put into law with the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act a provision requiring the FAA publish a study to determine if these rules could be applied toward airports under recurring presidential TFRs. That study was due on Oct. 1, 2019. As of August 2020, no study has come from the FAA.

To be fair, Congress did allocate some money to compensate airports for their lost revenue during the Trump administration, but it didn’t nearly cover the loses in fuel sales and aircraft/businesses that moved away from these airports over the past four years. A better plan is to allow safe operations rather than a bailout from the taxpayers.

The cynic would say the FAA is just waiting out the Trump presidency with the hope that the complaints from pilots at these airports will go away assuming there is a change in administrations in January. Should President Trump lose in November, this will not alleviate the problem—but just put it on another group of pilots.

Vice President Biden has a home in Wilmington, Delaware, which he is famous for spending a great deal of time at during his time in Washington. A TFR around this residence puts three more airports in jeopardy—Spitfire in New Jersey, New Garden in Pennsylvania and the New Castle County Airport in Delaware. These airports are home to more than 350 aircraft and many more pilots and businesses that rely upon these aircraft.

The time for action is now. The FAA needs to publish their report, and Congress needs to act and solve this problem for the flying public in a manner that provides safety and security for our leaders. The roadmap is in place and it is proven to work. I urge they implement the Maryland 3 Rules for all future presidents.



Steven E. Parker is CEO of Somerset Air Service and owner/operator of Somerset Airport.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. For over 15 years, FAA has not controlled Presidential TFRs or TFRs around Special Security Events – the Secret Service does. The Secret Service has one job, one mission, one interest: to protect the President. It is not possible for the Secret Service to acknowledge the legitimacy of competing interests, much less balance them against its own mission. Efforts to strike a more reasonable balance between security and the disruption of ordinary life must start with Congress placing some trusted entity other than the Secret Service in charge of 14 CFR 91.141 TFRs and Special Security Events, with a statutory mandate to seek a reasonable balance between security and the disruption of ordinary life. Whether application of “Maryland Three” rules – which are quite burdensome in themselves – is an appropriate balance is a matter best left to the affected parties; if that’s what Somerset wants, then it is worth considering. That consideration cannot start while the Secret Service controls the rules for TFRs.

  2. That’s an interesting take on solving the problem of presidential TFRs. It’s not clear to me if the intent is for the “Maryland 3” process to apply to all presidential TFRs or just to New Jersey, but I would certainly say it should apply to all of them. I would also suggest that if you’ve already been vetted for the Maryland 3 (I have been), then it should automatically qualify you for presidential TFRs as well (and vice versa, at least for the vetting step).

    I still think the giant 30nm/10nm TFRs set up for presidential travel are complete overkill (and not very effective, either), but if the security theater of them is too much to overcome, expanding the “Maryland 3” process to presidential TFRs is the next best thing.

  3. Steven, Vice President Biden frequently vacations and weekends in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. A 30-nm TFR for his stays there could affect operations at Delaware Coastal (GED), Ocean City (OXB), Salisbury Ocean City Wicomico Regional (SBY), Chorman (D74), Dover Air Force Base (DOV), and other airports. Some of those airports attract significant vacation and beach traffic from non-based pilots. If Vice President Biden is elected President, the Maryland-3 rules should be extended to operations within that TFR. I support Gary B.’s suggestion to allow pilots that have already been vetted for the DC FRZ to fly in and out of a Rehoboth Beach TFR.

  4. Would presidential security be enhanced by a rule that prohibited any car or truck coming within 30 nm of the president’s location? How would such a rule be greeted by the general public?

    Agencies often make rules simply because they can.

    Tomorrow, the Peoples Republik of Massachusetts graciously will allow movie theaters to re-open. One of the constraints to which they must hew is fascinating. Some context:
    In Massachusetts, establishments that serve alcoholic beverages MUST sell food that is “prepared on premises.” No food; no hooch.
    Popcorn? Not an approved food, even if popped right in front of your hungry eyes.
    Tortilla chips? Not food. Unless you smother them in salsa and queso – THEN they’re “food.”
    You can order a beer – but only if you order (and consume – that’s vital) some of this “food.” No food; no beer.
    On a golf course, you can order and drink a Coke, but not a beer. If that Coke has rum in it – verboten!

    So… IF you MUST eat food at a bar (but not at THE bar – another long story), why is it that at our newly-re-opened movie theaters, sales of ANY food or beverage ARE PROHIBITED?

    And why is it okay to pull the lever of a slot machine, but forbidden to pull the plunger of a pinball machine? Seriously.

    Yup. Rules for the sake of rules, courtesy of our betters. (I’m amazed at how smart this virus is – it can tell whether your mug of Coke has rum in it!) The most amazing thing is that Americans put up with this totalitarian crap. “Science,” indeed.

    Still think that TFRs are a good idea?

    • Does anyone think VIP TFRs actually accomplish anything useful? I don’t know of any pilots that support them. Special TFRs for things like firefighting make sense, though (and really, who would want to fly into one of those areas that isn’t part of the firefighting effort anyway). But “national security” TFRs don’t make much sense to me (not even the SFRA around DC, but I put up with it because I went through the vetting process for the MD3 airports and file IFR whenever I fly into the area to simplify things – but that’s not necessarily the case for everyone).

  5. You can always count on the FAA to ignore deadlines. But, if the Secret Service is making the rules, don’t count on anything changing.

    When George H.W. Bush (aka “Daddy” Bush) was President, he kept a residence in Houston, so we often got major shutdowns of the freeways and airspace when he came or went. But, it has gotten much more extreme since then. In spite of all the security, I wonder if a 30 mile restricted zone would stop a determined attack. Remember the postal worker that flew a gyrocopter onto the White House lawn a few years ago?

  6. Logic, wanting to improve the “system” to be business friendly, save money, increase safety, improve efficiency, and provide presidential security does not happen in a politically driven bureaucracy. Simple…squeaky wheel gets the grease. GA does not have the lobbying capability ( read…dough, lots and lots of dough…steady dough, long term dough) to affect the kind of changes this blog intelligently discusses. GA has had a long term image problem with John Q Public that assumes if you fly, especially if you own a private airplane, you are largely perceived with the the likes of politicians and lawyers. Therefore, you have a lifestyle that is associated with all sorts of perks that come with being a politician or lawyer. Accordingly, GA participants, including aviation businesses already “have it made” and suggestions of altering “National Security” for already well heeled private aircraft owners and its GA support system is like a politician or lawyer asking for a raise. The only way a change is remotely possible is electing an active GA pilot, aircraft owner, and current instructor to the White House. Hey, how about Paul Bertorelli for President? Make General Aviation Great Again…MGAGA…on a Cub yellow hat with a black lightening stripe on the bill! Hope springs eternal!

  7. I agree, the FAA should publish that report and congress needs to act on it. Not sure using the “ Maryland 3” rules is such a good idea. I did a trip to West Palm beach last Christmas during the presidents vacation there. Had to go through the worthless TSA security procedure for the trip. I was amazed, yet not surprised how empty the airport ramps were then while I was there. Most operators were avoiding PBI then instead using other airports outside of the TFR zone. I also believe using the “Maryland 3” rules for TFRs would be used as justification to implement country wide pretty much eliminating VFR flight as we now know it. These TFRs need to be reduced from the 30nm nonsense used now. Congress is the only entity able to rein in the Secret Service. They are the only thing stopping the Secret Service from closing down DCA. The point made by Jim H. is a perfect example. Until Congress gets some backbone when dealing with the Secret Service, I’m afraid nothing will change.

  8. Perhaps put Herr president on a corporate jet for their R+R trips, then hail an Uber or Yellow cab and not make such a big deal about their security. All the publicity about their travels, alerts whatever danger might lurk out there. It would also go a long way in saving taxpayers money or funneling it to education, a much better choice!

  9. As long as Americans remain able to be duped into believing that spending is the same thing as getting actual results, saving taxpayers money will remain a fantasy.

    Public education is a great example.
    Each high school diploma in my fair city costs the taxpayers $450,000. And what do we get for our money?