Presidential TFRs – Impact on Bizav: Part 1 – Closure Areas and Restrictions
This business aviation blog post is part of a series on Presidential TFRs.
Presidential Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) are put in place for U.S. presidential and vice presidential movements within the U.S. As these impose closures that impact general aviation (GA) movements, it’s important to understand TFR implications as well as the various nuances associated with regulatory compliance.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. TFR definition
A TFR is a type of Notice to Airmen (NOTAM). It defines an area restricted to air travel due to special events, hazardous conditions or general warnings for a particular area of FAA-controlled airspace. The text of a TFR contains all the fine points of the particular restriction. TFRs are issued for a set period of time but may, in some cases, involve permanent closures of airspace around certain types of activity – such as amusement parks and nuclear power plants.
2. Presidential TFRs
Presidential and vice-presidential TFRs are indicated as VIP TFRs. These cover movements of the U.S. president and vice-president within U.S. airspace, but it also covers foreign heads of state while in U.S. territory. VIP TFRs have strictly enforced inner and outer rings of protected areas associated with airspace closures. Depending on the location, inner and outer ring restrictions may affect operations to other airports in the vicinity. If the president is at Chicago O’Hare (KORD), for example, Chicago Midway (KMDW) may also be closed for a specific period to time.
3. TFR announcements
Presidential TFRs are governed by FAR 91.141 and announced via the FAA website that provides descriptive and graphical indications of the TFR area and associated restrictions. The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) website also posts VIP TFR information, but only for its members. Presidential and vice-presidential TFR notifications are usually published 48 – 72 hours prior to airspace closures. There are times, however, when shorter notice VIP TFRs may be announced.
4. Closure areas
VIP TFRs comprise inner and outer rings of protected airspace. In the case of presidential TFRs the inner ring may cover a 10 NM radius from the airport while the outer ring may cover a 30 NM radius. Vice presidential TFRs also contain one or more rings which are generally about 3 NM radiuses, but no outer rings are usually established. In the case of visiting heads of state similar airspace restrictions apply although the rings of protected airspace are typically smaller. In all cases, inner ring restrictions are the most stringent and constitute the most significant GA challenges. These inner ring areas are almost always inaccessible to GA – primarily due to the fact that GA aircraft are not subject to TSA passenger and aircraft screening. Outer ring restrictions are normally much less problematic, and GA aircraft are often permitted to transit this airspace as long as they’re on IFR flight plans and maintain communication with ATC. Note, however, that aircraft will not be permitted to “loiter” within protected outer rings of airspace, for activities such as flight training, practice approaches, or sightseeing flights.
5. Closure times
Presidential TFRs often involve airport and airspace closures range from 30 minutes to several hours. There are often times when presidential TFR closures last four hours or more and significantly affect local GA operations. TFR closures have potential to impact GA operators in many ways – including crew duty day limits (for charter non-scheduled commercial flights) and customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) clearance arrangements, particularly for landing rights airports that require longer lead times.
6. TFR restrictions
During published presidential TFRs airport closures arrivals/departures will not be permitted during the time the president is on the airfield. It’s always recommended that operators start checking for possible presidential or vice-presidential TFR closures at least 72 hours prior to the estimated time of departure.
7. Dimensions of protected airspace
The dimension and shape of TFR protective rings of airspace are sometimes altered to suit specific needs. Some VIP TFRs, for example, are structured so that the outer ring consists of the lateral limits of a particular airport’s Class B airspace. In other cases VIP TFRs may be structured with a “cut-out” to allow operation into an airport that lies just inside the inner ring. In the case of an inner ring cut-out, instructions are provided on how to operate into the particular airport during a TFR closure, as well as movements that are permitted during a closure period. This sort of thing is often the case for Teterboro (KTEB) when VIP TFRs are placed over the New York City area. During these times SIDS and STARS may not be standard routing procedures. It’s important to be aware that certain approaches/departures may not be available for airports located within the cut-out area of a presidential TFR.
8. Presidential TFR example
As an example, a presidential TFR (FDC NOTAM 4/3312 (ZDC)4/3313 (ZNY)), was issued for 1515-1700 local Sept 12, 2014 involving the Baltimore area. A 10 NM TFR inner ring, centered on BAL041006.7, prohibited GA operations between 1630-1915 local, while a 30 NM outer ring noted additional restrictions between 1515-1715 local. Due to its close proximity to the active TFR, some approaches/departures were not available at Baltimore (KBWI) and Martin State (KMTN) while the TFR was active.
It’s best to be mindful of published and potential VIP TFR restrictions prior to operation, and to have effective contingency plans ready. Also, pay close attention to any altered routing when overflying or traveling to a destination that has a VIP TFR.
If you have any questions or would like flight planning assistance, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for Part 2, which covers more restrictions on presidential TFRs.