Wednesday, October 14, 2009

TFR Musings



For the first time in quite a while, my teaching schedule will be affected by a presidential TFR and I feel the urge to get on my soapbox. I accept the government's authority to use airspace restrictions to protect VIPs, that I will lose a day's worth of income, and that I will not be compensated for my loss. To add insult to injury, the way the TFRs are defined and disseminated is, quite simply, ridiculous.

Now in fairness, the TFR system has improved in the last few years. For one thing, the FAA now actually charts the restricted areas on a map, but there is still room for considerable improvement. You can go to the FAA's website to look up TFRs, though the site contains a disclaimer saying that the descriptions may be incomplete.

The TFR that will affect the Bay Area has four - count 'em! - components covering two different areas and four different effective times.
FDC 9/4760 ZOA PART 1 OF 4 FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS SAN FRANCISCO, CA, OCTOBER 15-16, 2009 LOCAL. PURSUANT TO 49 USC 40103(B), THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION (FAA) CLASSIFIES THE AIRSPACE DEFINED IN THIS NOTAM AS 'NATIONAL DEFENSE AIRSPACE'. PILOTS WHO DO NOT ADHERE TO THE FOLLOWING PROCEDURES MAY BE INTERCEPTED, DETAINED AND INTERVIEWED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT/SECURITY PERSONNEL. ANY OF THE FOLLOWING ADDITIONAL ACTIONS MAY ALSO BE TAKEN AGAINST A PILOT WHO DOES NOT COMPLY WITH THE REQUIREMENTS OR ANY SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS OR PROCEDURES ANNOUNCED IN THIS NOTAM:

A) THE FAA MAY TAKE ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION, INCLUDING IMPOSING CIVIL PENALTIES AND THE SUSPENSION OR REVOCATION OF AIRMEN CERTIFICATES; OR

B) THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT MAY PURSUE CRIMINAL CHARGES, INCLUDING CHARGES UNDER TITLE 49 OF THE UNITED STATES CODE, SECTION 46307; OR

C) THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT MAY USE DEADLY FORCE AGAINST THE AIRBORNE AIRCRAFT, IF IT IS DETERMINED THAT THE AIRCRAFT POSES AN IMMINENT SECURITY THREAT.

PURSUANT TO TITLE 14, SECTION 91.141 OF THE CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS, AIRCRAFT FLIGHT OPERATIONS ARE PROHIBITED:
END PART 1 OF 4


Okay, okay, we get it. Don't violate the TFR or bad things will happen, up to and including being shot out of the sky, but does this actually need to be stated each and every time a restriction is posted? At least put it at the end of the NOTAM, because the effect of having it appear at the beginning of each and every TFR is, well, mind-numbing. So skip over the obvious stuff and then we get to the meat of the TFR that describes the affected areas and the effective times of the TFR:
FDC 9/4760 ZOA PART 2 OF 4 FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS SAN FRANCISCO, CA, WITHIN A 30 NMR OF 374600N/1222320W OR THE OAK270008.2 UP TO BUT NOT INCLUDING 18000 FT MSL.
EFFECTIVE 0910152350 UTC (1650 LOCAL 10/15/09) UNTIL 0910161705 UTC (1005 LOCAL 10/16/09). WITHIN A 10 NMR OF 373720N/1222131W OR THE SFO060000.7 UP TO BUT NOT INCLUDING 18000 FT MSL.
EFFECTIVE 0910152350 UTC (1650 LOCAL 10/15/09) UNTIL 0910160055 UTC (1755 LOCAL 10/15/09). WITHIN A 10 NMR OF 374600N/1222320W OR THE OAK270008.2 UP TO BUT NOT INCLUDING 18000 FT MSL.
EFFECTIVE 0910160020 UTC (1720 LOCAL 10/15/09) UNTIL 0910161640 UTC (0940 LOCAL 10/16/09). WITHIN A 10 NMR OF 373720N/1222131W OR THE SFO060000.7 UP TO BUT NOT INCLUDING 18000 FT MSL.
EFFECTIVE 0910161600 UTC (0900 LOCAL 10/16/09) UNTIL 0910161705 UTC (1005 LOCAL 10/16/09). EXCEPT AS SPECIFIED BELOW AND/OR UNLESS AUTHORIZED BY ATC IN CONSULTATION WITH THE AIR TRAFFIC SECURITY COORDINATOR VIA THE DOMESTIC EVENTS NETWORK (DEN):
END PART 2 OF 4


Okay, is it just me or does specifying the 0.7 DME distance from the SFO VOR seem just a wee bit precious? And why do they specify the upper limit as 18,000 feet at the beginning and the state it again, four times? Much of the complication comes from the unimaginative idea that the inner ring of the TFR must follow the VIP and be centered on their every move. When a VIP lands at an airport and then travels 10 or 15 miles to a fundraising event, having the TFR explicitly move with them needlessly complicates the restriction and probably just increases the likelihood that someone might mistakenly violate the restriction.

For crying out loud, just create one outer ring and one inner ring, centered on an easily identified landmark (like the SFO VOR), and make it big enough to account for the VIP's movements. In other words, KISS - Keep It Simple. I'll get off my soapbox now, as if anyone is listening.

I won't bore you by posting the remaining two components of the TFR. If you're going to fly on Thursday or Friday of this week in the SF Bay Area, get a preflight briefing - don't rely on my observations. And if you are a self-employed pilot or flight instructor who loses income due to these TFR, I'll leave you with the words of the late John Ciardi "May you stay solvent by whatever means are available to you."

3 comments:

goldfarb said...

I wonder if that .7NM offset is to make sure all of Oakland is inside the 10 NM ring - centered at SFO's VOR, I think the 15 approach end may not have been secure.

Ron said...

I have railed against these TFRs many times on my site. There is absolutely no regard given to the damage these TFRs do, and no evidence that they make anything safer. On the contrary, they pinpoint the location and time of the VIPs movements.

We need more people like John Kerry, who specifically asked the secret service NOT to impose any TFRs for his campaign stops. I didn't vote for the guy, but I will always remember and respect that one moment of sanity in an otherwise insane world of politics and bureaucracy.

scruff said...

I agree the amount of vip tfrs is getting out of control.

The post mentions the FAA website, which I used until I found a cool iphone app that formats all the FAA's data for easy quick use on the iphone. Not sure if they make it for any other phones, but if you have an iphone check it out!

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=330192352&mt=8