Aviation Law Articles

F.A.A. – Be Sure to Check for TSRs

Once upon a time, not too long ago, a pilot could look outside to see clear skies and decide to make that short trip to another nearby airport with no worries. That time has gone, since “9/11.”

A recent case example is informative. An A.T.P. commercial pilot completed work one day on a “severe clear” day and decided to pick up his own private plane and fly to another airport about twenty miles away to get it washed, as he had done many times. While driving to the departure airport, he saw planes operating in and around the airport. He conducted his pre-flight, taxied out, reported his intention (non-controlled) and took off. Within minutes, he was surrounded by U.S. Coast Guard helicopters and directed back to the airport he had just left. On the ground, he was interviewed by local police and, later, an F.A.A. enforcement action ensued. He had unwittingly violated the “Ronald Reagan T.F.R.” (in effect just 15 minutes before take-off) which was in place in Simi Valley, California, to accommodate burial services for the late president. The pilot wound up with a twenty day suspension of his pilot certificate, negotiated down from the forty days sought in the “Notice of Proposed Certificate Action.”

Unfortunately, this pilot got caught with his “pants down” and had no defense. If he had obtained a weather briefing and/or checked with F.S.D.O., he would have been advised of the NOTAM about the T.F.R. going into effect. If he had established communication with F.A.A. controllers ahead of time and received a discreet code, he could have conducted this short flight without a problem.

F.A.R. 91.103 requires that each “pilot-in-command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight.” F.A.R. 91.139 allows the F.A.A. to issue flight restrictions under emergency conditions and requires pilots to act “…in accordance with the authorizations, terms and conditions prescribed…” F.A.R. 91.137 specifies “temporary flight restrictions in the vicinity of disaster/hazard areas.” F.A.R. 91.145 now allows some NOTAMs for operating in the vicinity of aerial demonstrations and major sporting events. F.A.R. 91.141 and 91.143 provide for NOTAMs to protect space flight operations and travel of the president and other public officials.

Wow! That seems like a lot of potential restrictions and the T.F.R.s will be enforced. So now, before every flight, check for NOTAMs/T.F.R.s to “protect yourself.” Avoid the rage.
by Richard T. Miller, Specialist in Aviation Law – (818) 994-8234