Trolling for TFRs

October 17, 2012 by Bruce Landsberg

‘Tis the final run for the political silly season, and what’s that got to do with aviation? Plenty.

The omnipresent VIP Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) abounds. The average for this campaign season has been 15 to 20 per week. Let’s take one thing off the table—the need for VIP TFRs. Unfortunately, asymmetrical warfare is prevalent. GA remains a perceived threat, although the probability is highly unlikely. This discussion is best had over adult beverages, but for the foreseeable future, we’re probably stuck with it.

However, in this day of instant notification via multiple means, why the FAA’s disclaimer on the TFR website, to wit: Depicted TFR data may not be a complete listing. Pilots should not use the information on this website for flight planning purposes. For the latest information, call your local Flight Service Station at 1-800-WX-BRIEF?

There are multiple government agencies involved, including the FAA, TSA, the Secret Service, and DoD, which compounds coordination. Is it too much to ask that key dissemination vehicles of critical information, and that includes websites and uplinked data, be timely and accurate? DUAT, DUATS, and most of the commercial sites should have current data that show that the pilot has made a good faith effort to stay informed. Naturally, a tail number log-in is needed for verification, but that’s a small concession.

Way too many needless intercepts and the associated hassles have been made because of the need to contact FSS. They are glad for the business, but that’s not the point. This is almost like posting a pseudo speed limit sign on the highway and saying that it may be correct, but you have to pull over and call the Speed Limit Control Desk (SLCD) to verify.

An additional point is that many businesses lose lots of revenue since the following operations are excluded in parts of the TFR: flight training, practice instrument approaches, aerobatic flight, glider operations, seaplane operations, parachute operations, ultralight, hang gliding, balloon operations, agriculture/crop dusting, animal population control flight operations, banner towing operations, sightseeing operations, maintenance test flights, radio controlled model aircraft operations, model rocketry, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and utility and pipeline survey operations.

Should the government have some formula for compensating them for lost revenue? In the interim, you might consider AOPA’s Pilot Protection Plan—just in case.

Lastly, a big thank you to Robert Goyer of Flying Magazine who said, “We’re all in this together. Let’s do our best to join our voices so that the non-flying world hears one voice, big, loud, and clear.” One way you can add your voice is by donating to the AOPA Foundation as we fight to preserve our freedom to fly. Donate today at



Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • Fred von Zabern

    Thank goodness election season is almost over. LA-area’s SOCAL frequencies were conspicuously quiet during the recent Obama-initiated TFRs, and pilots brave enough to test the TFR water would cautiously query SOCAL to ensure they’re doing everything correctly to stay out of TFR trouble. With the 30-nm radius that encompasses nearly the entire LA basin, the affected flight training schools also must be thanking goodness as well. Obama was here at least a dozen times, and the TFRs were truly a pain, to the point of affecting our liberty to fly. User fees are still in the Jobs Bill Obama wants congress to approve, so I’m sure we despised “Corporate Jet Owners” a long way from ever hoping to get compensated. Just like the Catholics being forced to accept health insurance that includes contraceptives, we pilots and C-172 owners are not a caucus that Obama intends to seek votes from, much less compensate. Hopefully after November, this will change.

  • Howard

    What’s even worse is the way they don’t publish what has to be known weeks before. Example, the debate in Boca Raton, FL this Monday. It is now Friday morning and still no TFR data published. I am trying to plan a trip for this weekend and still don’t know if I can fly back home Sunday! This is BS, they know the schedule…

  • Boyd Birchler

    I sounds to me “Depicted data may not be complete, Check with flight service”, like an inefficient bureaucracy covering for it’s own mistakes ahead of time. How long could it take to present the proper info on the FAA Official TFR web sight.??? Why have this web sight if it is likely to be incorrect???

  • Clifford Biggs

    There is no reason why accurate TFR data can not be uploaded to the net in a time critical manner by the involved government agencies. If Flight Service has the accurate data then they can have a portal to upload so it can be seen on every device out there. There is NO need for the phone call-If they have the data then they can disseminate it on time and accurately. If it came to a problem in flight then the history log of the device could be used for verification of checking OR a log in data bank could be used.

  • Steven Fischer

    Am I the only one that thinks that these TFR’s are a usurping of our freedom of movement by our government. Somehow I believe that our freedom to move about in our own country should be put on a higher priority. I’m OK with a TFR during a national emergency. These VIP TFR’s do not qualify as a national emergency. I would like to see AOPA and other flying advocates take a stronger stand on the subject otherwise this is just one more nail in the GA coffin.

  • Robert French

    Most VIP TRF’s are not critical to the operation of the country, campaigning is not a national emergency, closing access to entire cities is unjustified. Not providing timely and complete information for all TFR’s from one source prior to any flight is unreasonable. A pilot should not need to be heads down watching for a ” POP UP “. to avoid a violation. The TFR card is overplayed.

  • Frank Arza

    Why can’t they publish sporting events. It’s bad enough that they use these TFR’s whenever they candidates are in town, but when you ask about sporting events they say you should know.

  • Rick Ragland

    Since the president and vice president require TFR’s then during the campaign season they should use their campaign contributions to compensate businesses that loose money because they are prohibited from flying. During any other time taxpayer money should be used. Otherwise allow them to deduct the money lost on their taxes or give them tax credits for the lost revenue.

  • Scott Hampton

    “Let’s take one thing off the table—the need for VIP TFRs” is just a dumb way of saying, “Problem? What problem?” The whole point of our country is that we have no king, and no one is so important a whole city shuts down just because they happen to be in the vicinity. I don’t care who is in office, whether it’s George Washington or Zaphod Beeblebrox: there is NEVER a need for a so-called “VIP” TFR because no one person is that important.

  • Mike F

    I’m also in agreement with what others have said above.
    The VIP TFR’s are way, way, way overdone. Living in an area that’s had many over the last several months, I can attest what a negative effect they have on GA… not only personal flights but also flight schools, charter operations, and they certainly take a toll on the bottom line of FBO’s in fuel sales, etc.