TFR’s are not uncommon to Alaskan pilots, often associated with forest fire fighting activities during the summer months. According to Air Force officials, however, we have had a rash of incursions associated with VIP TFR’s specifically in the Anchorage area. These take place when Air Force One or other high-level officials are moving through the area, making a stop for fuel at JBER. The national security nature of these TFR’s; however, has a different “side effect” requiring the Air Force to scramble fighters to respond when incursions are observed. It was reported at the March meeting of the Governor’s Aviation Advisory Board that during a recent VIP TFR, there were eight unauthorized aircraft incursions concurrently. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture what could happen when an F-22 intercepts a small GA aircraft. With widely disparate operating airspeeds, aircraft maneuvering in close proximity to each other could end up in a dangerous situation for both the civil and military pilot.
Checking NOTAMs before you fly, even for a local flight off a private grass strip, is essential. The FAA and Air Force has been reaching out to airport sponsors and local airport groups to provide advance notice via email. Alaska DOT is looking at putting electronic road signs at the entrances of some of their airports.
Pilots have many tools to learn about NOTAMs today—from free websites like www.SkyVector.com to electronic flight bag programs and the NOTAM website itself. AOPA’s Air Safety Institute also has a document that gives tips for TFRs and NORAD Intercept Procedures, that would be a good resource.
Take the extra few minutes before you fly to check for NOTAMs – particularly those posted for Anchorage Center (ZAN). In the Anchorage area, the F-22 pilot in the ready room at JBER will be happy that you did!