TFR Madness

More evidence we’re living in a world gone crazy. And I’m not just talking about Wall Street, my friends. The TFRs have truly reached a level which can only be described as insanity.

You know, I remember a time when it was possible to fly across this country of ours much the way we drive across it: just get in and go. Oh, sure, you had to check the weather, compute landing and takeoff distances, fuel load, weight & balance, etc. But aside from the usual due diligence, nobody was stopping you from using the airspace around your own country. Grab a chart and go fly.

That shouldn’t sound foreign. It’s called “freedom”.

Remember? There was no need to get the government’s permission to fly, submit a passenger manifest to the TSA for their approval, or wonder if someone’s wedding might require a diversion in your flight plan.

Alas, it’s 2009, and the FAA apparently now issues Temporary Flight Restrictions for weddings. Check this one out. I think it qualifies as a new low in the standards for issuing a TFR, and since the page will probably be gone in a few days, I’ll archive the NOTAM text here:

FDC 9/0803 ZLA CA.. FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS MALIBU, CA. EFFECTIVE 0901102230 UTC UNTIL 0901110230 UTC. PURSUANT TO 14 CFR SECTION 91.137(A)(3) TEMPORARY FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS ARE IN EFFECT FOR MEDIA COVERAGE OF WEDDING WITHIN A 2 NAUTICAL MILE RADIUS OF 340050N/1184916W OR THE LOS ANGELES /LAX/ VORTAC 269.0 DEGREE RADIAL AT 20.0 NAUTICAL MILES AT AND BELOW 3000 FEET MSL.

What’s next? TFRs for the first day of school? Flight restrictions because someone on the ground got a hangnail? Since they’re publishing flight restrictions for weddings, why not add them for divorces, too?

You know what would be fun? Invisible TFRs! Oh wait — we already have those. Yes, there are unpublished TFRs over professional and college sporting events which pilots have to magically know about. We have to figure out where the stadium is, when the event starts, and when it ends. Oh, and we must somehow figure out the elevation of the uncharted stadium in order to stay 3000′ above it.

Anyway, I’m not sure who’s getting married this weekend, but I can’t imagine anyone whose nuptials should ban air traffic. It makes about as much sense as shutting down a freeway because someone’s bar mitzvah is taking place in the neighborhood.

We already have a permanent flight restriction over Disneyland, and as I’ve stated previously, either there is no threat to the theme park (in which case the TFR is a needless infringement on air traffic in the L.A. basin), or there IS a threat to Disneyland, in which case they owe it to visitors to let them know about it. Of course, they won’t do that because it might hurt ticket sales. And the bottom line on the Disney TFR is that it exists because Disney doesn’t want any noise over their theme park, so they had it declared a security risk for people like me to fly near it.

But wait. It gets better! The entire Washington, D.C. area is already a no-fly zone unless you’ve jumped through enough hoops to qualify you as a Cirque du Soleil stand-in. Yet the government felt that wasn’t enough, so they issued a flight restriction on top of the existing flight restriction for the Obama inauguration on January 20th.

It leaves me wondering what it would take to raise enough hackles on this issue to force a reversal in the ever-larger list of mundane events which receive TFRs. Frankly, if the entire country were declared a no-fly zone (just like Baghdad before the war) and general aviation was permanently grounded, I don’t think it’d even show up as a blip on the average American’s radar.

But it should. Even if you’re not a pilot, it should. Because today they’re coming for my freedom, but tomorrow they’ll be coming for yours. You may not realize it because it happens so insidiously. But slowly, one piece at a time, we’re being ground down to the point where exercising our freedoms is so difficult that we simply give up.

8 comments

  1. We can protest in “free speech zones.” We can march as long as we have permits. Bearing arms is truly a bear, requiring a permit in many states (and is just impossible in some). The right to redress of grievances is long gone. And, just as the antifederalists feared, the unenumerated rights have taken a hike (witness the mantra, “driving is not a right, it’s a privilege.” It’s wrong, but by repetition governments have gotten everyone to believe it).

    On top of it all, taxation is now at levels that can honestly be called confiscatory. The federal pig has gotten so fat and powerful on our wages that it can’t roll over without squishing something flat, and today it’s general aviation.

    Sorry I couldn’t bring any sunshine, Ron. I think things are pretty bad, and getting worse. My only hope, at this point, is that the federal pig is so fat that it dies of a heart attack, Soviet Union style. It doesn’t seem to be responding to political pressure anymore. The American people were overwhelmingly against the bailout, and the federal government pooped that out anyhow. What hope do the people have when the government stops representing us?

    1. Wayne, I agree with you completely. I keep typing things and then erasing them. There’s really nothing I can add. You hit the nail on the head.

  2. On a whim I thought I’d Google for “LA wedding January 10″ and I get several hits for Fergie and Josh Duhamel. You have GOT to be kidding me. The angry libertarian in me is ready to rise up and protest but, to be honest, I just can’t face the paperwork required. :->

    Maybe we’re going about this the wrong way. Perhaps the FAA have a simple online web page where you can request your own personal TFR. I’m taking the Decathlon up tomorrow so maybe I’ll see if they can close off the practise area for me. And the next time I plan a party at my place it would significantly improve the security of my guests if all those Southwest 737s weren’t cruising over…

  3. Ron,

    First, welcome back! I’d just about given up checking up on your blog.

    Anyway, I’ve been fuming about the ever increasing ‘security’ being imposed on me and my fellow comrades, er citizens, for a long while but this truly takes the cake! Most of my frustration is centered upon the realization of my utter inability to do anything to stop our continued loss of freedoms in this country.

    Writing to politicians is complete waste of time and effort; they are all for controlling us more and more. The fact that we pilots only represent 0.2% of the population merely insures that they can fearlessly ignore our complaints.

    Beyond rants such as these, I sure wish I could do something effective. Perhaps a letter to various newspapers trying to wake people up to your point: they may not care about what happens to us pilots, but maybe the light will go on that their favorite pursuit might just be next on the TSA et al’s hit parade. I’m sure open to suggestions.

  4. I am just waiting for a TFR on 19th to foul up my training plans. All I want to did is get out of the ADIZ for training and directly back.

    TSA apparently has the capacity to check all the FBOs in the greater washington area for training non-citizens. I just furnished some proof this week.

  5. Martin: thanks for the detective work. The fact that it’s Fergie’s wedding only adds insult to injury. Grrr!

    Mike: thanks for not giving up on my site… I’m going to be posting more in ’09! As for the newspaper, it can’t hurt! Our biggest tool might be the one we’re using now, the internet. Hopefully AOPA, EAA, and others can learn from the many clever ways the Obama campaign used the web.

    Eric: I looked at your site and admire your grit, training in (or should I say “near” since flight training is prohibited there?) the Washington ADIZ! You’re my new hero in aviation. Seriously. I’m going to follow your blog!

    All: I’m glad to see it’s not just my cantankerous nature, that many of you agree that these restrictions are bogus. Misery loves company. No, seriously, I think someone wiser than me once said the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Perhaps GA needs to get a lot more squeaky…

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