TFR Madness

Posted by in Aviation, Politics

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 Yes, there are unpublished TFRs over professional and college sporting events which pilots have to magically know about.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.