Smart Move, Senator

I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I’m not John Kerry’s biggest supporter. I disagree very strongly with his positions on defense, social spending, taxes, and even on the very basics like role of government, interpretation of the Constitution, and so on.

Despite all that I want to support him. I respect Sen. Kerry because he’s a pilot — and an accomplished one at that. According to the FAA registry, Kerry holds a commercial multi-engine instrument ticket with additional ratings for gliders and seaplanes. Except for the fact that I hold a higher class medical, his pilot certificate reads exactly like mine. That makes him a fellow aviator and member of a very small fraternity, someone who may support general aviation. I say “may” because I’m not sure how principled this support is. In fact I don’t even know what his record is on aviation matters. He’s a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, but he appears to be assigned to the surface trasportation subcommittee rather than the aviation one. Lacking other information, I would give Kerry the benefit of the doubt.

And I have to admit he’s doing some things right in this campaign.

A current Presidential TFR in MaineOne of the very best decisions I’ve seen him make so far is to forego asking for Temporary Flight Restrictions over his travel and campaign route. TFRs are the bane of a pilot’s existance, and the VIP restrictions are the worst. They often pop up with little advance notice and cover areas 30 nautical miles or more in diameter. When a VIP is in town, there are often more than one such restriction, all overlapping. This has the effect of shutting down an entire metropolitan area’s airspace.

This graphic shows a current TFR covering huge portions of Maine and Massachussets. The large circles are 30 miles in diameter, and the small circles are 10 miles in diameter. If you own a company or hold a day job flying banner tows, traffic reporting, freight, on-demand charter, flight instruction, sightseeing, aerial photography, or any one of a hundred other things, you’re simply out of work while the VIP is in town.

I think I can speak for all GA pilots when I say we’ve been dreading this election season. It’s bad enough with the President and Vice-President out there. Once Kerry and Edwards accept the nominations, it was assumed they would be roaming the country with their own set of TFRs as well, closing off even more airspace.

But it appears that the good Senator has made a shrewd decision. As reported by AOPA:

There won’t be any temporary flight restrictions over Sen. John Kerry’s campaign stops. That’s because he hasn’t asked for them so far.

“On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of pilots who rely on predictable access to airspace for their flight activities, I want to personally thank you for your common-sense approach to security in not requesting airspace restrictions for your campaign travels,” AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote in an August 2 letter to Kerry.

As the official Democratic nominee for President, Kerry receives Secret Service protection. He is also entitled to request TFRs over his travel routes and campaign stops. He has not done so. (In the case of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, it is the Secret Service that asks the FAA for TFRs.)

“Any time pilots get together, the subject of the flight restrictions is a regular topic of frustration,” Boyer said, “especially for those in politically high-profile states that have been the sites of numerous Presidential visits.

“They question why they, as pilots, are being considered a threat, arguing that these large restricted areas are not necessary and do not enhance security,” Boyer said in the letter to Kerry.

Ground-based security measures are the most effective way to ensure the safety of candidates, their staff, and citizens, AOPA said.

The last-minute TFRs can also create a trap for innocent pilots. That’s because the FAA cannot always provide TFR notams far enough in advance to be included in pilots’ planning, leading pilots to inadvertently violate airspace restrictions.

There are more than 618,000 pilots in the United States, and another 558,000 non-pilot certificate holders (mechanics, flight engineers, ground instructors, and others whose livlihoods directly depend on aviation). Assuming this was an intentional decision by the Kerry campaign and not just an oversight in filing paperwork with the FAA, I’d say the Senator made an extremely wise choice.

His stock just went up a little bit.

  6 comments for “Smart Move, Senator

  1. August 8, 2004 at 5:59 am

    You want to support Kerry because you respect him because he’s a pilot?

    a) that’s a dumb reason to support anyone
    b) in that case, Bush is also a licensed (still) pilot (though I’m sure you have all sorts of specifics why he’s not eligible for your admiration on that score)

  2. Ron
    August 8, 2004 at 5:02 pm

    I want to support those who are supportive of general aviation. Actions speak louder than words. I don’t fault President Bush for the TFRs caused by his presence in various places. Those TFRs are requested by the Secret Service, not the campaign. I simply give props to Sen. Kerry’s campaign for making a wise choice. If you feel my reasoning is ‘dumb’, that’s your perrogative.

    Regarding President Bush, I can find no record of his holding a pilot certificate in the FAA airmen database. It’s possible he could have opted out of inclusion in this database. However, I did not find a record of him in there even before opting out was allowed by the FAA. This leads me to believe he may not have a pilot certificate. If you have some evidence to the contrary, I would appreciate the enlightenment.

    What makes you think I have “all sorts of specifics why [Bush] is not eligible for [my] admiration on that score”? You haven’t read very much of my site, have you?

    • March 28, 2014 at 10:13 am

      President Bush flew Delta Wing Fighters. If that doesn’t qualify you to be a pilot, I give up.

  3. Roger
    August 20, 2004 at 5:08 pm

    The faa registry contains only current medical cert holders. An expiered medical will get you booted off the registry. It is well known G2 flew fighters for the ANG.

  4. Ron
    September 4, 2004 at 10:56 am

    I never claimed that Bush didn’t fly for the National Guard. However, it’s a far cry from the ANG to general aviation. When you fly for the Guard, they pay for everything. When you work in general aviation in a post-9/11 world, it’s a lot different. Kerry’s decision not to request the TFRs is the first acknowledgement I’ve seen of this issue.

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