On April 29, a notice to airmen was issued for President Obama’s visit to St Louis, Missouri, but the Secret Service and Transportation Security Administration threw aviators a curve ball when the “standard” 30-nautical mile temporary flight restriction (TFR) was expanded to 35 nautical miles. When EAA inquired about the expanded radius, a spokesperson replied, without elaborating, “…it was determined that a viable threat existed in the St. Louis area and the secure airspace had to be increased.”
On May 11 another 35 n.m. presidential TFR was announced via NOTAM for May 13-14 in Albuquerque, for the president’s scheduled town hall meeting there. EAA is concerned that this is the new standard, it said in a May 14 news release.
Presidential TFRs have become an accepted part of flight for general aviation since they were created post-9/11. Aviators have come to expect standard 30-n.m. radius TFRs to follow the president, along with the prohibition of many flight activities within the TFR. EAA said its primary concern is that presidential TFRs have a very large and direct adverse impact only on general aviation aircraft, although general aviation never has been proven to be a threat. Increasing the TFRs’ size only expands the adverse monetary impact on all general aviation activities – not any other mode of travel, like trucks, buses, trains, cars, etc., EAA said.
“Further, due to the sensitive nature of presidential TFRs, the public is unable to challenge what we consider to be a further unwarranted restriction on general aviation and related business activities,” the news release said, pointing out that these recent examples “reinforce the need for pilots to check all issued NOTAMs carefully before flight, especially when your flight path is anywhere near a known presidential appearance.”