Temporary flight restrictions place a heavy burden on small businesses 

When the president comes to town, small aviation companies lose money


Imagine walking out to your driveway to take your car to work and being met by armed law enforcement officers who tell you that because the president or some VIP is in town, you cannot use your personally-owned vehicle today. Far-fetched? Not really. In fact, this is exactly the scenario faced by pilots and aircraft owners who are supposed to be afforded the benefit of the principle of “innocent until proven guilty,” but are instead the victims of an overreaching federal policy which constitutes an unconstitutional taking of public airspace and access rights without due process of law.

A temporary flight restriction is a term that many of us are unaware of and could really care less about, but it is significant and can impact us all economically and ethically. Commercial airline operations are not impacted by this type of flight restriction, so if you are going to visit Aunt Maude in Montana, you will still be able to do so. However, all of the general aviation operators in your area will feel the very real economic impact of this decree, including those of us in Las Vegas. Whenever the president comes to town, general aviation in our area is brought to a standstill.

Think about it: Flight instructors, student pilots, hot air balloon pilots, pilots who are out flying to stay sharp and current in their aircraft, mechanics bringing small airplanes back to service by flying them around the airport, tourists on holiday trying to take a ride in a hot air balloon or other small aircraft, local people who have to commute by air in a small aircraft to work out of state; all of these folks will be grounded during the president’s stay in our city. How many airports will it affect? Because we are in a valley here, with all our airports within twenty nautical miles of each other, it will affect all of them. Has it always been this way? The answer is a resounding “No.”

After the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, many new restrictions were implemented, and this is one of them. What most people do not know is that a study funded by the government, which means that all of us paid for it, was conducted to see if general aviation aircraft were really a threat to national security. The findings of this study concluded that they are not a threat. Period. End of story.

However, what type of aircraft were used in the attacks on that fateful day? It was commercial airliners. What types of aircraft are allowed to fly around when the president visits and we are told that general aviation aircraft (the small stuff) has to be grounded for safety? Well, it’s the commercial airliners who are allowed to keep operating, even after the federally-funded study which concluded that general aviation aircraft are not a threat to national security and that large, heavy airline aircraft with their higher weight, increased fuel load and higher speeds are. And there you have the indignity of commercial air travel today.

In addition to this contradiction, the nature and expense of aviation means small aviation operators cannot afford to lose business for a day or even a few hours. Does the federal government compensate pilots and passengers for their losses whenever a restriction like this is put into place? No. The pilots and passengers lose money that is never recovered.

Assuming five flight schools each with three aircraft at an hourly aircraft rental of $140 per hour and an instructor cost of $40 per hour, each flight school is losing $540 of income per hour of restriction. A helicopter tour company with a 12-helicopter fleet carrying five passengers each at $300 per passenger is losing $18,000 per hour. This is a total of $20,700 per hour of losses per restriction. Assuming six hours a day, and factoring in the flights lost by local balloon companies, the total losses easily top $132,000 dollars per day. This is levied on the shoulders of only a handful of local businesses, in one of the towns hardest hit by the recession.

Not only do businesses lose money due to not being able to deliver services as requested, they lose faith in the federal government’s willingness to protect their freedoms. They lose heart that we all have the same protected rights. They lose, period.

And you lose too. How? You lose industry and economic wealth that could support your community. You lose money from federally funded studies that were not utilized. You lose freedoms, because as each small freedom is successfully encroached upon in any area of life, it increases the chance that more freedoms will be taken. The scenario in the beginning of this article is not the reality today, but it could be our reality tomorrow. Please care about aviation. Without it you and I would have no overnight package delivery, no rapid return of lab results, no airborne traffic reports and no future pilots, astronauts, air shows or hot air balloon festivals.

Many people come to the United States of America to learn to fly because general aviation has all but collapsed and disappeared in other countries due to rampant losses of freedoms, user fees and onerous government restrictions. If we allow general aviation to be destroyed here as it has been overseas, it will be a truly sad day. Our airspace is a national treasure and all forms of aviation serve us and protect us here in the United States of America.

So what can you do? Contact your senators and representatives and demand that the current temporary flight restriction policy be repealed and that the government follow due process before taking public resources. Get involved. The general aviation industry belongs to all of us and we need to protect it.

0 Responses to Temporary flight restrictions place a heavy burden on small businesses

  1. James Carlson

    Perhaps we just have better controllers here in the Northeast, but I have found that all of the air traffic folks I’ve talked to have been aware of TFRs and very helpful in making sure that everyone operating in the area is aware of the hazard. I’ve never heard of one acting in a way that would entrap an unwary pilot. If that happens elsewhere, that’s a shame.

    I fully agree with the article. Like most of the changes since 9/11, the great expansions of TFRs, SFRAs, and new “national security areas” is merely “security theater.” It does nothing whatsoever to enhance actual security, has nothing to do with the threats we face, and actively does damage to the economy and our freedoms.

    Given that it’s a Bad Idea, and our response to ill-defined threats (terror, drugs, you name it) is a playground for bad ideas, I don’t expect this problem to be fixed.

  2. William J. David

    I made a mistake, it should read;

    I think that it is safe to say that there is not one elected official that did not get the “use,” of a friendly cooperation’s private airplane many times during their political career. They are all hypocrites in this conversation.

  3. William J. David

    Good article. All of your points are valid. TFRs are one of many ways our government is putting the screws to us in the name of the so called war on terrorism. The concept of limiting the airspace to protect somebody or something from an aerial attack is so absurd it is difficult for me to find a place to start criticizing them.
    I get so frustrated I can’t keep my thoughts straight. I will say this in order to illustrate not how I feel about them but, rather what I think of them. When it comes to something so complicated as trying to stop and aerial attack it is much better to think than believe. However, I’m afraid the overwhelming majority of the people act and react guided by their feelings and our government knows that.
    The only things that a TFR accomplishes is waisting time and money while vilifying some poor pilot that has wandered into one of these tools of oppression. They are fool’s play. Good people are charged by the government for exercising what used to be one of their freedoms, the freedom to fly. I know some will say otherwise.
    I classify these naysayers in one of two. First, they are in some way connected to the program. In other words they get payed by the government, and I’m not just talking about the guys that get to force you down or chase you (which even I admit must be fun) around the sky. I am including anybody that collects a paycheck from the government. Try asking a police officer, or fighter pilot, or a TSA worker what they think of a TFR and get them to let you record or publish their response. Good luck on that one.
    The second group is smaller than the first but accounts for almost the rest of the population, the ignorant. The average Joe or Jill thinks of flying as a mysterious feat that only fat cats or daredevils can either afford or be adventurous enough to pursue, although they are at the same time fascinated by it. I can understand this because I know it either takes a lot of money to afford a private plane, or it takes a tremendous amount of perseverance to get your license. Most folks are happy to never get close to airplanes, and that is OK.
    What isn’t OK is the government’s zeal to fan the flames of ignorance to vilify the private pilot by trapping him or her in a TFR in the first place. It is common to see or hear our elected officials all the way up to the President talk about “Fat Cats,” flying around in there private jets on one end of the scale or, hearing about some “buffoon,” that wandered into a TFR unknowingly and was forced down by jet fighters. I think that it is safe to say that there is not one elected official that did not get the “use,” of a friendly cooperation many times during their political career. They are all hypocrites in this conversation.
    Perhaps the worst display of ignorance is when it comes from a fellow pilot condemning the hapless individual that became a victim of this snare. I have heard private pilots say things like, “he should have looked on the chart,” “checked his notams,” etc. The only pilot that would take a stance like that is one that has very little experience flying or teaching. I know because I have decades doing both. Ignorance is bliss and I am afraid the ranks of ignorant pilots is growing at an exponential rate, both private and commercial.
    We have and continue to loose freedom with each passing month, especially in general aviation. The draconian limits and restrictions are very much un American like torture, preemptive war, and the NDAA, and this is just the beginning.
    The sad news Dede, is that of the people that agree with you and I, and there are many, only a very small percentage take the time to make their voices heard. As I write this I see you have only 5 replies. I wrote on a blog when Russell Munson of FLYING got trapped in a TFR and published an article about it. There was very little response to his story. I am afraid we are out numbered and unrepresented.
    This is not a passing thing, this war on terrorism. 9/11 granted business and government the opportunity to impose their control over us and that control is growing in all corners of our lives. Flying is just one small corner. This is what concerns me most about this security hysteria, we blindly follow without protest even though we know it is wrong. Have you read in AOPA or Sport Flying any pieces condemning or exposing this travesty?
    Ask yourself this, if TFRs are so completely ineffective, and they are, in stopping an airplane from crashing into our President when he is doing something important for the American people, like golfing with Tiger Woods or chatting with the ladies on the View, then what do they do? What is their purpose?
    Keep up the good work Dede.

  4. Rosenschein

    During a short stay in Pakistan I noticed that any time a high ranking official (not sure how high) was traveling, the cars were not allowed anywhere nearby, blocking the traffic for miles. How far are we from that? Of course we are a democracy and the government is here to serve us … and I am the next Pope!
    As a child I travelled to communist countries, my memories are very similar to what we have now here, but they got rid of their system. My personal answer, after the last election I decided to stop voting, a small step to de-legitimize what is presented as our government.

  5. Arturo Thompson

    Not only is all the above true why do need the these inflated egos even flying around at taxpayer expense when they should stay in DC to solve problems (most of which they created). And assuming that they really need to talk to the people then let ’em teleconference and save the planet.

  6. Charles R. "Charlie" Morgenstein


    You are right on target. This whole VIP TRF has been bogus from the get-go. And not only in beautiful Las Vegas. All over the entire freakin’ country! Beyond that, the manner in which the Secret Service forces the FAA to handle these situations is ridiculous. It is an absolute “gotcha” type of enforcement policy. No effort is made to warn aircraft which are approaching the TFR to alter course. Only after a penetration has been documented do the controllers start trying to contact the aircraft, and then only to make certain that they can begin an enforcement action. No settlement authority is granted to FAA. They must prosecute these matters. It is a total waste of money, a trap for the innocent, an ineffective security measure, and most-upsetting, merely a theatrical device to keep the citizens bamboozled into thinking that our government — which has proven itself incapable of doing much of anything — has actually done something to enhance the security of VIP targets.

  7. Ken

    Thank you so much for bring this issue to the attention of the general public. As a balloonist in Las Vegas, I have lost flights due to no-notice, pop-up presidential TFRs. It is very hard for a small business to succeed when the primary business activity can be curtailed without notice. What threat, exactly, does a hot air balloon pose? The balloonists in Las Vegas fly in the extreme West of the valley, well away from Mc Carran, and the strip. Thank you again for an excellent article.

  8. Melissa

    I believe the phrase you are looking for is “couldn’t care less,” not “could really care less.” If one cares, then that doesn’t support the rest of your statement.


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