Dick’s Follies, Part 4: TFR – Not if I Don’t Think So

THIS ISN’T A STORY ABOUT DICK, BUT IT SEEMS TO BE ABOUT SOME OF HIS COUSINS. In this case, we’ll go over a few events in the wake of the recent flight restrictions around nuclear power plants and some other potential terrorist targets, and how some of our “Dick-Like” fellow pilots are trying to make the FAA’s fear of private pilots even more justified…

IT WAS A NICE DAY OUTSIDE. The weather was clear, the sky was blue, and our pilot, we’ll call him Dick Jr. for short, was out for a jaunt in his plane. As he toured the areas, he was oblivious to his proximity to a nuclear power plant in his flight path. After all, he’d flown this path for years, and how was he supposed to know where those darn plants were, anyway?

AS HE LOOKED OUT HIS WINDOW, HE WAS AMAZED TO SEE A FLIGHT OF TWO F-16 FIGHTERS PULL ALONGSIDE FOR A CHAT. Not being a complete imbecile, he dialed in 121.5 (the sign held up by the F-16 pilot probably helped), and got a butt chewing from the pilot. Dick Jr. had flown straight in to a Temporary Flight Restriction area, and was headed straight towards a nuclear power plant. The F-16 pilots told Dick Jr. to turn around and get clear, OR THEY WOULD TAKE ACTIONS TO END HIS TRIP. Fortunately, Dick Jr. wasn’t up to their challenge, and turned tail and ran.

WILL DICK JR. GET HIS TICKET PULLED? The chances are really quite good that he will. Dick Jr’s plane was visually identified by the fighter pilots, so they “have his number,” so to speak. If they turn it in to the FAA, (and since the FAA issued the scramble intercept, you can bet they will have to,) Dick Jr’s days as a licensed pilot may be short.

AS BAD AS THAT IS, SOME PEOPLE INSIST ON COMPOUNDING IGNORANCE WITH FURTHER INSULT. A nearby airport was under the 10 mile “No-Fly” zone around the area nuclear power plant. Despite the fact that airport traffic was closed to all but a few planes, four pilots flying under Part 91 flew in for lunch at the airport restaurant.

When informed that they had just busted a regulation, they elected to finish their lunches and DEPART BY AIR. In this action, these four “Dicks” violated the same regulation – twice. ATC was watching – so certificate suspensions and even fines may be forthcoming.

DON’T BE LIKE DICK. The TFRs are there for a reason. There are three simple lessons that you can learn to avoid becoming an “instant idiot”:

  1. GET A PRE-FLIGHT BRIEF. The briefer will warn you of any NOTAMs, including those pertaining to temporary flight restrictions. If you aren’t sure where the power plants are, telling the weather briefer where you are going may help them to help you avoid them. By telling the briefer what your destination airport is, you will also get a warning if it is under the TFR, and therefore inaccessible.
  2. PAY ATTENTION WHEN YOU FLY. If you see a big stack without smoke, or cooling towers, or large, concrete buildings, chances are good that you are near a power plant. Turn and steer clear of it, and maintain the distance required by the TFR.
  3. KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING, AND WHERE YOU SHOULDN’T. Times have changed for pilots across the US. If you take our current restricted freedoms for granted, they will be further restricted to maintain the necessary control.

By following the rules, you will help pilots everywhere return all airspace to normal faster. In this case, it is simply cool to follow the rules. The consequences should a few elect to not follow the regulations could be dire for the rest of us.