Plane & Pilot
Saturday, October 1, 2005

Busting TFRs

Pilots continue to fly into restricted airspace. Are the feds losing their patience?

Once upon a time, you could pull the airplane out of the hangar, fire up the engine, point it into the wind and fly. Wherever you want, whenever you wanted. As time went on, rules and procedures began to be as much a part of a pilot’s skills as the ability to fly with a stick and rudder." />

Planning your flight and checking weather, NOTAMS and TFRs is where we should all begin. Whether for a flight around the local patch, or a 2,000-mile cross-country, you should become familiar with all issues that might affect your flight. Using current charts is another good idea to avoid a new tower or prohibited area along your route of flight.

Talking to ATC is an unguaranteed way of keeping you out of trouble. If flying under VFR, you might consider using flight following. GPS has caused many of us to become dependent on a little screen for situational awareness. If you’re flying VFR, it’s probably a good idea to brush up on your pilotage skills and look out the window every so often. Knowing where you are means you have to work at it at least a little faster than you’re traveling. Try leaving the GPS off every once in a while and keeping up with your position on the sectional.

Check in with the FSS operators in the air and on the ground between fuel stops. Besides being happy to hear from you, they also should have ready access to the latest weather, NOTAM and TFR information. Take a lesson from military fliers and listen to the emergency frequency 121.5 whenever you don’t have to use the spare radio to talk to someone else.

While some unauthorized transgressions sometimes go unchallenged, federal authorities are considering a number of ways to more strictly enforce airspace regulations. One area in Nevada has suffered such a spate of disregard from general-aviation pilots that officials have experimented with high-definition video cameras that can capture an aircraft’s tail number from a distance of more than five miles. Other plans unavailable for public discussion also are on the table to help the feds cut the number of TFR incursions to a minimum.

Increase your odds of a successful flight by keeping track of those things that will get you into trouble. As pilot in command, you’re the one who’s responsible for staying out of trouble. Awareness and diligent checking of the system for “gotchas” are the way to stay out of trouble. Good luck and good flying!


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