TFR Season

While you might not believe that there’s a season for TFRs, it’s true in California right now. We have presidential visits, airshows, wildfires, football, and for a few days longer, baseball. All of these have TFRs associated with them. Take a look at this depiction courtesy of RunwayFinder from last Saturday.

See all those red and orange circles? Those are TFRs and that’s not even all the ones you need to worry about in California over the next few days!

In case you don’t know, a Temporary Flight Restriction is defined as geographically-limited, short-term, airspace restriction. [We can debate how short-term the Disneyland TFR has been]. TFRs are published by NOTAM (as opposed to the charting of Prohibited, Restricted, SFRA, MOAs, and other more permanent special use airspace). See the list of active TFRs.

There are three things you need to know about any TFR – airspace, time, and restrictions.

Airspace

What airspace is included in the TFR? There are basically two ways that airspace is defined, either by a point and radius (defining a circular area) or as a series of points that define a random shape. Points are given generally as latitude and longitude, so you can find them on your charts. They are also usually given as a VOR radial and distance. The “blanket” sports TFRs are defined by a radius surrounding a sports venue (like the Rose Bowl). Altitude can be either MSL (most) or AGL (in the case of the blanket TFRs). Having those definitions is fine, but being able to see them on a chart really helps. The FAA’s TFR site and most flight planning software will show you TFRs on a chart.

Time

Many TFRs come out as effective immediately and until further notice. This is typical with firefighting TFRs. Others have defined times (airshows and VIP TFRs). Lastly the blanket TFR times are defined based upon the start (1 hour before) and end time of the game (1 hour after).

Restrictions

To be on the safe side, assume you can’t fly through a TFR unless you are very clear you meet the requirements to be able to fly through it. In most cases, TFRs are intended to keep almost all aircraft out.

Examples

Here’s a typical example of a firefighting TFR that is common in California during the summer and fall.

FDC 1/2936 ZOA CA.. FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS BRIDGEPORT, CA. 
EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE PURSUANT TO
14 CFR SECTION 91.137(A)(2) TEMPORARY FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS
ARE IN EFFECT WITHIN A 5 NAUTICAL MILE RADIUS OF
381529N/1191839W OR THE MINA /MVA/ VORTAC 236 DEGREE
RADIAL AT 63.0 NAUTICAL MILES AT AND BELOW 17000 FEET MSL
TO PROVIDE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR FIRE FIGHTING AIRCRAFT
OPERATIONS. US FOREST SERVICE TELEPHONE 775-782-1401
OR FREQ 132.125/BUCKEYE FIRE IS IN CHARGE OF THE
OPERATION. OAKLAND ARTCC /ZOA/ TELEPHONE 510-745-3331
IS THE FAA COORDINATION FACILITY.

Let’s break down what this is telling us.

  • FDC = Flight Data Center. This is a type of NOTAM. All TFRs are FDC NOTAMs.
  • 1/2936 = the identifier for this NOTAM. As NOTAMs change, usually the old number will be retired and a new number assigned to indicate that there has been a change
  • ZOA CA = this NOTAM is in the Oakland Center (ZOA) area and affects the state of California
  • FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS BRIDGEPORT, CA = gives you a geographic reference for the area near the TFR
  • EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE PURSUANT TO 14 CFR SECTION 91.137(A)(2) = self explanatory?
  • TEMPORARY FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS ARE IN EFFECT WITHIN A 5 NAUTICAL MILE RADIUS OF 381529N/1191839W OR THE MINA /MVA/ VORTAC 236 DEGREE RADIAL AT 63.0 NAUTICAL MILES AT AND BELOW 17000 FEET MSL = the center of the affected area is defined as 38 degrees/15 minutes/29 seconds north latitude and 119 degrees/18 minutes/39 seconds west longitude; this is the same as 63.0 miles from MINA VOR (identifier MVA) on the 236 degree radial from the VOR. From that center point, the TFR is a 5 nm radius and includes up to (and including) 17,000 feet above mean sea level
  • TO PROVIDE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR FIRE FIGHTING AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS = there’s a wildfire, with firefighting aircraft in the area and they don’t want us in the way.
  • US FOREST SERVICE TELEPHONE 775-782-1401 OR FREQ 132.125/BUCKEYE FIRE IS IN CHARGE OF THE OPERATION. OAKLAND ARTCC /ZOA/ TELEPHONE 510-745-3331 IS THE FAA COORDINATION FACILITY. = information about who is in charge. The forest service requested the TFR and decides when they are done. Oakland center will be aware of the activities in the area since it is within their area (who you might contact in the air to confirm if the TFR is still active and to assist in remaining clear)
Overall, that’s a little tough to parse out, so it’s a lot easier to see the area, like this
In my opinion, the blanket sporting event TFR is a bit of a “gotcha”. If you look at the list of TFRs or call Flight Service to ask about TFRs, you will not be given any information about the sporting events that are covered. You are responsible to know which venues might be covered and whether there is an event there and when it starts (and when it ends). In the Los Angeles area, we have a lot:
  • Rose Bowl in Pasadena (UCLA football games)
  • Coliseum near downtown LA (USC football games)
  • Dodger Stadium near downtown LA (Dodger baseball games)
  • Angels Stadium in Anaheim (Angels baseball games)
  • California (Auto Club) Speedway in Fontana (NASCAR races)
This means that sports team schedules are part of the required knowledge, or you need to know you are clear of any potential TFR. If you are heading towards a stadium and see the blimp circling, best to stay away 😉
AOPA has some useful information, but the key part of the TFR is
SPECIAL SECURITY INSTRUCTIONS, COMMENCING ONE HOUR BEFORE THE
SCHEDULED TIME OF THE EVENT UNTIL ONE HOUR AFTER THE END OF THE
EVENT. ALL AIRCRAFT AND PARACHUTE OPERATIONS ARE PROHIBITED WITHIN A
3 NMR UP TO AND INCLUDING 3000 FT AGL OF ANY STADIUM HAVING A SEATING
CAPACITY OF 30,000 OR MORE PEOPLE WHERE EITHER A REGULAR OR POST
SEASON MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL, NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE, OR NCAA
DIVISION ONE FOOTBALL GAME IS OCCURRING. THIS NOTAM ALSO APPLIES TO
NASCAR SPRINT CUP, INDY CAR
end

2 thoughts on “TFR Season

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