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Mon, May 03, 2004

You're About To Feel A Little Pressure

Bush Road Trip Will Cause Pilots Logistical Nightmare

President Bush is planning a two-day campaign bus trip from Kalamazoo (MI) to Cincinnati (OH) on Monday and Tuesday, a trip that will severely complicate flight planning for pilots in the area. And there are reports that the Bush campaign is planning several more of these trips all across the country over the next couple of weeks.

The NOTAM explaining the restrictions is likely to be so complex that pilots will have difficulty deciphering the exact times and locations. Neither the FAA's own graphical TFR Web site nor even AOPA's much more powerful Real Time Flight Planner will be able to provide accurate, real-time depictions, especially if the schedule changes unexpectedly. However, AOPA will prepare and post online a plain-language explanation that should help pilots plan their routes.

While traffic traveling the same roads at the same times will apparently be unaffected, air traffic will be severely impacted. The by-now usual 30 n.m. radius temporary flight restriction (TFR) extending up to 18,000' is expected at each of his stops. But in addition, a 10 n.m. radius no-fly "bubble" is expected to move with the bus as it travels.

"Protecting the President of the United States is absolutely vital," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "But having said that, the security arrangements for this trip will tax the FAA, perhaps beyond its breaking point. The agency is not set up to be able to make and distribute the kind of short-notice, short-term changes that are so often part of whistlestop-style campaign swings. And if the FAA can't get the word out, then pilots are being put in a position where they can do everything the way they're supposed to, and still end up violating regulations."

"TFRs that cover presidential motorcades are nothing new," said AOPA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Melissa Bailey Rudinger. "They pre-date the September 11 attacks. What makes this different is that whereas the old TFRs were three miles in radius, this is expected to be ten, and it's expected to extend nine times higher. That's 100 times the airspace that used to be affected."

FMI: www.aopa.org

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