As the 2012 U.S. election campaign season begins ramping up, industry leaders are concerned about what they believe will be an unprecedented number of temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) as candidates spread out to press the flesh. Given the number of states up for grabs in what looks to be an extremely close and contentious presidential election, private aviation is bracing for the inevitable travel interruptions.
“I’m concerned that 2012 may be one of the worst years ever for the scope of TFRs,” said James Coyne, president and CEO of the National Air Transportation Association (NATA). He believes that the elections could engender as many as four times the number of flight restrictions as seen in a normal year, thus increasing the harm done to aviation businesses. “From our point of view the businesses at the airport are effectively shut down,” he told AIN. “What the government does is take away your business for a day in a way that very few other American businesses have to endure.”
Once the GOP chooses its nominee at its convention in August, the election year will truly shift into high gear. Like the President and vice president, the Republican candidates are eligible for TFR protection, effectively doubling the number of potential restrictions that could pop up with little advance notification, resulting in more confusion for private aircraft operators.
NATA is working with the FAA, TSA and Congress to open lines of communication with officials at the Secret Service, which is responsible for ordering the TFRs imposed by the FAA. The association seeks to streamline the waiver process by which corporate and charter aircraft can operate in and out of TFR zones. “No one has ever explained to me why a [Part] 135 operator or for that matter a [Part] 91 operator that meets the prescriptions and the recommendations of the TSA for security in the same way that the airlines do shouldn’t have the rights to fly where they fly,” said Coyne.