FAA Denies It Is Limiting Flights over Gulf Spill Area

 - June 17, 2010, 1:13 PM

The FAA is denying an accusation lodged in an Associated Press story that the agency is not allowing reporters to fly in aircraft over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. “Since May 28, the FAA has approved every request to fly over the area–more than 176 requests,” the agency said. “While the temporary flight restriction requires pilots to stay above 3,000 feet, the FAA is working with news organizations and granting exceptions so that pilots can fly at lower altitudes throughout the day.” The FAA said the reason for the TFR is safety, pointing out that there have been “a number of reported near misses” over the spill area. Specifically, the AP story says that a helicopter pilot who carried an AP photographer on a flight on Sunday is being unfairly prosecuted for flying over the spill. According to the FAA, the charter helicopter violated the TFR around the oil clean-up efforts in the Gulf of Mexico by flying “at various altitudes well below 3,000 feet.” Further, the FAA said the pilot was not in communication with the customs and border patrol aircraft for more than 30 minutes. “When the pilot was finally reached, he was told to leave the area. A pilot deviation is being filed against the helicopter pilot,” the agency said.