Senate Bill Backs Airport Reimbursement for Trump Travel

 - June 8, 2018, 12:11 PM

Senate lawmakers are setting aside up to $3.5 million in FAA funding to reimburse certain airports and service providers affected by disruptions surrounding Presidential temporary flight restrictions (TFR). Included in the Senate version of the Fiscal Year 2019 transportation, housing, and urban development appropriations bill (S.3023), the measure is similar to language approved last month as part of the House FY’19 transportation funding bill.

The $3.5 million would reimburse “airport sponsors that do not provide gateway operations and providers of general aviation ground support services located at those airports closed during a TFR for any residence of the President that is designated or identified to be secured by the U.S. Secret Service.”

The measure calls for verification, but would cover both direct and incremental financial losses that occur when the airports are closed during the TFR. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has backed the provision, which would provide relief to airports such as Palm Beach County Park Airport (Lantana Airport) that essentially shut down during the TFRS.

While the measure would cover non-gateway airports near Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, the National Air Transportation Association is hoping to convince lawmakers to expand the applicability to include Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) and the affected businesses there as well. “While it is possible for general aviation aircraft to fly into and out of PBI during a Presidential TFR, the numerous restrictions render operations extremely difficult,” the association says, noting that businesses lose in excess of $1 million from the TFRs during peak season.

Comments

While I certainly appreciate that the Senate is pursuing fiduciary action to compensate airport users for losses incurred under TFR imposition, they cannot compensate users for the loss of the airspace and the freedom to travel to and from such an afflicted airport. What I would like to propose instead is to institute a "trusted user" program that enables controlled use of such an airport under conditions of enhanced security. This might include advanced registration by pilots intending to use the facility at such a time, and inspection of aircraft, in addition to prior vetting of such pilots. Pilots might be assigned special transponder codes authorizing them to approach and land during such periods, and their flight paths could be monitored by the same aircraft that would interdict unauthorized aircraft incursions. Thus any loss of utility could be minimized.

Preferable, of course, would be to eliminate TFR civilian "no-fly" zones altogether, to restore the liberty that was curtailed after the 911 attacks. I doubt that anyone can prove that TFRs actually enhance security more than alternative means of surveillance and interdiction near sensitive areas.

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