Presidential TFRs: Attention Shifts to the North

 - June 15, 2017, 6:22 PM

While President Trump’s travel to Mar-A-Lago in Florida has quieted for the season, the business and general aviation community is now wary of the airspace restrictions that are accompanying his recurring travel to Bedminster, N.J. A similar security protocol has been established for those trips and two airports—Solberg-Hunterdon Airport in Readington (N51) and Somerset Airport (SMQ) in Somerville—are caught within the 10-nm inner core, with all operations halted during temporary flight restrictions.

As with the Florida TFR, the New Jersey TFR institutes special procedures for business and general aviation aircraft flying in the 30-nm outer core and covers the airspace from the surface through 17,999 feet msl.

With the TFR airspace just west of the New York City area in North-Central New Jersey, FAA facilities also have to enforce required reroutes around the blocked airspace when the TFR is active, NBAA notes. This affects both standard arrival and departure routes for Teterboro (TEB), Morristown (MMU) and Essex County (CDW), as well as flights to the area from major cities such as Miami, Chicago, Denver, Fort Worth, Minneapolis Los Angeles and Seattle.

The reroutes, in one of the busiest airspace corridors in the world, become more difficult as inclement weather sets in, noted Doug Carr, vice president of regulatory and international affairs for NBAA. The association has been pushing for as much notice as possible and continually urges operators to check TFRs. New York-area operators are bracing for the possibility of encountering a number of TFRs. The first few were already in place by early June.

Half a dozen were implemented above the Palm Beach area over the winter and early spring, shuttering Palm Beach Park Airport (LNA) in Lantana, Fla. and making operations at Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) much more difficult during a busy season. Industry advocates had urged security chiefs to find a possible alternative to complete shuttering of the airports, but to no avail. Carr noted that industry groups were evaluating the experiences with the Mar-A-Lago TFRs to find areas where improvements might be made.

A key is the proliferation of gateway airports for operations into PBI, which is one of the busiest business aviation facilities in the nation, he said. Gateways were limited to Orlando (MCO) and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (FLL) in the south; and Dulles (IAD) near Washington and TEB and White Plains (HPN) in the north. Operations from the west or east were forced to route through these points as well.

Effect on Local Business

Carr noted that screening hours did increase, which helped. But the TFRs took their toll, he said, noting anecdotes of business dropping by well more than half at some PBI facilities and other anecdotes of owners of based aircraft beginning to look for alternative locations to house their aircraft. The fear, he said, is that business could be lost permanently.

While LNA is a much smaller airport, he noted the wide range of activity, from sightseeing to FBO operations and training, that ground to a halt. Dave Johnson, president of Palm Beach Aircraft Services, outlined some of the ramifications in a letter to the President earlier this year. Along with his company, 27 others at LNA “rely on 24-hour, seven-day-a-week access to operate aircraft, with 400,000 takeoffs and landings a year,” he told Trump, adding that the first weekend alone cost businesses $50,000.

Jonathan Miller, president of Stellar Aviation at LNA, reported to the Palm Beach County Department of Airports that the loss from just two operators based at his facility over an initial weekend was $19,000. “We are small businesses,” Miller said. “Even these short-term losses have significant impact on us. Far more concerning is the fact that these short-term losses cannot be sustained for subsequent TFRs without leading to the more serious and permanent long-term losses.” One flight-training operator, he noted, immediately relocated its five aircraft out of the county. “This is a most dire situation that requires some resolution,” he told the airport department.

While these businesses attempt to recover from the winter, attention has shifted to the affected airports in the north, which also must prepare for the ramifications of recurring TFRs.