What is an aviation TFR? How do I fly in one?

You may have heard someone mention a TFR while flying, or maybe your instructor asked you if you checked for any TFR’s in your flight area. Or maybe hopefully not, someone said they flew into a TFR. There are so many acronyms in aviation that it seems like every other word is one. Some are there to remember a flow or a checklist item. Some are just important terms made shorter and this is one of those.

What is a TFR in aviation?

A Temporary Flight Restriction or TFR for short is a notice that is put out that lets pilots know that a particular area is temporarily restricted from flight.

Are there different types of TFR’s?

You can think of TFR’s as 4 groups. This is just a way to help remember the 4 possible TFR categories, but this is always subject to change and there can be exceptions. TFR’s are issued under different Federal Aviation Regulations.

  • Disasters: These can be natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires or they can be accidents such as aircraft accidents. These TFR’s are put in place to keep the areas open and free for the rescuers and those they are helping.
    • 91.137-Temporary Flight Restrictions in the Vicinity of Disaster/Hazard Areas
    • 91.138 – Temporary Flight Restrictions in National Disaster Areas in the State of Hawaii.
  • Special events: Large gatherings of people need to be protected. Baseball, Football, Nascar, etc are now protected with a standing NOTAM. You can see them in mobile apps during the sport’s season over the stadiums all over the country. Those that don’t happen on a regular occurrence like the world series, airshows, olympics get TFR’s created after requests are submitted.
    • 91.145 – Management of Aircraft Operations in the Vicinity of Aerial Demonstrations and Major Sporting Events.
  • Special people: Perhaps the most violated as they tend to move around as the president or vice president fly around the country especially during election time.
    • 91.141 – Flight Restrictions in the Proximity of the Presidential and Other Parties.
    • 99.7 – Special Security Instructions.
  • Other
    • 91.139 – Emergency Air Traffic Rules.
    • 91.143 – Flight Limitation in the Proximity of Space Flight Operations.
    • 91.144 – Abnormally High Barometric Pressure Conditions.

Where Can I find TFR’s?

You can get information for any TFR in several ways

With a standard weather briefing.

Whether that is done on the phone by calling 1-800-WX-BRIEF, or online at 1800wxbrief.com

On the FAA TFR website

The FAA’s official TFR website is available at tfr.faa.gov. This isn’t what I would call the best website or the most user-friendly, but it is straight from the source. If it’s not on here then it doesn’t exist. I would take my time using the site and getting familiar with it.

AOPA Member Notifications

AOPA members are able to sign up to be notified of new TFR’s by electing to sign up for notifications. I would highly recommend this if you are a member. If you aren’t a member of AOPA you should sign up their resources for all pilots are tremendous.

FAA Safety Email Notifications

Another place that sends TFR notifications is the FAA itself. They do it through their safety program at www.faasafety.gov you can sign up for a free account. While there you can checkout many of their other free resources.

Flight Planning Apps

Most apps incorporate TFR’s into their maps. Just make sure that you know how to add or turn on the feature for the particular app that you are using.

Can you fly in a TFR? IFR? VFR?

It depends on the type of TFR. Some TFRs allow you to fly through them and some don’t. The best way to find out is to look at the TFR itself. Here are three different operating restrictions from three different TFR’s. Only one allows general traffic, but they need to be on a flight plan, squawking a discrete beacon code and talking to ATC.

How can I avoid flying into a TFR?

The main thing is to know that there is a TFR in your area and for that you need to be aware with all available information concerning that flight 91.103.

Once you know that there is a TFR in your route of flight you need to know exactly where it is so that you can either fly around it making sure that you give yourself plenty of space or file a flight plan if needed.

An ipad, iphone, or other tablet with a moving map could be a good resource if you have one and you have the latest TFR’s on there. If not then you can always get a VFR flight following or file a flight plan and have ATC help you out.

The final way to avoid a TFR in your route is to not fly until the TFR is cleared out.

What happens if a pilot violates a TFR?

This is also one of those, it depends on the situation. For one thing, it depends on the type of TFR. Flying into a special event TFR for a small local airshow wouldn’t be as bad as flying into a presidential TFR. But either way inadvertent flight into a TFR not only places a pilot’s certificate at risk; it also increases the chances of being intercepted by military or law enforcement aircraft. Even worse, straying into TFR airspace may increase the risk of a mid-air collision.

If you find that you flew into a TFR, be humble, be honest and above all stay calm. Fly the airplane and talk on the ground. If you need intercept procedures brush up download this handy knee board pdf.

IF I HAVE ANY QUESTIONS REGARDING A TFR, WHOM SHOULD I CONTACT?

Direct any questions or concerns regarding TFRs to the FAA Directors of Terminal or En Route and Oceanic Area Operations (or their designee) having management jurisdiction over the TFR area. You may also contact the FAA Headquarters Airspace and Rules Manager, Office of System Operations and Safety, ATO-R, Washington, D.C., at (202) 267-8783.

Final Thoughts

There you go, more information than you ever wanted to know about TFR’s. But it’s important to be aware of them. It could mean the difference between a fun flight or a flight that can lead to a violation and a large fine. Let me know if you have any questions on TFRs or anything else aviation related.

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