Time to Reassess the Consequences?
Recent reports have highlighted the impact of Temporary Flight Restrictions on airports and aviation enterprises located at impacted airfields. TFRs pose a difficult dilemma—the protections are necessary, but their effect on the ground has serious economic consequences. Is it time to reassess the consequences of these flight restrictions?
The Secret Service and DHS are in a No Win position on Permanent Prohibited Areas, particularly those protecting the present and past Presidents. Sane risk analysis places high value on the attacks whether it is nuclear power plants, submarine bases or the temporary White Houses. In designing an area of security, it is hard to cut the boundaries to a narrow circumference. Equally, well-timed announcements, which might allow the businesses in the P airspace to plan for the arrival of POTUS, for example, also make it easier for the “bad guys” more time to plan an assault.
St. Marys, GA Airport Set For Closure: Funding Approved In January In National Defense Appropriations Act
St. Marys Airport has been located close to US Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. It is home port for ballistic missile nuclear submarines armed with Trident missile nuclear weapons. 4J6 was opened in 1941 and the military base was established in 1958 as an Army military ocean terminal to ship ammunition, but under President Carter, the site became a strategic sub base in 1978. The 9/11 attack increased security consciousness and review of the proximity of the base to the airport resulted in a very restrictive TFR.
The City of St. Marys faced a quandary; it owned an FAA-funded airport which was economically crippled by the TFR. The Grant Assurance prohibited 4J6’s closure and the restrictions made it uneconomical. Congress enacted National Defense Appropriations Act, which includes funding to repay the $5 million of AIP funds and authorized the airfield’s closure. The Department of Defense recognized the TFR-related closure impact on the airport tenants and is reviewing the leases, but there has been no determination about how they might be compensated. The FAA and Camden County anticipate the development of a replacement facility in the area.
THIS TFR CLOSED AN AIRPORT; CONGRESS FOUND FUNDS TO AVOID AIP ISSUES, BUT THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF THE RUNWAYS DESTRUCTION ON THE TENANTS HAVE NOT BEEN DECIDED.
The TFR protecting Mar-a-Lago has been violated by 27 separate aircraft and caused a wing of Air Force fighter jets to be launched at super-sonic speeds to interdict the threats. While as painful as that has been to the pilots and the neighbors of the airport, the impact of GA operators/FBOs at PBI and at Lantana Airport, a/k/a Palm Beach County Park Airport has been estimated at $30,000 per POTUS visit.
AOPA President Mark Baker wrote a strongly worded letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, in which solutions to this reoccurring imposition might be mitigated by using an FBO to scrutinize passengers and bags prior to their departure from the GA airport. Not surprisingly, DHS has yet to respond.
Since it appears that President Trump may be using his Southern White House more often than past practice, the PBI TFR could bankrupt several of these GA operations. The airport is owned by Palm Beach County and may have to seek the same remedy as St. Marys.
This issue will continue after President Trump leaves the White House. Prohibited areas were established for both Presidents Bush’s homes—Kennebunkport, ME (
Further, President Obama’s vacation trips to his native Hawai’i did not have as catastrophic consequences— both in terms of frequency and location.
Though philosophically conservative Republicans have the takings clause high on their political agenda (they assert that economic interests have taken undue priority over individual rights); however, the President used eminent domain frequently in his private life. A TFR, as demonstrated by the above cases, is a form of inverse condemnation (the primary legal remedy for noise around airports).
Though it has been alleged that President Trump, once at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., would use that status to restrict the noise over his Palm Beach mansion, there are serious legal questions and policy questions which should be affirmatively addressed about the economic impact of TFRs. Hopefully the resolution of this debate will not be a reiteration of the process of Griggs v. Allegheny County 369 U.S. 84 (1962) ; the answer should be decided by the Congress, the constitutionally appropriate body for establishing answers to such complex conundrums. The matters to be decided include:
1. Are there any technical or technological solutions possible?
a. Could the runways be realigned or airspace redesigned to reduce the risks?
i. Funding for these individual analyses?
b. Could technology be developed to assure that the aircraft would not be used to attack the protected areas?
2. Should all AIP airports be afforded this protection against the imposition of a TFR?
3. How long must the TFR be imposed before relief is considered?
a. In that the PBI TFR is on and then off, is the time cumulative? Over what time line?
b. If the prospect of an indefinite TFR damaging enough to invoke relief?
4. What measure of TFR impact merits relief?
a. Is there a standard % of lost operations/revenues?
5. What distance between the Secret Service/DHS protected point and the airport sets the standard for consideration?
6. What economic standards should be used to measure damages?
a. Should well-established local property law precedents be used?
b. Or would it be fairer to set a national standard?
7. Does invocation of relief mandate that the sponsor of the TFR-closed airport find a suitable site for an alternative?
a. Can expansion of an existing nearby airport adequate?
b. How proximate?
c. Must the capacity of the TFR-closed airport be duplicated at the new and or relief airport?
d. Funding for replacement airport?
e. Funding for economic damage to TFR-closed airport’s airlines, FBOs, Part 145s, hangars, etc.?
8. Related NEPA issues?
9. Should the FAA/DoT and/or Secret Service/DHS or some independent organization empowered to decide whether the TFR compels closure?
10. Should the FAA/DoT and/or Secret Service/DHS or some independent organization empowered to decide what compensation for the TFR-caused closure?
Chairman Shuster is considering an FAA Reauthorization bill and is an advocate for infrastructure spending. IT MIGHT BE TIMELY FOR HIS COMMITTEE TO INCLUDE CONSIDERATION OF LEGISLATION WHICH FAIRLY COMPENSATES AVIATION CONCERNS IMPACTED BY TFRs, THE REPLACEMENT OF THE LOST AIRPORT CAPACITY AND THE FUNDING THEREOF.
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