Anyone flying with Cape Air in the New York area this summer has become familiar with the effects of Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs). TFRs are put in place by the FAA and the Secret Service to provide security for the President when he is away from Washington D.C. (Washington has a permanent security zone called an SFRA – Special Flight Rules Area).
Most Presidential TFRs have an inner ring of 7 to 10 miles surrounding the President and, with few exceptions, this ring is a No-Fly Zone. There is also a 30-mile ring that can only be entered by aircraft that are on an FAA Flight Plan and are in constant contact with Air Traffic Control.
Although all Presidents have been protected by TFRs since the events of 9/11/2001, our current POTUS is the first to spend a significant amount of time in the New York and New Jersey area. When he is in residence at his Bedminster Golf Club, the effects of the TFR over the area are minimal, and most operations in and out of NYC are not affected. When he is in transit from one of the area airports, all air traffic can be stopped for anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. When the President is in New York City, the inner ring encompasses the whole of Manhattan and access to the city’s seaplane base and heliports becomes more problematic.
The FAA and Secret Service are aware of the disruption this causes and do their best to accommodate seaplanes and helicopters. During the NYC TFR the TSA sets up screening stations at New York City heliports and seaplane bases, and at “Gateway” airports outside the 30-mile ring. All inbound aircraft must stop at a “Gateway” and passengers and crew go through a screening process similar to procedures at a commercial airport. IDs are checked, bags searched, the airplane is inspected, and everyone re-boards and proceeds to New York under strict ATC routing and control. Outbound, the TSA at the 23rd Street Seaplane Base conduct the same passenger screening.
We know that this has been confusing and frustrating to our passengers and we share your pain. We have worked closely with the FAA and Secret Service with the help of the National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) and National Air Transport Association (NATA) to minimize the impact of these events, but, obviously, security has to come first.
John D. Kelly
Cape Air – Providing Safe, Reliable Seaplane Service Throughout the Northeast Since 1980