Before you fly, verify!
Summer flying is arguably some of the most spectacular and fun to accomplish. The long sunny days give us plenty of daylight to work with. Once in the air the beauty of the shimmering lakes and varied shades of green that pass under our wings is simply amazing. Life and flight seem to be so easy, pleasurable, and simple.
But the days of looking at a chart or two, filing a simple flight plan and taking off are long gone. Now because of the expanded use (and need) for Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR's), preflight planning and preparation has taken on even greater meaning.
TFRs are explained in the Aeronautical Informational Manual (AIM) (Section 3-5-3) and in various parts of the federal aviation regulations (FAR's). TFR's indicate airspace where pilots cannot or should not fly over, or through. Currently the TFR's aviators are likely to come across are those concerning security areas, VIP movements (like the President and others), sports events, disaster areas, airshows, and space flight. Whatever the reason for a TFR, pilots should make avoidance of those areas a top priority when planning their flight, and while enroute.
Pilots can obtain TFR information on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) website at http://tfr.faa.gov/tfr2/list.html. The site depicts TFRs in two ways, textually and graphically. Though the graphic depiction is easy to understand, it is critically important to read the text description. Remember that some NOTAMS (notices to airmen), may contain more than one TFR that could also have different effective times.
It should also be noted that the FAA's TFR Web site states, "Pilots should not use the information on this website for flight planning purposes. For the latest information, call your local Flight Service Station at 1-800-WX-BRIEF." TFR information can be obtained at other sites like AOPA's TFR web page. It is located at http://www.aopa.org/Flight-Planning/Tfrs, (presented in this article for informational purposes only, for the flying audience).
It is a wise choice to check for TFR's even when planning to fly in your local area. One never be certain when a TFR might pop up along your intended route of flight, as conditions and needs can and often do change frequently. It is far better to ask and verify, and avoid TFR penetration by accident, than to fly into a TFR and (with luck) only get your certificate suspended! If you do "bust" a TFR, you can start a chain of action on the ground and quickly into the air that will lead to your aircraft being intercepted by military aircraft!
When you are intercepted, remain calm. If you are talking to ATC, let them know you have an interceptor off your wing. Try to contact the intercepting aircraft on guard frequency 121.5 and squawk 7700 on your transponder, unless otherwise instructed by ATC. If you cannot talk to the interceptor pilot, follow his/her visual instructions as closely as possible and remember, there is a second interceptor usually located at or near your six o'clock position. There is a graphic as well as a written description of the intercept procedure in the AIM Chapter 5-6-1.
It is vitally important that when you are intercepted that you try to talk to the interceptor pilot by radio and follow his/her instructions whether voice or visual. Be advised, they DO have authority to shoot down an aircraft that appears to be a threat or hostile! Also, bear in mind that the pilots of these (F-16) aircraft, (or Blackhawk helicopters), are highly skilled and very serious about what they are doing. Make no mistake, they are the best of the best at what they do!
This is why it is so very important to understand what TFR's are and where they may be, along your planned or intended route of flight. It is equally important that GA pilots understand the proper communications procedures used during an interception. But all the trouble can be avoided if before you fly, you verify.