Notices to airmen, TFRs, and all that

Last night’s fracas, in which Cessna 182 wandered into the Washington, D. C. TFR, is likely to bring GA under even more scrutiny by the Beltway crowd. This is just a reminder to us all (myself included) to check NOTAMs before every flight so that the same thing doesn’t happen to us. AOPA has a nice page listing TFRs by state, with plain-English translations ( here).



My approach is to get flight following for every flight. Because I do it so much, it doesn’t seem like a chore.

I don’t understand why some people don’t request flight following. They are someone immediate to talk to in an emergency, to keep one out of restricted areas, to warn of traffic, and to warn of terrain. None of these things are guaranteed, but nothing really is. I don’t use ATC as my sole means of doing any of the above, but rather as backup.

In reply to:

Last night’s fracas, in which a Cessna 182 wandered into the Washington, D. C. TFR, is likely to bring GA under even more scrutiny by the Beltway crowd.

Ugh, here’s a quote from this story in today’s Washington Post, talking about why the fighters were not able to intercept the 182 until it was out of the TFR.
Defense officials said the problem was not the response time, but that the existing restricted buffer zone allows little time to react if fighters are not in the air.
“The fighter aircraft were there in the designated time,” a senior defense official said. "The real policy question is: Do you put the buffer out further, or change the defense posture?"

Considering my Cirrus is now based 4 nm outside of the current “buffer” (read TFR), I certainly hope they don’t choose to expand it!
PLEASE be careful out there and don’t violate any TFRs or other notam’ed changes!


Like a few others on this board, I fly within a few miles of the Washington TFR (on the Baltimore side). All pilots in this area are very aware of the TFR. Student pilots can at times find their way into these area because they are lost. Instructors can do better to prevent these kind of problems. But, the FAA still needs to make a change to the charts (and GPS databases need to be updated) since this TFR is likely to stay in place for a long while. Will this help? I believe it will in the long run.

This TFR was directed toward part 91 and 135 ops. However, even the part 121 ops are directed around the TFR. I’ve heard airlines on Baltimore approach many times asking for turns that would take them into the TFR and Baltimore has declined.

As pilots we are completely responsible for remaining clear of all restricted areas. That’s our responsbility not ATC. ATC can clear us through a restricted area (VFR or IFR), but we must be certain before entering. ATC-directed vectors, climbs and descents into a restricted area, prohibited area or TFR are not clearance through the area. You still must hear the words — “You are cleared through R-4001A,” for example.


I’m with you — I always get flight following. It never hurts.

By the way, the TFRs are also listed at


Here’s a reason NOT to get VFR flight following…particularly in the Washington DC area. My home airport is CGS, within the Washington TFR. An in-bound flight requires that I contact Wash Approach on 125.65 in the vicinity of Freeway airport, and obtain TFR clearance pursuant to a previously filed special TFR flight plan. The problem arises if I use flight following. If I am in any other ATC sector beside 125.65, they invariably ORDER me to land at an airport outside the TFR, and refuse to hand me off to 125.65. On the other hand, if I just pop up on the edge of the TFR in the 125.65 sector, I am cleared to CGS every time. Since these guys sit next to each other in the radar room, trying figuring out why I can’t get a hand-off! It’s nutty…but the bottom line is that the only way for me to get home VFR is to not use flight following in the vicinity of Washington. This is not something one argues with ATC about while in the air…when they say"For national security reasons, you are directed to land immediately at XYZ", you do it…even though they are totally out of compliance with all the security procedures established for the local airports.

However, none of this happens on an IFR plan, and I am frequently cleared straight over the city. But don’t assume ATC is gonna save your can, just because they are controlling where you go. Last flight over Washington IFR, I was vectored straight for P-56 (White House and Capital prohibited area). I was probably 2 miles from the Capital before I could get ATC to respond and approve a turn south. This is a low altitude flight, very close to National airport, so one should almost never make unauthorized turns (though I’d rather do that, then bust P-56).

Since I cannot use VFR flight following all the way in to my airport, I must rely on my Garmin 195 map to plot my approach into the 125.65 sector. Once, when I pushed too many buttons too quick, the moving map froze for about five minutes. I had substantially busted Andrews class B, and almost busted the TFR before realizing the map was not working.

While I’m not defending the idiot that flew over the White House, I am pointing out that even a high degree of diligence and familiarity with the TFR zones will not always guarantee you won’t bust them. Weird things happen that you don’t expect (like the GPS freezing on you). The fact that FAA has never published a single graphic of the TFR’s and that ATC is utterly incompetent sometimes doesn’t help the situation.

TFR information for your route of flight should also be given to you in your flight weather briefing - you DO get a weather briefing from FSS before every flight out of the pattern, don’t you? (If you use DUATS instead, read to the bottom, where the notams are… And remember, FSS or DUATS is the only way for most of us to get a briefing that can be verified should you need the legal protection.). Plot the TRF on your sectional before you launch, make sure you check where you are as you fly, and all should be well.

You can get the graphic version of TFRs from the AOPA web site or other web sites already mentioned here; compare it to the one you plotted manually to correct mistakes, and the cross-check should make you familiar enough with the area that you don’t violate it by mistake.

As was already mentioned, getting VFR flight following or filing IFR will keep you out of the TFRS as well, unless the controller(s) goes brain-dead at a critical moment. If in doubt, ask the controller. I had two instances where IFR and VFR-flight following helped me and kept me out of trouble recently:

First time, I was coming home from Owensboro, KY. My night VFR route over the App. mtns had me flying just south of the TFR over the Oak Ridge, TN nuclear (a.k.a. bomb) plant. ATC gave me a couple of vectors as I went through some class C airspace, and I ended up off my planned course. As I got near Oak Ridge, I realized my new “direct-to” route would take me right over the plant, so I advised ATC I was going to turn south to avoid it. The controller said “I was wondering if I was going to have to turn you in a couple of miles. Glad you caught it yourself.” So, he knew where I was and was going to try to keep me out of the TFR even if I did nothing myself to prevent the incursion. Then he comes back with “I can clear you to operate over the top of the TFR if you can climb 500 ft to make the AWACS crew happy.” That short climb saved a 20 mile detour…

Second time was a recent round trip to Doylestown, PA. Went up VFR, and got vectored all over the map to keep me clear of the big airports. I wasn’t allowed into ANY of the class B airspaces. So, I filed IFR with “direct” as the route for the trip home. That route would take me right over DCA, but I figured ATC would be vectoring me by that time because of the overlapping Dulles and Regan, plus Baltimore airspaces. When I was handed off to Dulles Apch. (no vectors yet!), the controller asked me to confirm I was /G. When I said I was, she said “OK, I’m going to send you between Dulles and the TFR. Your choice, vectors or a waypoint route. Expect to go back to your direct-to routing as soon as you cross the Potomac.” I opted for vectors, and she proceeded to thread me to within a mile of the TFR boundary (it was a VMC afternoon, and I could see all the landmarks as I flew over. Nice!). As soon as I got to the river, she asked me what my direct on-course heading would be, then cleared me “direct HKY” ( HKY is my home aprt.). That took me directly over Dulles at 4500 ft. Quite a scenic ride!

The same holds true for Class B airspace. If you don’t have a clearance to enter then even if you are on a vector from ATC that takes you into the area you are in violation.
If there is any question, ask for a specific clearance.