Term Paper: Temporary Flight Restrictions Regulation

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[. . .] In the latter case, the government can be held responsible for contributing to economic disaster but in the former case, its actions would be absolutely constitutional. This is the point which FAA spokesman in McCabe's article, "The National Security Council ordered the airspace restrictions around 30 major airports across the country immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks. Since then, the restrictions have been either lifted or eased in several major markets. In Boston, although the restricted airspace was reduced to 20 from 30 miles, the new rules are not likely to be eased further anytime soon. "The restrictions remain in place indefinitely," said Jim Peters, an FAA spokesman in New York. "I can only make the assumption that [federal intelligence officials] have information that warrants these restrictions be kept in place."

TFRs and business at busy airports

Not only is it hurting the airline industry, federally imposed flight restrictions can also cause a get deal of damage to busy airports. The government usually imposes restrictions on airports where traffic is usually the heaviest, without realizing that such restrictions can cost airports hundreds of flights, thousands of passengers and millions of dollars. This is because with flight restrictions that disallow use of certain portion of airspace, many fights are either to be diverted to other airports or they are forced to change their landing schedule. This can have a very negative impact on the airports' financial conditions and many are of the view that FAA doesn't even know what area should be restricted.

In an Editorial feature in Newsday, (2001), the author condemned the FAA's actions and urged the authority to use common sense when imposing restrictions. Discussing the problems caused by senseless restrictions imposed by FAA in the wake of September 11, the author writes, "The broad cloak of security that the federal government has thrown over aviation in metropolitan New York is economically strangling Republic Airport in East Farmingdale. The government should act quickly to make its restrictions work without killing the airport. In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Federal Aviation Administration imposed a temporary flight restriction here, banning some kinds of flights within a circle of 25 nautical miles from John F. Kennedy International Airport. The most hurtful provision prohibited all flights by small general aviation aircraft using visual flight rules, the overwhelming majority of Republic's business. That action cut daily flight activity by 96%. The airport's 50 businesses are losing $200,000 a day."

TFR Circles

While people agree that government needs to be more vigilant and security is certainly a big issue on its agenda, still it is important to exercise some caution when taking security related measures. This is because if these measures later hurt the airline industry and several other related businesses, the moves made by the government would not only become unconstitutional but to certain degree criminal too. The government thus needs to understand that vigilance must not lose sense of direction and temporary flight restrictions should be formulated and imposed carefully. Many are of the view that circles of airspace that are put under restriction are not calculated wisely as they are anything but foolproof methods to ensure security.

The author of Newsday Editorial further adds, "No one doubts the need for vigilance, but the leaders of the airport, used mostly by corporate and private planes, have raised good questions about the way the FAA chose to be vigilant. One question is whether the circle should have been centered at JFK or on the high-risk area to be protected in Manhattan. As a result of the decision to center it on JFK, the circle covers Republic, but it excludes New Jersey airports that are actually closer to Manhattan. The size of the circle is another issue. Just yesterday, the airport learned that the FAA is reducing it from 25 miles to 18, but that does not help Republic, which just barely falls within the smaller circle."

TFRs and Young Pilots

Thus it is clear that flight restrictions imposed by federal government can seriously hurt businesses especially those connected with aviation. In this sense we can claim the flight restriction measures are unconstitutional and if we look at the way it is contributing towards unemployment, we almost become certain that Courts must take some actions against TFRs. The section of pilots that get hurt the most are the ones for whom skies remain heavily restricted even after some seasoned pilots have been granted permission to enter forbidden area. These pilots are usually the ones getting training from various flying schools across the country and they are in dire need of applying their flying skills in heavy traffic airspace in order to be able to get a license. But since September 11, they are being asked to stay away from certain heavy traffic areas because they are potential targets for terrorist attacks. But the future of these pilots is in jeopardy if flight restrictions are not suspended from most dense areas of the country.

During a television discussion on the subject of TFR, ANDY BOWERS said, "It's not that all private flights are grounded. Pilots with an advanced instrument rating and who file flight plans to go from one point to another can do so, except in New York and Washington. But in 28 other major cities, pilots are not allowed to fly under what are known as visual flight rules, or VFR. Phil Boyer, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, says that affects the vast majority of pilots." To this Boyer himself replied, "Ninety percent of all flying is under visual flight rules, it's not on instrument flying. And if you were to look at the pilot population, you have about 15% only of the 620,000 pilots who are licensed in this country that are current on and able to fly on instruments at this moment."

TFRs: an ineffective and futile security measure

Whatever are the flight restrictions imposed in the wake of September 11, most of them are seriously hurting the American public and businesses and on top of that many are of the view that these restrictions are not very effective too. According to FAA, any person violating the airspace restrictions would be intercepted midair. In other words, such planes would probably be gunned down but this is according to many experts a highly ridiculous penalty. This is because in the most cases, the area, which is to be protected, can be reached within 20 seconds and there is a very dim chance that government would be able to intercept pilots within such short time. While such steps are being taken for the security of the country, we need to understand that senselessly imposing these restrictions would hurt both the economy and the security of the homeland. While the constitution allows the government to take appropriate measures to ensure security of the homeland, it doesn't grant permission for moves that could prove detrimental to economy or public in the long run. Another important thing to keep in mind is that TFRs are not unconstitutional as long as the government has some information that certain areas can become targets of terrorist attacks. But the authenticity of this information should be checked thoroughly before taking any action and secondly, the restrictions must be removed as soon as the threat is over. This is because prolonged restrictions can not only become a liability for businesses in the country, they can also turn ineffective as terrorists in most cases can find an alternative route to their target. As we mentioned above, it is not the temporary flight restrictions or their objective which are unconstitutional but the consequences of such measures along with the way these restrictions are implemented that can make government's actions in this connection unconstitutional. Some experts actually measured the effectiveness of restricted airspace circles to find out if they would really be able to deter the terrorists and to our utter disappointment, they found that the answer was no. They concluded that meaningless attempts to protect the American public are doing more harm than good and therefore government moves in this connection should be declared unconstitutional unless intelligence agencies can back it with some significant piece of information.

HAL FISHMAN (2002) writes, "The story about flight restrictions around our treasured national landmarks is a good example of homeland security. Right? Wrong! It's completely ridiculous. Let's take the Statue of Liberty for example. The flight restriction is for a one nautical mile radius from the statue to 1500 feet altitude. Now, let's say I am one of those evildoers determined to crash into this symbol of American freedom. Flying my own airplane, which is capable of easily covering three miles in one minute, I can cover the distance from the boundary of the restricted area to the statue in 20 seconds. This is just one example of many meaningless and futile attempts at homeland security.

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