Keeping my ticket in my pocket: A TFR tale

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TFR Interception

Keeping my ticket in my pocket: A TFR tale 
by Jim Savage
I recently encountered a situation that could easily have turned very bad for the endeavor of me retaining my pilot certificate.

I can remember a time, not all that long ago too, when I might look out the window, use my eyes, nose & ears to determine that the weather was fine and go flying without actually making a call to the FSS for a weather briefing – I was only going up for a local flight, right?  How many times back in the day did we wash the airplane on a beautiful, sunny day and following the dirty work, jump into the airplane, take it around the patch a time or two to “dry it off”?  Or maybe flying back-to-back students, did you always call the FSS for a briefing for each & every flight?  Or a local sight-seeing flight at sunset for a couple of excited Young Eagles?  Folks, times have changed and the events that I’m about to share really brought it crashing home for me.


080820conventions_lgThere I was … a beautiful Sunday afternoon last fall, not a cloud in the sky, the winds were just a gentle breeze out of the south – it was as CAVU as it gets.  Not a care in the world as I drove my two children to the airport for our 25-minute trip from Buckeye Exec (9OA5) to Portsmouth (PMH).  Out of habit (fortunately), I called the FSS for a weather briefing as I drove.  I was listening, but not really as the briefer droned on and on about the fact that she had nothing for me.  Towards the end of her briefing, she asked “if I was familiar with the TFR that had just gone into effect about 20 minutes ago for CMH?”  From my lazy slouch, I sat up quite straight…

As it turned out, the Presidential TFR for CMH had just gone into effect – my departure airport was outside of the 10-mile radius “no-GA” area, but was in fact within the 30-mile restricted area.  The requirements within this 30-mile radius of CMH were such that I had to receive a clearance and a squawk code before takeoff.  They wanted to know which runway I would be departing from and they issued me a frequency with which to contact them as soon as I was airborne.  Although it was a very VFR departure, these procedures made it feel very much like a low-IFR departure from an uncontrolled airport.

As this information was absorbed into my now quite alert mind, a very cold chill crept down my spine!  It dawned on me that had I just climbed into the airplane and headed south like the conditions seemed to warrant, and in years past would have been standard, I would have been violated as soon as I retracted the landing gear!  I would not have known at that moment that my ticket was no longer my ticket.  As a pilot by profession, my family would have been greatly and adversely impacted by me suddenly out looking for non-flying work since my current job was suddenly snatched away!

Bottom line, call FSS before EACH & EVERY flight, no matter how short or how local it may be!

Blue skies, tailwinds & 3 greens to you,


Jim is a former USAF Fighter Pilot who flew F-16s and F-15s

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