The news has been referring to our recent weather pattern as the non-soon due to the lack of seasonal rain storms, and this lack of rain has created unusually dry vegetation around the state. As a result, there have been a number of both human and lightning caused fires, several of which have been very close to cities and towns. When this occurs, a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) may be instituted to allow for safe aerial firefighting operations to take place.
When an airplane or drone flies into one of these TFRs, all aerial operations have to be suspended to ensure safety of both pilots and ground crews, which may cause any progress being made to control a fire to be lost.
How do you find out about TFR’s?
If you are a Foreflight user, TFR’s are right there on your iPad or iPhone. If you are still using paper charts, a call to flight service will do the trick. Also, a simple Google search on FAA TFR’s will produce lists and maps of current TFR’s.
14 CFR 91.103 requires a pilot to conduct a pre-flight check of all available information before a flight. Likewise, the remote pilot of a drone would be required by 107.49 to be familiar with the airspace prior to flight.
What Type of Criminal Punishment (Prison Time) or Fines can Result for a TFR Violation?
Depending on the type of TFR, you can get punished in three different ways:
(1) you can be criminally punished up to a maximum of 1 year in federal prison and a $100,000 fine
(2) you can have your pilot license suspended or revoked, and/or
(3) receive a civil penalty by itself or on-top of the $100,000 fine.
A Part 61 pilot could be charged with a violation of 91.103 & 91.137 for the same flight by the FAA. Why? There were only two options: either he did NOT check for TFRs (a violation of the FARs) or he did check and intentionally went into the TFR (a violation of federal criminal code).
There are other reasons TFR’s pop up, and other reasons you should avoid them as well. So, make sure to check for TFR’s before your next flight. It’s quick and easy to do, and those who live near or work to fight these fires will be very grateful you did!