Your Aviation Tip for the Evening: Stay Out of Iowa!

I mentioned several days ago the impressive phenomenon of "VIP TFRs" -- nearly 3750- square-mile* "temporary flight restrictions," or no-fly zones, usually for the president -- that pop up around the country when POTUS or another dignitary is on the move. From the map of current and upcoming TFRs provided by the FAA, see if you can guess where President Obama is doing his campaigning this week. And, before you ask, these TFRs are not an Obama-era innovation but one more feature of the post-9/11/2001 years.**


Here we zoom in on the upper midwest:

I actually have been planning to fly a little plane toward and across Iowa tomorrow; more about that anon. So I'll be looking at each of the TFRs in much more detail tomorrow morning, and comparing them with the movement of a weather front between here (DC) and there. Fortunately, real-time info about both TFRs and weather is provided in the cockpit setup I have. I may find myself seeing more of southern Minnesota or northern Missouri than I had expected. This gives you an idea of how BIG these no-fly zones are. They can effectively block off an entire state.

In happier aviation news, the Terrafugia flying car, which I've mentioned often the past, is another step closer to coming onto the market.

If you're getting ready to send a message telling me that flying cars aren't practical: I know! Neither is "Team Rhythmic Gymnastics." But both have their partisans, and I'm interested in what Terrafugia can do.
* How I come up with "nearly 3750" square miles: The TFRs are usually defined with a radius of 30 nautical miles. A nautical mile = approx 1.15 "normal" statute miles, so 30nm is 34.5 regular miles. The area of that no-fly circle would thus be pi*r^2, or 3.14*34.5^2, or about 3740 square miles.

** Some presidential airspace restrictions existed before 9/11, but like so many other things they have been formalized and expanded since then.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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