An otherwise-unexplained message from the FAA yesterday to pilots who have signed up for regular safety announcements. Click for larger:
TFR's are the no-fly (or pretty-much-don't-fly) zones that pop up when important figures travel or unusually large crowds gather. They're biggest and most seriously enforced when a President is on the road -- for example, here's what Barack Obama's stint in Martha's Vineyard has been doing to air travel in the Mass Bay area:
(The little wheels with three-letter abbreviations are of course airports. Flights within the inner 10-nm ring, including the main Martha's Vineyard airport MVY, are all but prohibited -- 72-hour advance clearance required, need to stop for checks at a "gateway" airport -- and everything within the 30-nm ring is very tightly controlled, including flights to Nantucket ACK, Hyannis HYA, New Bedford EWB, etc.)
The point for now is not the extent of presidential-protection regulations but the foreshadowed general upsurge in TFRs "across the country." Dare we hope this is merely because the authorities expect many political figures to be in the air between now and Election Day? That's the most benign explanation for expecting to need more security, so I will for the moment assume that this is all that's going on. But it wouldn't have hurt for the FAA to add an extra sentence about the reasoning.
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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. He and his wife, Deborah Fallows, are the authors of the new book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, which has been a New York Times best seller and is the basis of a forthcoming HBO documentary.