VIP TFR’s – What does it mean?

AirForce One
AirForce One and the Presidential VIP TFR

I’ve been planning a trip from Sanford/Orlando FL (KSFB) to Boca Raton, FL (KBCT) since the beginning of January for a weekend of College Softball as well as my wife and daughter’s birthdays.  My only fear leading up to this weekend, was if President Trump would be visiting Palm Beach, FL  (KPBI) at the same time.  Usually presidential trips are not announced prior to and will usually only give about a 2-3 day notice for obvious security reasons.

My worst fear popped up yesterday (3 days before my trip) when I received an Alert Notification from AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) letting me know that there will be a VIP TFR (Temporary Flight Restrictions) starting Friday afternoon and ending Saturday afternoon.  At my first thought, “crap, now what?”  I’ve never had to navigate this before and thought, Boca Raton falls well inside the veil and for some reason, I remember someone telling me that you could only fly into this type of TFR with an IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) flight plan.  I’m going to have to cancel my trip since I’m not presently current with my Instrument Rating.  What a way to put a wrench in the family vacation plans.

I really don’t want to create a National Security breach or find myself on the local or national news being escorted by fighter jets and handcuffed and perp-walked just because I needed to get my family to the ball field.

Being one to not let things stop me just because there is a little hiccup, I then started looking at the time frames of the TFR and noticed, “OK, maybe I can fly in earlier on Friday before the 3:15 pm activation time and still make it work”.   The plan started to look better as I started modifying my departure schedule.

Thinking that this can’t be that difficult, I decided to call 1-800-WX-BRIEF to get a better understanding of what this TFR means and what my options really are.   The weather and flight plan briefer was very helpful and was able to answer all my question in detail.  To my surprise he told me that I only needed to file either a VFR or IFR flight plan, but didn’t necessarily have to open it.  Just have it on file.  I would also have to have positive control by ATC (squawk and talk) prior to entering designated area and will be asked if I have a Flight Plan on file.

Just doing a little home work and talking to the right agency made all the difference in the world.  I can now move forward with my family vacation plans to South Florida knowing how to navigate what I thought, was the impossible.  Remember, if you have any questions or don’t understand what you can and can’t do, just call someone.  It can mean the difference between a great trip and a night in jail.

I’ll be sure to update this post with any additional information once I return.

Chris Weldon
OCFC Secretary

Presidential VIP TFR
Palm Beach FL (KPBI) Presidential VIP TFR
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4 thoughts on “VIP TFR’s – What does it mean?

  1. Jolene Miller says:

    Hi there.. I’m a controller at Palm Beach, and wanted to add a few things to your story. When the presidential TFR is in place, there are 2 rings: a 10 mile and a 30 mile. If you transition through the 30 mile ring, you HAVE to squawk and talk to ATC (Palm Beach Approach). Boca is within the 30 mile ring. If you don’t, you will have some company escorting you to the ground, interviews, and phone calls. Another thing to keep note of, is since the tfr is very restrictive with the 10 mile ring, the majority of corporate jets that would normally fly into PBI are now flying into both Boca and Stuart, which has increased their traffic counts by 300%. Parking at those airports is almost non-existent, and a few times the FBO’s have run out of fuel. The airspace around Boca is congested and busy during normal times, but the tfr has made it worse. Best suggestion, check the notams before you leave, and just get flight following from your destination to Boca. I worked a military intercept a few weeks ago during the tfr, at 3am, with a lost student that was on a 1200 code and not monitoring any of our frequencies, including guard.. it was no fun for any of us. Have a great flight, and be safe!

  2. Christopher Weldon says:

    You are correct. I did forget that you must squawk as well as talk to ATC. I usually use Flight Following on every cross country flight anyway as I’m already talking to ATC departing from Class C to and from KSFB.

    As for the heavy traffic and fuel consumption, that I was not planning for. Thanks for the heads up.

  3. Christopher Weldon says:

    I would like to say I have additional comments about this, but fortunately, my plan schedule changed to require me to fly outside of the TFR Start and Stop Timeframe. Non-the-less, this was a good experience for planning and knowledge base. I hope that this article helped anyone curb the fear of VIP TFR’s and help the controllers better educate those that operate around and within them.
    Chris Weldon

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