So what exactly is a TFR?
A TFR is a Temporary Flight Restriction, meaning, its something put in place that blocks off certain airspace from you flying in it. They come in different varieties, and using an iPad app or a free website like skyvector.com can be a good tool to visualize where TFRs have been issued. They vary in size (width), height (msl or agl values), duration (some are permanent like over top of Disney World to the right, others are short, like when the President comes to town for a few hours), and they vary in scope (sometimes you can get permission to fly through them, sometimes you cannot).
When can you fly through a TFR?
You can fly through a TFR with ATC permission when you are in communication with ATC (however I am always very leery about it). I might be more tempted to fly through a simple TFR like the small one over Disney with ATC permission, rather than fly through a TFR that was issued for “VIP movement” which generally means the president is in town and everyone is on high alert for aircraft that stray into the temporarily restricted airspace.
How do you check for TFRs?
TFRs can appear anywhere and anytime. While apps and websites are nice to check, the only legal way you can prove you checked an APPROVED SOURCE is to get a weather brief. Whether you get your brief from an APPROVED website or preferably from a briefer over the phone, you will provide your name and tail number, so if a TFR pops up last minute and you fly through and makes friends with a fighter jet that appears flying along your side to check out who you are, then at least you’ll be able to show you did check for TFRs, and that none existed prior to you getting in the air. Checking for TFRs 30 mins prior to departure is reasonable, and when I fly for 4 to 5 hours non-stop across the country, I might call FSS (flight service) on the radio part way into the trip and get an “updated briefing”.
An approved weather briefing site or briefing by phone. Basically, if you give your name and tail number to be recorded by some means, then you are probably using an FAA-approved source that can be checked in the event you did your due diligence in checking for TFRs, but inadvertently flew through one because the service you used failed to tell you that a TFR had been issued for your area of flight, or was soon to be issued.
Game Day TFRs
These varieties of TFRs are tricky. They do not appear on websites and apps always because no website or app keeps track of every football game schedule and every other sporting event going on in the country. Football, baseball, Nascar, etc. are all covered by 14 CFR 91.145. The rules are, 1 hour before the game until 1 hour after the game, you cannot fly within:
- 3nm radius
- 3,000′ agl
- For stadiums holding more than 30,000 people