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I just saw this video on YouTube where a guy flies his plane into Air Force One's temporary flight restriction.

It's very clear that ATC are not amused and that he's caused a good deal of trouble. What would likely happen:

  • To his license? (lose it?)
  • Would he be fined?
  • Would he be arrested?
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treated as a terrorist likely –  ratchet freak Jun 9 at 14:52
    
Can this question be generalized as violating any TFR? –  Farhan Jun 9 at 16:14
    
Is there any difference between the DC TFR with and without the POTUS in residence? Or, more correctly, is there any difference between the AF1 TFR and any other TFR? –  CGCampbell Jun 9 at 16:25
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There is a regulatory difference between TFRs for presidential/government VIP movement and other TFRs. The former are typically classified as "National Defense Airspace", while other TFRs (e.g. airshow TFRs) may not be. (The practical difference is violating a "National Defense Airspace" TFR can get you shot down. Violating the other kind will "only" get you yelled at and possibly fined.) –  voretaq7 Jun 9 at 16:34
    
@voretaq7 is correct - remember, TFRs were originally used to keep your average pilot away from firefighting and other aerial rescue operations, not VIPs or sporting events! –  egid Jun 9 at 18:57
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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The answer to each of the points in your question is "Maybe".
A pilot wandering into a presidential TFR (and many other "VIP Movement" TFRs) potentially faces some pretty severe consequences. Quoting the standard language from one such TFR NOTAM:

THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION (FAA) CLASSIFIES THE AIRSPACE DEFINED IN THIS NOTAM AS 'NATIONAL DEFENSE AIRSPACE'. PILOTS WHO DO NOT ADHERE TO THE FOLLOWING PROCEDURES MAY BE INTERCEPTED, DETAINED AND INTERVIEWED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT / SECURITY PERSONNEL.
ANY OF THE FOLLOWING ADDITIONAL ACTIONS MAY ALSO BE TAKEN AGAINST A PILOT WHO DOES NOT COMPLY WITH THE REQUIREMENTS OR ANY SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS OR PROCEDURES ANNOUNCED IN THIS NOTAM:

A) THE FAA MAY TAKE ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION, INCLUDING IMPOSING CIVIL PENALTIES AND THE SUSPENSION OR REVOCATION OF AIRMEN CERTIFICATES; OR

B) THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT MAY PURSUE CRIMINAL CHARGES, INCLUDING CHARGES UNDER TITLE 49 OF THE UNITED STATES CODE, SECTION 46307; OR

C) THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT MAY USE DEADLY FORCE AGAINST THE AIRBORNE AIRCRAFT, IF IT IS DETERMINED THAT THE AIRCRAFT POSES AN IMMINENT SECURITY THREAT.


That's a lot of MAYs, so what does it mean in practice?

  • The pilot will be detained and interviewed by law enforcement
    May is a nice word, but in practice if a pilot flies into one of these TFRs they will be held and questioned once they're on the ground to find out why it happened. It's kind of a big deal.

  • The pilot will face some kind of Administrative Action from the FAA
    Suspension or revocation of their certificate is certainly possible (especially if it's not the first time).
    A stern talking-to from someone at the FSDO and/or a reexamination ("709 ride") is almost certain.

  • The pilot may face Civil Penalties (a nice way of saying "fines")
    $10,000 used to be the magic number for these fines as defined in 49USC, the law now refers back to 18USC (which I'm not going to read through because reading the US Code makes my head hurt), but I assume it hasn't gone down. The point is it could be an expensive error.

  • The pilot may face Criminal Charges (arrest and imprisonment)
    I can't recall a case of a pilot accidentally violating a TFR and being locked up for it, but I imagine willfully violating a TFR could land you in prison pretty easily.

  • Use of deadly force may occur (the pilot may be shot down)
    Again, I can't recall a case where a pilot has violated a TFR and been blown out of the sky by a missile from an F-16 (though there are plenty of cases where aircraft have been intercepted and diverted), but it is an option available if the aircraft poses an "imminent security threat", however that determination is made.

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I recall a civil aircraft shot down by military when they flew over a ship (that was out of position) –  ratchet freak Jun 9 at 21:01
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This news article describes a real incident that happened in Seattle.

I don't know if he was punished much beyond some remedial training and a black mark on his record.

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Anecdotally, I actually heard the sonic booms as the fighters screamed up to Seattle from Portland. Pretty weird event. –  egid Jun 9 at 18:55
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