This is the best time of the whole year if you’re a sports fan. Baseball pennant races are coming down to the wire, the NFL season is just getting under way, Division I college football has already had its share of big matchups, and drama in the NASCAR Chase for the Cup is ratcheting up.
For pilots, this is one of the toughest times of the year to avoid an inadvertent encounter with a sporting-event-related TFR. The reason? Your flight service specialist doesn’t have a schedule to the game – and he assumes you already know that.
Even if he did, he has no way of knowing whether the Jets and Patriots just went into to overtime or the Phillies and Cubs are headed for extra innings. The FAA recently sent out a notice to remind pilots of this fact, telling all of us, “It is incumbent upon the pilot to know if his route of flight will be affected.” (When the FAA uses words like “incumbent,” you know it’s serious.)
The topic caused a stir recently among my fellow flying club members in New Jersey after a couple of close calls with gameday TFRs. Maybe that’s not so surprising since the New York metro area has more pro and college sports teams per capita than anyplace else in the country. But with stadiums and speedways dotting the landscape, it’s an important issue for all pilots.
There are a few websites that track sports-event temporary flight restrictions, the best being AOPA’s Security Notams and TFRs Locator.
The important point to remember is that even though you called FSS and were told “No TFRs” along your route of flight, you still have to check for sports-related restricted airspace separately – that goes double for Michigan fans overflying Ohio State and vice versa.