The Notices To Airmen (NOTAM) Publication—updated every 28 days—contains NOTAMs that are not given during pilot briefings unless specifically requested by the pilot.1 As such, it is our responsibility to review these already published NOTAMs for applicable information for every flight, in addition to new NOTAMs. Some of these are easily forgotten or poorly reviewed in helicopter flight training, yet we are held responsible to comply with these notices: they are regulatory.
STADIUM SECTION UPDATED AUGUST 11, 2017
NOTAMs are generally temporary in nature, but there are a few of these that are permanent. Many have been in effect for more than 10 years. Let’s review the ones applicable to typical domestic helicopter operations, found in Part 1, Section 3: General NOTAMs.
Critical Infrastructure Avoidance
This notice strongly advises pilots to avoid loitering and circling in the vicinity of “critical infrastructure and other sensitive locations” that include nuclear, hydro-electric, and coal power plants, dams, refineries, industrial complexes, military facilities, and correctional/law enforcement facilities. While the text merely indicates that it is “strongly advised” to avoid these areas, pilots have been contacted by law enforcement and federal authorities for flying in these areas. Is the hassle really worth it?
FDC 6/8818 FDC …SPECIAL NOTICE…IN THE INTEREST OF NATIONAL SECURITY AND TO THE EXTENT PRACTICABLE, PILOTS AND UAS OPERATORS ARE STRONGLY ADVISED TO AVOID THE AIRSPACE ABOVE OR IN CLOSE PROXIMITY TO CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE AND OTHER SENSITIVE LOCATIONS SUCH AS POWER PLANTS (NUCLEAR, HYDRO-ELECTRIC, OR COAL), DAMS, REFINERIES, INDUSTRIAL COMPLEXES, MILITARY FACILITIES, CORRECTIONAL AND LAW ENFORCEMENT FACILITIES UNLESS OTHERWISE AUTHORIZED. PILOTS AND UAS OPERATORS SHOULD NOT CIRCLE AS TO LOITER IN THE VICINITY OVER THESE TYPES OF FACILITIES. 1603231538-PERM
Stadium Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs)
In my opinion, this is the most ridiculous TFR of all in the United States. While applicable stadiums themselves are finally being marked on new prints of aeronautical charts, having to track sports schedules to be in compliance is a ridiculous requirement to impose on pilots, since there isn’t any federal standard source for this information. Fortunately, many independent providers exist now to gather and display these schedules, such as ForeFlight.
In a nutshell, unless we are a law enforcement operation, medical flight, or flight associated specifically with the event, we are prohibited from operating within 3nm up to 3,000’ AGL of any stadium having a seating capacity of 30,000 or more people where either a regular or post season Major League Baseball (MLB), National Football League (NFL), NCAA division one football game, NASCAR Sprint Cup, Indy Car, or Champ series race (excluding qualifying and pre-race events) is occurring. Talk about specific.
It is possible to transit these TFRs with Air Traffic Control (ATC) contact, but I have dealt with some ATC towers that prohibited such, despite being a legal action according to the text. Additionally, I’ve had ATC state that this TFR applies to any event at the associated stadium as well—such as a soccer game—even though that is clearly not included in the notice. This can cause issues with our operations that may or may not require us to go further to address.
Full text (UPDATED):
FDC 7/4319 SECURITY SPECIAL SECURITY INSTRUCTIONS FOR SELECT SPORTING EVENTS. THIS NOTAM REPLACES FDC NOTAM 4/3621 TO CLARIFY ATC AUTHORIZATION OF TRANSITING FLIGHTS. THIS NOTAM IMPLEMENTS SECTION 352 OF PUBLIC LAW 108-7 AS AMENDED BY SECTION 521 OF PUBLIC LAW 108-199. PURSUANT TO 49 USC 40103(B)(3), THE FAA CLASSIFIES THE AIRSPACE DEFINED IN THIS NOTAM AS ‘NATIONAL DEFENSE AIRSPACE’. ANY PERSON WHO KNOWINGLY OR WILLFULLY VIOLATES THE RULES PERTAINING TO OPERATIONS IN THIS AIRSPACE MAY BE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN CRIMINAL PENALTIES UNDER 49 USC 46307. PILOTS WHO DO NOT ADHERE TO THE FOLLOWING PROCEDURES MAY BE INTERCEPTED, DETAINED AND INTERVIEWED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT/SECURITY PERSONNEL. PURSUANT TO TITLE 14 CFR SECTION 99.7, SPECIAL SECURITY INSTRUCTIONS, ALL AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS ARE PROHIBITED EXCEPT AS SPECIFIED BELOW WITHIN AN AREA DEFINED AS: 3 NMR OF A QUALIFYING STADIUM OR OTHER SPORTING VENUE HOSTING A QUALIFYING EVENT UP TO AND INCLUDING 3000FT AGL. QUALIFYING LOCATIONS AND EVENTS ARE DEFINED AS ANY STADIUM OR OTHER SPORTING VENUE HAVING A SEATING CAPACITY OF 30,000 OR MORE WHERE: 1) A REGULAR OR POST SEASON MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL, NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE, OR NCAA DIVISION ONE FOOTBALL GAME IS OCCURRING; OR 2) A NASCAR CUP, INDY CAR, OR CHAMP SERIES RACE IS OCCURRING, EXCLUDING QUALIFYING AND PRE-RACE EVENTS. THIS FLIGHT PROHIBITION IS IN EFFECT ONE HOUR BEFORE THE SCHEDULED START UNTIL ONE HOUR AFTER THE END OF A QUALIFYING EVENT. THIS FLIGHT PROHIBITION APPLIES TO ALL AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS (INCLUDING TRAINING, PARACHUTE JUMPING, AND UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS – INCLUDING MODEL AIRCRAFT FLIGHTS) UNLESS THE AIRCRAFT OPERATOR MEETS AT LEAST ONE OF THE FOLLOWING REQUIREMENTS: A) THE AIRCRAFT OPERATION HAS BEEN AUTHORIZED BY ATC FOR OPERATIONAL OR SAFETY PURPOSES, INCLUDING AUTHORIZATION OF FLIGHTS SPECIFICALLY ARRIVING AT OR DEPARTING FROM AN AIRPORT DESIGNATED BY ATC USING STANDARD ATC PROCEDURES AND ROUTES; B) THE AIRCRAFT OPERATION IS BEING CONDUCTED FOR OPERATIONAL, SAFETY, OR SECURITY PURPOSES SUPPORTING THE QUALIFYING EVENT, AND IS AUTHORIZED BY AN AIRSPACE SECURITY WAIVER APPROVED BY THE FAA; C) THE AIRCRAFT OPERATION IS ENABLING BROADCAST COVERAGE FOR THE BROADCAST RIGHTS HOLDER FOR THE QUALIFYING EVENT, AND IS AUTHORIZED BY AN AIRSPACE SECURITY WAIVER APPROVED BY THE FAA; D) THE AIRCRAFT OPERATION HAS BEEN AUTHORIZED BY ATC FOR NATIONAL SECURITY, HOMELAND SECURITY, LAW ENFORCEMENT, OR AIR AMBULANCE PURPOSES; PILOTS OPERATING IN THE DEFINED AIRSPACE ARE REMINDED THAT AN FAA AIRSPACE SECURITY WAIVER DOES NOT RELIEVE OPERATORS FROM OBTAINING ALL OTHER NECESSARY AUTHORIZATIONS, INCLUDING THOSE SPECIFIC TO FLIGHTS OVER EVENTS HELD IN STADIUMS AND OTHER SPORTING VENUES, AND COMPLYING WITH ALL APPLICABLE FEDERAL AVIATION REGULATIONS. PILOTS MUST CONTINUOUSLY SQUAWK AN ATC-ASSIGNED BEACON CODE AND MAINTAIN 2-WAY RADIO CONTACT WITH ATC WHILE OPERATING IN THE DEFINED AIRSPACE. ALL PREVIOUSLY ISSUED WAIVERS TO FDC NOTAM 4/3621 REMAIN VALID UNTIL THE SPECIFIED END DATE BUT NOT TO EXCEED 90 DAYS FOLLOWING THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS NOTAM. INFORMATION ABOUT AIRSPACE SECURITY WAIVER APPLICATIONS AND TSA SECURITY AUTHORIZATIONS CAN BE FOUND AT HTTP://WWW.TSA.GOV/STAKEHOLDERS/AIRSPACE-WAIVERS-0 OR BY CALLING TSA AT 571-227-2071. SUBMIT REQUESTS FOR FAA AIRSPACE WAIVERS AT HTTPS://WAIVERS.FAA.GOV. 1707201400-PERM
Always Monitor Guard
Did you know that we are supposed to always monitor the guard frequency? Fortunately, the notice adds the caveat of “if capable.” Since many of our helicopter operations require the use of two or more radios simultaneously, this caveat is a good thing. But, whenever we are able to listen, one of our radios should be monitoring the VHF guard frequency: 121.5.
FDC 4/4386 FDC SPECIAL NOTICE… NATIONAL AIRSPACE SYSTEM INTERCEPT PROCEDURES. AVIATORS SHALL REVIEW THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION AERONAUTICAL INFORMATION MANUAL (AIM) FOR INTERCEPTION PROCEDURES, CHAPTER 5, SECTION 6, PARAGRAPH 5-6-2. ALL AIRCRAFT OPERATING IN UNITED STATES NATIONAL AIRSPACE, IF CAPABLE, SHALL MAINTAIN A LISTENING WATCH ON VHF GUARD 121.5 OR UHF 243.0. IF AN AIRCRAFT IS INTERCEPTED BY U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT AND FLARES ARE DISPENSED, THE FOLLOWING PROCEDURES ARE TO BE FOLLOWED: FOLLOW THE INTERCEPT’S VISUAL SIGNALS, CONTACT AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL IMMEDIATELY ON THE LOCAL FREQUENCY OR ON VHF GUARD 121.5 OR UHF GUARD 243.0, AND COMPLY WITH THE INSTRUCTIONS GIVEN BY THE INTERCEPTING AIRCRAFT INCLUDING VISUAL SIGNALS IF UNABLE RADIO CONTACT. BE ADVISED THAT NONCOMPLIANCE MAY RESULT IN THE USE OF FORCE.
These NOTAMs have been tweaked over the years, and perhaps one day they will simply become published Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs). I personally hope to see the generic Stadium TFR disappear, since the prohibition doesn’t really enhance the security of such events, and there is already a provision for major sporting events to issue a specific TFR under 14 CFR 91.145.
However, familiarity with these is important to avoid hassles and be in specific compliance with existing aviation regulatory notices. Certified Flight and Ground Instructors: when reviewing regulations and flight planning subjects, be sure to refer students to the NOTAM Publication and show them how to find these and all other applicable notices.
All information concerning the flight,
- Federal Aviation Administration. (February 2, 2017). Notices to Airmen Publication. Retrieved February 5, 2017 from https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/publications/notices/