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TFRs and links in a chain of events

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Jan 7, 2018
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Complacency can get the best of you. Have an almost regretful experience to share so others can learn.

It's coming up on election day, so the possibility of VIP TFR's are increasing. Flying to Syracuse NY. No president goes to Syracuse NY....nothing there, until there is and they do. And herein lies several links in the chain of events that almost got me on the receiving end of a Syracuse Guard F-16 visit and a chat with the FAA enforcement division.

(LINK 1) I use an ipad with Foreflight. The night before I was going through all the menu options to re-familiarize myself with the display. Had turned off the TFR menu display and did not turn it back on.

(LINK 2) I do my own flight planning and do not necessarily call FSS. Did flight planning early in the morning as I was anticipating a 6 hour flight with fuel stop (coming from SW VA/NE TN). Checking NOTAMs, no TFRs are listed.

(LINK 3) I had just flown to Manassas VA the week before and was up to date on TFR requirements and special flight awareness. Did a quick check of the TFR map and did not see anything new along the way.

(LINK 4) Did not get off the ground until 3 hours later than initially planned, waiting for low ceilings/fog to burn off (I’m VFR only n a PA28-180). Headwinds delayed me more.

(LINK 5) Near dusk, landed at Piper Memorial for fuel. Had planned/wanted to land at SYR before dusk.

(LINK 6) As I had approx 1.5 hours to SYR, night arriving, and I didn’t want to expend the fuel to climb very high, I decided to stay at 4,500. That would take me through Elmira TRSA. I do not normally participate in flight following or TRSA’s, nor use ATC services unless I have to…just monitor ATC frequencies along the way. Decided to contact Elmira (SAVING GRACE 1). Got a code and continued on.

(LINK 7) Ten minutes later, Elmira contacts me and stated I’m about 15 miles from penetrating a VIP TFR. (WTF?) (SAVING GRACE 2). Why didn’t Elmira mention TFR when I initially called and informed them of SYR as my destination?

(LINK 8) Took me another couple minutes and miles of inquiring and trying to figure things out. Couldn’t understand why it didn’t show on Foreflight. Finally checked the menu for TFR display and noticed my error. Turned the display on and WOW! I was close! (SAVING GRACE 3)

(LINK 9) TFR was supposed to end at 6:15 pm local. It was 6:10. I should be okay. Elmira informs me SYR is saying VIP is running late and not sure when the TFR would expire. Made a left turn to divert to Penn Yan. (SAVING GRACE 4)

(LINK 10) On the ground at Penn Yan, was checking how I could have missed the TFR notice, when the big red TFR graphic went clear. Called FSS. They showed the same BUT did not have a written notice of cancellation. Asked to talk to the horse’s mouth. Called SYR tower. They said yes it was clear. Got in the air and heard the farewell exchange between SYR APCH and AF1. Continued toward SYR.

(LINK 11) Anticipated 28 minute ride to SYR turned into a 54 minute ride because I was the only slow recip trying to get into SYR among all the IFR turbine that had been waiting as well. I got vectored away from the airport. Called the controller because I’m pretty sure in his coordinating traffic he forgot about me. Told me to turn back toward airport. Getting in close I got turned away again. I did not turn quick enough to the heading. I suspect the controller got a ding on his radar because of less than separation standard. Terse command got me flustered.

(LINK 12) Finally got vectored for a straight angle to the runway. Knew I needed to keep my speed up as I was following other traffic visually and on Foreflight. Switched over to tower. Tower asked me to square the base so he could get a departure out in between the jet on final and me.

(LINK 13) Cleared to land 3 miles out on final. Another jet enters downwind. Tower informs them of at least 50 knot speed differential. I kept the speed up to help out, but feeling hurried. Upon landing at night on a wide runway at SYR (former air base with wide shoulders), I knew which taxiway I was going to exit and landed accordingly so I could exit quickly.

(LINK 14) Angled toward the side of the wide runway to expedite my exit, except the taxiway wasn’t where I expected it, based on the signage and terminal lighting glare . I turned too short. Had to do a 270 maneuver to avoid running off the side.

(LINK 15) Tower unable to see my predicament and asks if I’m clear. I state no, still on runway. Scrambling to see where the taxiway is. Tower tells the jet to go around. Finally see the lead off line that, had I stayed on the center of the runway would easily have led me to the taxiway.


SUMMARY: TFR’S are not listed in the NOTAMS. They require a separate search. Can’t say for certain when the SYR TFR was posted. I did not see it (there are A LOT listed), so I need to be more diligent in the future (I mean, a VIP TFR for SYR? C’mon). Double check for complacency about TFRs, especially around election time. Call FSS. Perhaps TFRs should be listed with regular NOTAMs?

Also double check settings in Foreflight during preflight or in air. Still wondering why Elmira did not ask me about SYR TFR upon initial call up. Could be they thought the TFR would end at 6:15 and I would be okay? Glad they eventually did ask and VERY GLAD that I had contacted them (usually do not call to TRSA’s). Without that call, I definitely would have penetrated the TFR, as I wouldn’t have contacted SYR until I was 20 miles out (which would have been inside the 30 mile radius and only 5 miles to the inner TFR sanctuary). I do keep the intercept procedures handy in the cabin, but it had been a l-o-n-g while since I reviewed them. Plus it was dark outside. I can’t imagine what I would have thought if a F-16 darted across my windshield. Also can’t imagine how I would have managed to navigate the airspace without today’s electronic maps and data. That information is absolutely indispensable, provided you use it properly.

Not only did the basic human factor issue of complacency raise its head, but so too did that of pressure. The controller was under pressure having to deal with the VIP disruption and high workload demand, and also of mixing slow and fast aircraft. Probably better to have brought me in on the crosswind runway? But I also felt the pressure of the situation resulting in unexpected procedures and of trying to keep up with the fast-paced conversations and instructions, and the un-nerving thought of the trouble I’d be in because of the missed TFR and instructions.

Lastly, for night operations in the future, I’ll stay on the centerline until I pick up the taxiway lead-in line.

Links in the chain of events, with human factors being several. Glad I had enough saving graces to prevent the violation or an accident. Every flight is a learning experience. Hope this may benefit others.

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