The FAA Takes Surprisingly Constructive Stance on First-Time TFR Violations

Many pilots here in Arizona have a tenuous relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration. While everyone knows that the FAA is here to keep our airports and skies safe, sometimes it can seem as though they cause more grief than good. From ramp checks to administrative actions, most pilots will spend their career trying to figuratively “fly under the radar” of the Administration, following rules and minding their business until they chock in for the last time.


It is because of this all-too-common tension that a recent policy change by the FAA caused shock among the flying community. The change, which dealt with how the Administration handled temporary flight restriction (TFR) violations, took a pleasantly constructive approach to dealing with first-time violators, and the FAA hopes that the new enforcement guidelines will reduce the amount of violations through remedial training instead of certificate action.


Previously, the FAA took swift action on those who violated TFRs, immediately sending a Notice of Proposed Certificate Action and almost always following up with a 30 day certificate suspension. This method presented a few problems, but the most worrisome was that most infractions in TFR airspace were inadvertent, first-time violators that only stood to suffer more from a certificate suspension that—in the end—taught the pilot nothing about the mistake that occurred.


The new proposal is a promising start for the FAA, looking to educate and inform rather than punish. In the amended version, the FAA will still suspend the certificate of an airman who inadvertently violates a TFR for the first time for 30 days, unless the violation was the result of either:

  • Intruding one mile or less into the security airspace and exiting as soon as able, without causing problems for other air traffic or ATC
  • Squawking a 1200 or incorrect discrete assigned code for a brief time (under two minutes) in a security airspace without causing complications for other traffic or ATC

In either of these situations the airman would receive a warning letter and remedial training, with no violations in his or her record. If the airman has previous TFR violations, however, certificate suspensions or even revocations will occur.


Hopefully, this policy change marks the start of a new FAA that aims to create safety through education rather than punishment. As always, it pays to get a detailed briefing from flight service and check TFR NOTAMs before you embark on a flight. If you feel as though you have been wrongly accused of violating a TFR and are facing certificate suspension or revocation, call Curry, Pearson & Wooten’s Phoenix aviation lawyers at 602-258-1000 today to see what you can do to protect your flying privileges.