Thursday, June 17, 2010

Statement from the FAA in Response to the Associated Press Story about Temporary Flight Restrictions over the Gulf of Mexico

Today’s story by the Associated Press contains a number of inaccuracies with regard to the government’s oversight of flyovers in and around the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Since May 28th, the FAA has approved every request to fly over the area – more than 176 requests. While the temporary flight restriction requires pilots to stay above 3,000 feet, the FAA is working with news organizations and granting exceptions so that pilots can fly at lower altitudes throughout the day.

The reason for these requirements is safety, pure and simple. So far, there have been a number of reported near misses over the Gulf due to heavy traffic and pilots flying above the oil spill to give their passengers a closer look.

On Sunday, a helicopter carrying a member of the Associated Press violated the temporary flight restriction around the oil clean-up efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. The helicopter operator was not authorized to fly into the restricted area and was flying at various altitudes well below 3,000 feet. For over 30 minutes, the pilot was not in communication with the Customs and Border Patrol aircraft that is providing traffic advisories for all participating aircraft. Customs and Border Patrol was forced to divert other traffic in the area, creating a dangerous situation for everyone involved. When the pilot was finally reached he was told to leave the area.

A pilot deviation (an action that results in the violation of a Federal Aviation Regulation) is being filed against the helicopter pilot.

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