If you are like me and enjoy hanging around small airports you tend to see the same familiar faces. Many enjoy visiting the airport for some "hanger flying" , while others use any excuse to jump in a plane and fly somewhere for the "hundred dollar hamburger". One day I noticed that a friend of mine was missing from the normal airport crowd.I had become friends with a student who had been flying with me. We spent many hours flying and discovering new places to visit while fulfilling his obligation to the insurance company of a minimum 25 hours in the aircraft before flying solo in his new plane.
During our trips our goal was to practice approaches, learn the handling characteristics of the plane, and understand the systems in this complex aircraft. Our first flight would normally be to a small airport with a restaurant. I have fond memories of sitting outside sipping sweet tea and watching airplanes fly by as we sat at restaurant overlooking the airport.
After fulfilling his twenty-five hour insurance requirement he flew his plane almost daily. Many times he would give anyone willing a quick ride around the airport.
After a few months I noticed his airplane was in the hanger and was not being flown much any more. He had a passion for flying and I could never imagine that him leaving his new airplane sporting a custom paint scheme in a hanger for very long.
I was shocked to discover my friend had violated one of the TFR's, Temporary Flight Restrictions, while he was out flying one day. Being a successful business owner and knowing he was very meticulous, this came as a surprise. He was so interested in increasing his piloting skills, he recently obtained his commercial pilot certificate. Because he had a commercial pilot certificate the FAA ruled that he should have known the boundaries of the restricted airspace, thus he had his pilot certificate suspended for six months.
The cause of the violation was his turning to avoid a cloud because he was flying under visual flight rules. He knew about the Temporary Flight Restriction by viewing the FAA TFR website, and had an intimate knowledge of the boundaries, and so did air traffic control. Thinking if he just look a short left turn and then get back on course no one would notice. Unfortunate for him the radar and air traffic controller noticed.
Looking back at this situation he could have done a few things to avoid the embarrassment and the pilot certificate action by the FAA. First, he could have avoided both the restricted airspace and the cloud by turning around and going the opposite direction. This accomplishes two primary goals in aviation, keep safe and stay legal. Since his aircraft is equipped and certified for instrument flight, he could have filed an IFR, Instrument Flight Rules, flight plan and flown through the cloud, again being both safe and legal.
I think we can all learn from my friends mistake. If you are flying close to a TFR and you have an instrument rating, file a flight plan and fly under instrument flight rules. You no longer will need to worry about cloud clearance. Secondly, there is never a destination that I will risk my life or license for. If you ever feel the urge to bend a rule, skirt the edge of airspace, use my friends experience as an example of the consequences.
For More Information: FAA Temporary Flight Restrictions Website
What is a TFR?
A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is a type of Notices to Airmen (NOTAM). A TFR defines an area restricted to air travel due to a hazardous condition, a special event, or a general warning for the entire FAA airspace. The text of the actual TFR contains the fine points of the restriction.