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"Aerodrome Closed"--Over-Flight??? (+Air Tanker Drop Video)

Posted: Fri Aug 30, 2013 9:31 am
by drdehave
A hypothetical: Summer wild fires are raging in the West. On one such fire, the US Forest Service takes control of a small, uncontrolled airfield for its fire-fighting activity. A Notam is issued that the "Aerodrome is Closed--except to USFS aircraft" until further notice, due to this activity. Starting 4 Nmi away, a large restricted airspace zone (i.e., the actual fire area) is mapped and a TFR is issued for it. Is there any prohibition from flying over the closed airport (at a safe altitude, well above pattern altitude, and clear of the TFR, of course) en route to another open, airport? In self-announcing intentions to do so on the CTAF, will USFS aircraft using the closed airport be on that CTAF--or are they using their fire-fighting frequencies to land and take off? Thanks for clearing this up for me...

And now, to enjoy (be sure to push the HD-Full Screen button) an awesome air-tanker drop on the California Rim Fire, near Yosemite, click here:

Re: "Aerodrome Closed"--Over-Flight??? (+Air Tanker Drop Vid

Posted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 7:07 am
by Jack Tyler
Doc, the A to your Q is a function of the specific TFR.

E.g. take a look at this fire-related TFR (current today) for Idaho:

You are required to stay clear of the airspace defined by the for this specific TFR:
Airspace Definition:
Center: On the BOISE VORTAC (BOI) 073 degree radial at 47.6 nautical miles. (Latitude: 43º33'25"N, Longitude: 115º06'00"W)
Radius: 5 nautical miles
Altitude: From the surface up to and including 11500 feet MSL
So theoretically, they are not closing the airspace above 11.5K...but from a practical standpoint, you will choose to avoid and fly around.

What's missing in this 'by the book' answer is that these a/c are being retanked with retardant and/or water as close to the fire as can be arranged. So there's also a flight corridor that needs to be considered. And in mountainous areas, these a/c are unlikely to be overflying the peaks between resupply and drop zone. They'll most likely be flying the drainages (the river valleys) to save time & fuel. Those drainages are typically where we small guys fly, too. So if I was flying across a region where a fire-related TFR was posted, I'd be monitoring 122.9 (the 'backcountry flying CTAF'), flyng the right side of the canyon or drainage, and announcing at the major drainage 'intersections' when in the general TFR vicinity.

Also, don't overlook the Center freq and phone number included in the TFR because they can tell you the working freq used by the fire-fighting a/c, should you want to monitor that traffic.

Here's the FAA's short 'n sweet description of how TFRs are supposed to work. Simple, nicely illustrated:

Re: "Aerodrome Closed"--Over-Flight??? (+Air Tanker Drop Vid

Posted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 8:15 am
by drdehave
Copy that, Jack. I would be staying 4 miles outside any TFR. The question I could not get answered by my local FSS, or the USFS--both of whom referred me to the other--is, when flying over the closed airport (just an airport-closed, except USFS aircraft, NOTAM--no encircling, related TFR, or altitude criteria), 4 miles outside the related TFR, and announcing so on the CTAF (122.9) for that airport, will any USFS aircraft landing/taking off at the closed airport (not w/in a TFR) even be listening on that channel. Or will they be announcing all their Ls/TOs on one of their 134 MHrtz FF channels?

I would still plan to announce--just as the book says--my flyover of the closed (to landings other than USFS aircraft) airport on 122.9.

Re: "Aerodrome Closed"--Over-Flight??? (+Air Tanker Drop Vid

Posted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 3:11 pm
by drdehave
Well, I just made this 355 nmi (RT distance:KDWA/KO21) run this morning and it was a very interesting trip, with drop-dead perfect weather. First, I got a last-minute weather briefing, including making sure the TFRs and airport closure were still the same--and they were. But, when I got over the airport, all the fire-fighting aircraft were gone and the place was a total ghost town. Also, the runway was no longer X-d-out; Moreover, the CTAF, 122.9, was jamned with an open mic and unusable. That was interesting. To the east, where the TFRs are located, there was smoke hanging in the valleys, but no aircraft working. I'm pretty sure this encampment has just moved on to water bigger fish--maybe at the Big One near Yosemite (now, at 343 square miles, the biggest wildfire blaze in CA recorded history).

One buddy, if he is correct, may have answered my burning radio-frequency question: they have dual (and often more) radios and will be monitoring both the local CTAF--and their fire-fighting frequencies. Unless someone has a better answer, that's the one I'll go with :lol:

Now, see if I got the video I wanted. Yep, I did and here it is: ... m3CDM8arRk

(PS: I should add this, which one of you probably would, if I didn't: "Rich, you're taking a risk flying close--4 NMi--to a Fire TFR, like that. Even though you got a briefing before the flight, the TFR could be enlarged whilst you were en route, resulting in a violation that you are unaware of." True. But, I weighed the risk and considered it low, since all our fires are now actively shrinking--not expanding--due to cool weather and high humidity for the past 2 weeks.)