Nope to Flying Near the Pope


Quick Summary of How to Check for TFR’s.

  • Check to see if there is a TFR in effect for your area by going to www.tfr.faa.gov, using www.airmap.io, or calling 1800-WX-BRIEF.
  • If there is a TFR in your area, find out WHEN it starts and when it ends.

The FAA says you cannot fly near the Pope. How does the FAA let people know about this?

The FAA issues a notice to airman (NOTAM) alerting the public of a temporary flight restriction (TFR). You can view them on this website.  http://tfr.faa.gov/tfr2/list.html  You can select your state and see what is active or what is going to become active.

TFR-drone-temporary-flight-restriction

What is a TFR?

The FAA defines a TFR as “a regulatory action issued via the U.S. Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) system to restrict certain aircraft from operating within a defined area, on a temporary basis, to protect persons or property in the air or on the ground.” There are different types of TFR’s and they are listed out in the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR’s).

  1. Section 91.137, Temporary Flight Restrictions in the Vicinity of Disaster/Hazard Areas;
  2. Section 91.138, Temporary Flight Restrictions in National Disaster Areas in the State of Hawaii;
  3. Section 91.139, Emergency Air Traffic Rules;
  4. Section 91.141, Flight Restrictions in the Proximity of the Presidential and Other Parties;
  5. Section 91.143, Flight Limitation in the Proximity of Space Flight Operations;
  6. Section 91.144, Abnormally High Barometric Pressure Conditions;
  7. Section 91.145, Management of Aircraft Operations in the Vicinity of Aerial Demonstrations and Major Sporting Events; and
  8. Section 99.7, Special Security Instructions.

A TFR is basically a restrictions on the airspace so the FAA can keep things safe. These TFR’s are NOT always a complete ban on all types of flying. It just means only authorized individuals can fly in those area. If you are interested in doing some commercial drone work around sporting event TFR’s, you can contact me about getting those approvals and special COA’s.

So what type of TFR does the Pope have?

The Pope’s NOTAM actual text TFR of Philadelphia says:

“A) THE FAA MAY TAKE ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION, INCLUDING IMPOSING CIVIL PENALTIES AND THE SUSPENSION OR REVOCATION OF AIRMEN CERTIFICATES; OR B) THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT MAY PURSUE CRIMINAL CHARGES, INCLUDING CHARGES UNDER TITLE 49 OF THE UNITED STATES CODE, SECTION 46307; OR C) THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT MAY USE DEADLY FORCE AGAINST THE AIRBORNE AIRCRAFT, IF IT IS DETERMINED THAT THE AIRCRAFT POSES AN IMMINENT SECURITY THREAT.”

The FAA cited 14 C.F.R. section 99.7 as justification for the issuance of the TFR and that regulation says:

Ҥ99.7 Special security instructions.
Each person operating an aircraft in an ADIZ or Defense Area must, in addition to the applicable rules of this part, comply with special security instructions issued by the Administrator in the interest of national security, pursuant to agreement between the FAA and the Department of Defense, or between the FAA and a U.S. Federal security or intelligence agency.”

Regulation 99.7 was created under the authority given to the FAA by the US Congress in 49 U.S. Code § 40103(b)(3) which says:

“(3) To establish security provisions that will encourage and allow maximum use of the navigable air-space by civil aircraft consistent with national security, the Administrator, in consultation with the Secre-tary of Defense, shall—
(A) establish areas in the airspace the Administrator decides are necessary in the interest of national defense; and
(B) by regulation or order, restrict or prohibit flight of civil aircraft that the Administrator cannot identify, locate, and control with available facilities in those areas.”

So what happens if you fly into the Pope bubble?

49 U.S.C. § 46307 says:

A person that knowingly or willfully violates section 40103 (b)(3) of this title or a regulation prescribed or order issued under section 40103 (b)(3) shall be fined under title 18, imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.

Doug Hughes flew a gyrocopter onto the US Capitol lawn and he is being indicted. One of the charges listed § 43607 and § 40103(b)(3). Read the Douglas Hughes indictment.

How much is the fine?

18 U.S.C. § 3571 says:

“(a)IN GENERAL.—
A defendant who has been found guilty of an offense may be sentenced to pay a fine.
(b)FINES FOR INDIVIDUALS.—Except as provided in subsection (e) of this section, an indi-vidual who has been found guilty of an offense may be fined not more than the greatest of—[. . .]

(4)
for a misdemeanor resulting in death, not more than $250,000;
(5)
for a Class A misdemeanor that does not result in death, not more than $100,000; [. . . ]
(c)FINES FOR ORGANIZATIONS.—Except as provided in subsection (e) of this section, an or-ganization that has been found guilty of an offense may be fined not more than the greatest of—[. . .]
(4)
for a misdemeanor resulting in death, not more than $500,000;
(5)
for a Class A misdemeanor that does not result in death, not more than $200,000;”

We know it is a Class A misdemeanor because 18 U.S.C.  § 3559 says:

“(a)CLASSIFICATION.—An offense that is not specifically classified by a letter grade in the section defining it, is classified if the maximum term of imprisonment authorized is— [. . .]

(6) one year or less but more than six months, as a Class A misdemeanor;”

So there you have it folks. Flying near the Pope could get you punished with jail for up to one year and fined a whole bunch of cash.  I don’t make the rules, I just help people fly drones according to what the FAA says.

Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.