TEMPORARY FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS REGULATION: IS IT CONSTITUTIONAL?
Condition of airline industry after Sept.
TFRs and general aviation
TFRs without information
TFRs and business at busy airports
TFRs and young pilots
TFRs: an ineffective measure
Temporary flight restrictions (TFR) are considered unconstitutional by many quarters because they are seriously hurting economic conditions of the United States aviation. But speaking from legal point-of-view, we cannot declare any action taken for security reasons as unconstitutional. This is because the federal government has Congress's permission to take appropriate measures to ensure security of the country, its landmarks, general public and important public figures such as the President and Vice president. But when these actions cross the limits of justice and start interfering with smooth operations of any industry, a petition can be filed against them in U.S. courts to determine the legality of those actions. No such action has so far been taken against TFRs, which were imposed in the wake of September 11. The paper thus studies the issue closely to find out why people feel that TFRs should be declared unconstitutional and how it is contributing towards bad economic conditions in the country.
TEMPORARY FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS: UNCONSTITUITIONAL?
Temporary flight restrictions were imposed after September 11 in order to protect America public from terrorist attacks. These restrictions had a huge negative impact on the airline industry in specific and on economy in general. This is the reason why many felt that such restrictions should be declared unconstitutional even if the objective behind such measures is highly constitutional. TFR regulations have been in operation since 1971 but amendments that have taken place over the years have expanded the scope of this regulation. For example while formerly it could be invoked at certain given occasion or days, since September 11, they are being used whenever the government feels a certain site can become potential target for terrorist attacks. In order to understand why temporary flight restrictions were imposed and whether or not they are unconstitutional, we must first take a look at the economic conditions of the country after September 11. This will help us understand why any flight restrictions can further worsen the United States economic downturn. Temporary flights restrictions are issued by Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to protect certain sites from any kind of threat. Before September 11, the main purpose of such restrictions was to protect government military sites from spy planes or to prevent possible collusion of non-participating planes during air shows. But since the tragic incident of September 11, things have changed dramatically for the airline industry as many commercial planes are now being forced to take new routes to reach destination because of FAA flight restrictions.
Al Carrozza (2001) writes, " [In the wake of September 11] The FAA has expanded the range of "class B" airspace in New York, Boston, Washington and around other high-density airports, which means only military and certain commercial aircraft are allowed to fly in the zone. They' ve also banned such flights in a 30-nautical-mile radius of the 30 biggest U.S. cities. That is keeping the planes away from choice venues with big crowds, like the Meadowlands and Yankee Stadium." This brings us to a very important question, does the government have the right to impose such restrictions when it is clear that such moves would hurt the financial condition of commercial airlines, aerial advertising, flying schools and other related businesses.
For this research paper, the author closely studied impressive collection of relevant material on the subject. Research material was collected from magazines, newspapers, aviation web sites and FAA guides. The material thus gathered was thoroughly studied in order to see how FAA restrictions are affecting the aviation industry in the United States. Various charts of the areas currently under TFR were also examined to see how restricted circles are formed and whether or not they can be effective as deterrents. In this paper, the author has presented review of the material that was collected for research along with conclusions extracted from that literature.
LITERATURE REVIEW AND DISCUSSION
Condition of airline industry after September 11
Temporary Flight restrictions are aimed at protecting certain landmarks, famous figures and American public from possible attacks but these restrictions are bound to affect the economy in the long run. It is important to take a look at the economic conditions of the country because this will help us understand why TFR can be unconstitutional.
The United States economy had already been predicted to go into recession when the tragedy of September 11 struck and accelerated the downward spiral of economic conditions of our country. The economy crumpled as many industries in the country were hit harshly by the attacks and the slow down finally took shape of recession. After three-quarters of poor GDP growth, it was almost certain that the economy was heading towards recession but September 11th attacks only accelerated the negative process. After September 11 most industries were hit badly and many of them ran for Chapter 11 protection. While every business suffered, it was the airline and tourism industry that was hit the hardest. Many major airlines in the country were either forced to cut their flights schedules to half or operate as per the old schedule but with lesser passengers per flight.. The hardest hit was of course the American airline, which was the primary player in the attacks because it was the aircrafts of this company, which the terrorist used in the attacks. The company has since then announced huge cuts in its flight schedules and has also laid-off many of its workers. But it is not just the American Airlines, all other airline companies in the industry faced similar problems with the exception of southwest as it is still operating as per old schedule. Many are of the view that the airline industry will not be able to recover for some time even after the government announced a $15 billion bailout package for the industry. The workers of this industry are facing other problems, as many of them have been laid off, they are uncertain about their future and this has resulted in higher unemployment in the country. So far more than 140,000 workers of the airline industry have lost their jobs due to the attacks and more layoffs might result if something is not done quickly to improve the situation.. In October last year, the performance of United Airlines was so dismal that the CEO James Goodwin announced clearly that bankruptcy was a real possibility if the situation in the travel sector did not improve. (Business Week, 2001)
The airline industry laid-off more than 150,000 workers thus worsening the unemployment problem in the country. The Mirror reported, "American Airlines and Continental Airlines are shedding 20,000 redundancies each. Delta Airlines is cutting 13,000 jobs by the end of 2001 and will reduce capacity by 15 per cent. British Airways has already cut 7,000 jobs. Boeing, the world's biggest jet maker, is slashing between 20,000 and 30,000 jobs next year." (Airlines count the cost, The Mirror, 2001)
TFRs and general aviation
Under such conditions, Bush administration was aware of the fact that further restrictions on use of airspace would result in complete destruction of the airline industry. Even temporary halting flights could cause great damage to airline industry because of the weak financial structure of most commercial airlines. But these TFRs are needed from time to protect public places and figures from further attacks. But if we closely measure the long-term effects of TFR, we would be able to see why they are not a feasible option. Because of TFR not being commercially viable, it is felt that government crosses the limits of its federally granted rights when it disallows use of airspace above certain areas.
Kathy McCabe of Globe Correspondent (2001) writes about negative impact of temporary flight restrictions and shows how it is hurting airline businesses. In her article titled 'Airspace limits hurt flight schools', McCabe writes, "Severe restrictions on airspace within 20 miles of Logan Airport have crippled flight schools, fuel suppliers, and other small aviation businesses at Beverly Municipal Airport and Hanscom Field in Bedford. The restrictions, put in place after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, also have grounded most recreational pilots, who fly under so-called "visual flight rules," meaning they do not use instruments to fly a plane. Only instrument-trained pilots may fly within the 20-mile restricted airspace. Everyone else must be accompanied by a flight instructor, according to the Federal Aviation Administration."
TFRs without Information
This proves that temporary flight restrictions can often hurt economic conditions and also highlights another very important point. Government's measures regarding flight restriction can be considered unconstitutional when the intelligence agencies do not have any information, which can warrant such actions. But if the government knows something which others are unaware of, then its actions can be granted constitutional cover. This means that sometimes government takes action because of the information provided by intelligence agencies but at…