Airspace violations for President Trump’s visits to Mar-a-Lago have dropped again compared to early 2017.
WEST PALM BEACH — The number of aircraft that have violated temporary flight restrictions while President Donald J. Trump is at Mar-a-Lago dropped slightly, from 26 in 2018 to 22 in 2019, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Both figures mark dramatic drops from the nearly 70 aviators who slipped into the restricted airspace during the first 14 months of Trump visits, first as president-elect, starting in November 2016, and through December 2017.
The 2019 figures might change. They are through Dec. 29. Trump stayed through Jan. 5.
Also, in 2018, Trump canceled a 16-day Mar-a-Lago holiday to stay in Washington and deal with a federal government shutdown.
When the president visits, all air operations, with a few exceptions, are prohibited within the 10-mile inner-circle centered on Palm Beach International Airport. Certain operations are allowed in the outer ring extending 30 miles from the airport.
Most straying pilots figure it out on their own. Others respond to a polite but firm heads-up over the radio.
Some violations get to the point where pilots who weren't paying attention find themselves staring at a big, bad military jet or helicopter. The FAA didn’t have the breakdown for the number of times a military aircraft had to confront a civilian plane that had disregarded the security perimeter. It referred an inquiry to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which didn't immediately respond.
While the government doesn't give exact figures for a scramble, it's said in the past that taxpayers pay about $35,000 anytime an Air Force F-15 is in the air for an hour. That figure includes fuel as well as maintenance before and after the planes fly. But officials have said that often there's no direct cost since planes patrolling the area around Palm Beach consider the missions part of their annual budgets.
Reasons for interventions range from pilots who don't watch the news and don't know the president is in town, who don't check for a NOTAM — "notice to airmen" — that the FAA issues every time there's a presidential flight restriction. and who fly around with their radios off, or on side frequencies.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the nation's largest association of private pilots and owners, with about 400,000 members, recommends pilots keep their radios on and tuned to the "guard" frequency, a counterpart to the old Channel 9 on CB radios that's designated for emergencies.
"The reduction in airspace violations is the result of a combination of factors, including shorter visits by the president. At the same time, general aviation's awareness of these restrictions has increased thanks to the unique relationship the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has with the Federal Aviation Administration, United States Secret Service, and the military," Rune Duke, AOPA Senior Director of Airspace, Air Traffic & Aviation Security, said in a statement.
Duke also said AOPA remains active in efforts to reimburse local airports and businesses that lose revenue during the flight restrictions.
Lantana airport, just seven miles from Mar-a-Lago, is within the inside car, and when restrictions are in place, it's effectively shut down. The airport has said its tenants, which include flight schools and banner-towing services, lose thousands in business every day when the restrictions are in place, because such outfits are grounded.
FLIGHT RESTRICTION VIOLATIONS
.Jan. 1: 2
Feb. 4: 1
Feb. 17-18: 4
March 3: 2
March 24-26: 6
March 31: 3
April 18-21: 5
Nov. 21-24: 3
Feb. 3-4: 3
Feb. 16: 1
March 8-9: 2
March 23: 1
March 31: 1
April 19-21: 4
Nov. 26, 29, 30: 5
Dec. 1: 1
Dec. 22, 24, 28, 29: 4
Source: Federal Aviation Administration