This is the time of year when we really appreciate flying our airplanes to the Cape and Islands.
Sadly, there hasn’t been much enthusiasm for flying in Southern New England lately, even though August has brought some great weather, with relatively calm winds and abundant sunshine. This is because President Obama is vacationing on the Vineyard … again.
From Friday August 7th, until Sunday August 23rd, a 30 mile “Temporary Flight Restriction” has been set up around the island. Any unauthorized flight in this zone will result in swift and severe action against the pilot by the United States Secret Service … again.
To be fair, it is possible to do some limited flying during the TFR. I flew my Cherokee into the outer ring to visit a friend in Falmouth yesterday, and the FAA made it easy. All I had to do was to file (but not necessarily open) a VFR flight plan, get a discrete transponder code, and stay in radio contact with Cape Approach and Departure. The controllers were friendly and helpful, but there were certainly Secret Service agents looking over their shoulders watching for one misstep, one wrong turn, one wingtip brushing the forbidden zone of the 10 mile inner ring, which would result in unleashing the hounds.
It isn’t fun flying when you know that you could loose your license for 90 or 180 days at any moment. Not to mention submitting to detention and an ardent Secret Service interrogation, where your personal political views may be considered “motive” for disrupting the chief executive’s serenity.
Of course, 9-11 is the reason why presidential vacations cost the taxpayers millions (billions?) of dollars in travel costs and security. The exact dollar amount is “classified” and obscured in dozens of bureaucratic accounting streams, but an island boondoggle certainly adds more to the national debt than a few weeks at Camp David.
So if you want to take off from an obscure grass airstrip around here (there are many) in your J-3 Cub or Ultralight, forget about it. If you run a flight school or a skydiving operation, suck it up. And if you make it to Edgartown or Vineyard Haven only to discover that blocks of streets are barricaded and shut down because the Pres went into town for an ice cream cone, take heart: He will soon be back among his billionaire buddies, golfing and brainstorming for new ways to make life better for the hard working middle class.
Okay, that was a cheap shot.
But what does it say about America when our leader may take such extraordinary measures to seal off and claim one of the most beautiful and desirable locales in the nation as his private and exclusive domain … again?