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TFR displays and Electronic Devices - please help us spread the word!


Staff member
Northwest Arkansas
Julie J. Stewart
BLM/USFS National Airspace Program Manager

Every weekend, I have received calls from distraught dispatchers and frantic pilots telling me that their Garmin or other devices do not have the correct TFRs on them. TFRs that were cancelled the night before “are still there!” TFRs that have been modified “have disappeared!!” TFRs that are new are “not shown!” I have begun to notice a trend and decided to check out various device manuals.
What I have discovered is that each device seems to have a disclaimer associated with it. Garmins, XM Radio in flight, Foreflight, I-Pads with applications, Wing X Pro, etc all have disclaimers when it comes to Temporary Flight Restrictions. For example, a device with “TODS” might have a disclaimer such as “CAUTION: This TFR Overlay Display System (TODS) is updated Monday thru Friday 1100-0030 UTC and Saturday thru Sunday 1230-1930 UTC. CONFIRM DATA CURRENCY THROUGH ALTERNATE SOURCES AT OTHER TIMES. For interpretation of this TFR contact your local FSS.
To put it simply, the devices are NOT kept accurate in real time evenings and weekends. I contacted FAA headquarters and they have said that pilots need to read their manual for the dates and hours of their service and to check the disclaimers. Here are a few links for disclaimer, incidents and Garmin manual statements on the currency of TFR information for GPS devices. So heads up and know that the data on electronic devices could be an issue. The Interagency Aviation Accident Prevention Bulletin (IA APB 13-01) “Take your iPad Flying” alludes to this issue.

A Garmin Manual disclaimer on current TFR data is found on page 8 at the bottom of the page.


The following link for the Garmin 496 manual (page 6) has the TODS information stated:


The following link from NASA Ames has many reports of TFR incursions with pilots depending on electronic devices. http://asrs.arc.nasa.gov/docs/rpsts/penetrat.pdf

Here is a sampling of report synopsis that reference TFR intrusions and electronic devices.

· Pilot departing SQL reports inadvertently entering a TFR over a football stadium. The TFR did not appear in a DUAT's briefing and did not show up on the Garmin 696 with XM Radio in-flight TFR display.
· SR22 pilot reports inadvertently entering a TFR for a sports event. DET Tower had issued an advisory prior to TFR entry then issued instructions to exit quickly. The TFR was not included in the preflight briefing and did not show up on the moving map display.
· BE58 pilot reports being distracted while attempting to locate a TFR which was not in the pre-flight briefing and wasn't showing up on Foreflight, nor on the XM wx display on his G600. The result is inadvertent entry into DAY Class C airspace.
· C182 pilot reports inadvertently entering a TFR established for an airshow that was not published as a NOTAM and did not appear on an iPad with ADS-B.
· C210 pilot reports inadvertently entering a TFR which apparently moved from its' original NOTAM'ed position and did not appear on a iPad using Stratus ADS-B in.
· C182 pilot reports being intercepted by an F16 south of Chicago then informed after landing that he had flown through a TFR that was shown as expired on his GPS display.
· BE58 pilot reports being "buzzed" by an F16 as he is about to land. He is informed after landing that he has entered a VIP TFR although it is not visible on Foreflight with Stratus or via ADS-B (weather, NOTAMs, TFR's).
· C172 pilot reports inadvertent entry into a fire fighting TFR when he fails to see the NOTAM in the list provided by DUAT's. His iPad with WingXPro also failed to display the TFR both before and after the event.
· General Aviation pilot reports discovering airborne via his Garmin 496 that a TFR has gone into effect 15 minutes earlier than expected. NOTAMs were not checked directly just prior to departure, relying instead on local AWOS.
· C414 pilot reports inadvertently entering a fire fighting TFR when his G696 with XM does not depict an increase in the dimensions of the airspace that occurs after takeoff.
· A PA22 pilot watched a TFR expire on his Garmin GPS as expected and departed for an airport previously below the TFR. Approaching destination he was advised that the TFR was still in effect.
· A general aviation pilot reports inadvertently entering a TFR and landing at the nearest airport when a call is heard on guard frequency. An iPad with Foreflight application was used for planning and enroute navigation, but TFR did not appear.
· SR22 Instructor reports inadvertently entering a TFR beneath ORD Class B during a VFR flight to PWK. No TFR information appeared on the Garmin Perspective System until after several reboots, after the fact.
· Cessna pilot reports inadvertently entering a TFR after requesting the NOTAM on his iPhone, but not seeing the complete description due to gaps in the text message.
· C172 pilot discovers that his new iPAD moving map application does not include TFR's, after the fact.
· SR22 pilot departing ILG reports possibly entering the VIP TFR 5 NM north during departure. G1000 MFD did not display the TFR until the reporter was inside the lateral boundary.
· The pilot of a light twin reports being diverted to BVU after filing an IFR flight plan to LAS, due to a VIP TFR over LAS. The reporter departs two hours later intending to pick up his IFR clearance airborne and is informed he has violated the TFR. The aircraft was equipped with a Garmin 880 MFD which did not display the TFR.
· AA5 pilot reports inadvertently violating a TFR by not noticing it during an iPad preflight and forgetting to plug in the Garmin antenna during the flight.
· Light twin pilot discovers enroute that that the ForeFlight App on his ipad does not display TFR's.
· A light aircraft pilot reported a possible TFR violation when his XM Weather device failed to alert him to the area. The reporter mentioned lack of NOTAM and minimal assistance from ATC as factors.
· Helicopter pilot inadvertently entered a TFR while using a GPS device calibrated in statute miles instead of nautical miles.
· A light plane pilot reported encroaching on P40 restricted airspace unknowingly, even though the aircraft was equipped with advanced electronics. The Reporter cited the advanced electronics as a hindrance to situational awareness rather than a help.
Makes one wonder if flying IFR and using ATC services would help, or does ATC even have access to updated info. Sounds like a case of a "bum" information delivery system. The Glider pilot story in AOPA a while back.
I've seen two bad TFR's on Garmin's XM system. The first was a huge TFR that originated in eastern North Dakota and extended into western Montana. I think whoever entered it put in too many zeros. Like maybe a 10 mile radius TFR was put in as 1000 mile radius.

And about a year ago there was a fire TFR in eastern Montana still showing on the Garmin that had expired many days earlier.

It doesn't put a lot of confidence into the system. They're nice when they're accurate and timely. We get a lot of fire TFR's and having them on the GPS makes it easy to avoid them.

Another time I was on a search for a missing plane and a TFR popped up for the search while I was inside of the TFR circle searching. I commented to the observer that was quick. We were on the search within a half hour of getting the call.
So, the FAA, with its vendors, develops a cumbersome, intermittent, and error-prone TFR notification system, then blames it on the GPS providers when it goes wrong. Similar things happen with FSS and DUATS.

When FSS got a flight plan wrong and called out Search early, they (Lockheed Martin) blamed it on DUATS (the computer interchange between DUATS and FSS broke down, then the FSS personnel copied the flight plan incorrectly) and proposed "just call FSS, don't use DUATS" as the solution.

The TFR notification system is abysmal. The only "reliable" fallback is to call FSS and write down the information received over the phone, then transpose to a map, which is the most time consuming and error prone method. The FAA likes it because it shifts all the burden on to the pilot, including the insurmountable problem that the time taken to transpose the information before flight can make it stale during the flight. Every other method comes with a disclaimer, including the FAA's own website.

The problem is that even the FAA data on TFRs isn't good. My weather and TFR data comes directly from the FAAs ADS-B broadcasts. Remember, that's supposed to be one of the big selling points of having ADS-B receivers? This year when we had a number of forest fires and associated TFRs, the TFRs never showed up when I picked up the Weather and TFR data via ADS-B. It showed the big "Permanent" TFRs 2500 miles east over Washington, but the local firefighting TFRs were non-existent. Isn't that the FAA supplying the data, or lack there of? I have a hard time pushing the blame for that onto the manufacturer of the ADS-B receiver I'm using. But it's the FAA. They don't seem to have a complaints or customer service department for their screw ups.

The problem is that even the FAA data on TFRs isn't good. My weather and TFR data comes directly from the FAA's ADS-B broadcasts. ...but the local firefighting TFRs were non-existent. ...

That's just my point. The only method that the FAA says is reliable is via phone. All other methods, even those provided by the FAA and especially any electronic method, is deemed unreliable: "check with Flight Service immediately before flight".

The FAA has at its fingertips virtually instantaneous electronic distribution, even to airplanes in flight - and it relies on a human speaker, human listener, phone, pencil, and chart.
Six incursions into the TFR is SE Mass this past week. Two from pilots who departed rwy 24 KPYM right into the TFR less than a mile off the departure end of Rwy 24. Both "Unaware of the existence of a TFR". One from Mansfield, MA that flew into the TFR over Chataham, MA while photographing sharks etc---"My Garmin indicated I was 30.1 NM on the radial". Wrong answer---. Unknown on the other three---.
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Hey folks this is my fault that this is posted here. I got an email from Julie with this attached. I got Julie's permission to have it here, and asked Steve to post it. It was meant to be a heads up, not an accusation of any kind. I can tell you first hand that when a strange aircraft wanders into a fire TFR the pucker factor goes way up. The fire aircraft are not just the SEATs and P2Vs, you have the DC-10 and the BAe-146. Also there are c-130s and they are working on a MD-87. Who would have ever thought that they would use the DC-10 on a fire in the Nebraska plains. I know I have relied on the GPS for airspace warnings, but I think I may change the way I do business. A two minute call may save me a big headache. I'd be more than happy to answer all the questions I can. The folks in Boise are trying to think outside the box to create a safer fire aviation environment.

No fault at all. My complaint is about the FAA. The NIFC folks are just trying to keep everyone safe, and its good to point out that the electronics just aren't working.
I call the Lockheed FSS, then launch. Last week Salt Lake said "you aware of the TFR north of St.George?" Nope. FSS had not told me - yet there it was on the 496.

What I want to know is, how did this all work so well before TFRs, when we had more than twice as many light planes airborne? I do not remember my buddies at CalFire complaining about Piper Cubs overflying the drop zones.
No fault at all. My complaint is about the FAA. The NIFC folks are just trying to keep everyone safe, and its good to point out that the electronics just aren't working.
Agreed. My complaint is with the sloppy way the FAA is handling this and the lack of their accepting responsibility or showing a willingness to fix it. As for the fire TFRs, I am usually well aware of the fires and just assume there is a TFR around it, so simply stay away until I see what the actual TFR is and whether I can go over top or around. If there's lots of smoke in the mountains, I assume I don't need to be there. :smile:

I am usually well aware of the fires and just assume there is a TFR around it, so simply stay away until I see what the actual TFR is and whether I can go over top or around. If there's lots of smoke in the mountains, I assume I don't need to be there. :smile:

The trouble is that all TFRs have smoke. Some of them, such as the president's vacation spot Du jour, are not visible to the average pilot. :smile: :rant: