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Are Stadium TFRs Still Active During COVID?

Nobody wants to mistakenly fly through a Stadium TFR. Here's how to know if one is active near you.

Boldmethod

Review: The Stadium TFR

With so many sports events and constantly changing game schedules, the FAA decided to issue a "Blanket NOTAM" that creates temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) over some of the nation's largest sporting events. In this article we covered everything you need to know about the NOTAM published after 9/11 for sporting events.

FDC NOTAM 0/0367 was re-issued with a few amendments on January 2nd, 2020. For each sporting event covered by the NOTAM, the airspace is temporarily defined as "National Defense Airspace." Each TFR has a radius of 3 nautical miles and extends up to, and includes, 3,000 feet AGL. Qualifying locations and events are defined as any stadium or other sporting venue having a seating capacity of 30,000 of more people, where:

  • A regular or post season Major League Baseball, National Football, or NCAA Division One football game is occurring.
  • A Nascar Cup, Indy Car, or Champ Series race is occurring, excluding qualifying and pre-race events.

FAA

Report: Pilot's Confusion Over Stadium TFR During COVID

We found the following NASA ASRS report published just a few weeks ago. The pilot was concerned about the lack of spectators and how that affects each TFR...

I was operating in the ZZZ SFRA and may have inadvertently violated a sporting TFR. The sporting event in question was played without fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to the flight, and as part of my preflight planning, I reviewed current TFRs for the intended flight path using the FAA's TFR website (tfr.faa.gov). Sporting TFRs do not appear on this list, however they historically have appeared in EFB applications, including Garmin Pilot which I reviewed prior to this flight. Garmin Pilot did not show any TFRs over this sporting event either prior to the flight or during the flight.

The flight operation took place in the ZZZ SFRA. I was not contacted during the flight by ATC, nor was I notified by ATC or the FBO at the destination airport of any issues with the flight. To add to the confusion, another pilot also operating in the vicinity during the time of the game was in contact with ZZZ1 Tower and was notified that there was no TFR because there were no spectators.

A few days later, I received notification from Garmin that sporting TFRs were not appearing in the Garmin Pilot application due to an issue with Garmin's data supplier related to COVID-19.

I felt this report was prudent since even prior to COVID-19, these sporting TFRs were already difficult to find. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they are even more difficult to find since the typical data sources may or may not accurately display them. To help avoid any issues with these TFRs in the future. I have joined a local industry group who among other services, provides notifications to pilots about sporting TFRs and other TFRs. I will also be reviewing local teams' schedules directly in addition to using the 3rd party EFB applications.


ranieldiaz

The FAA Has An Answer

In the following video, at the 10:35 minute mark, an FAA representative clears up confusion about this COVID-related question. Based on the way the law (NOTAM) is written, stadium TFRs are based on seating capacity, not fans in attendance. Therefore, stadium TFRs for applicable events are still active.

As an aside... Only events specifically covered by the NOTAM produce a TFR. Let's say an NHL hockey game is played in the same stadium this winter. It wouldn't qualify for a flight restriction.


What do you think about this answer from the FAA? Tell us in the comments below.

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Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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