TFRs in Canada

By Kevin Psutka


Temporary Flight Restrictions are abundant in the US. They cover everything from short-term pop-up TFRs such as sporting events to extensive ones such as the Washington no-fly zone (it has become permanent) that effectively extends out to 60 nm. Pilots are required to take a course in order to fly VFR in this area (see Navigating the DC SFRA here ).

It is more reasonable in Canada but have seen TFRs, including the G8 Summit in Kananaskis, a visit by President George Bush to Ottawa, a TFR spill-over into Canada when President Bush attended a baseball game in Detroit, the G7 Summit in Montebello, a Francophonie Summit in Quebec and, most recently, President Obama’s Ottawa visit.

There are two more TFRs in the works for 2010. The Winter Olympics will cause various restrictions from the need to file a flight plan and squawk a discrete code to a complete prohibition on any flying in certain areas. The affected airspace will be within 30nm of Vancouver Airport and Whistler Resort. The plan is not finalized, but indications are that our sector of aviation will be affected by significant restrictions or prohibitions from before the Olympics, which start on 12 February until after the Paralympics, which end on 21 March 2010 and including the break in between the two events when no athletes will be there.

The other TFR in the works is the G8 Summit at Deerhurst Resort in Ontario (CDH1) on 25-27 June 2010. There has been little information so far but we do know that security officials have been surveying airports as far away as North Bay for facilities to support their operations. This TFR will likely be similar to Kananaskis, extending down to the very busy Toronto area. It is important to note that the no-fly zone will capture a significant number of floatplanes based at several lakes in the area, in the height of the summer and on a weekend. If you are based at or normally fly within 80 nm of Deerhurst, please mark your calendars and alert your flying friends now to the anticipated prohibition on all flying for these days and probably a few on either side.

Determining the size and extent in time of an airspace restriction is a complicated process involving several government agencies. Normally, the RCMP is tasked with overall security and various teams are formed to develop the airspace restrictions. The RCMP security people typically do not possess aviation expertise, so they rely on input from the Department of National Defence, Transport Canada and NAV CANADA as they develop the plan.

The authorities have learned that it is also necessary to consult with those affected by the restrictions. When the events of 9/11unfolded, industry was locked out and consequently there was confusion over the restrictions that were in place. The authorities made the assumption that everyone checks NOTAMs for every flight and they relied on this as the sole source of information. It became apparent that relying on the NOTAM system was insufficient to ensure that everyone knew about and understood the restrictions. Representatives from Associations and industry have a role to play in developing the restrictions and disseminating information.

To their credit, the authorities have come to appreciate the need to consult. COPA has been involved in the planning for all events since 9/11 to the maximum extent possible, given that some information is classified. In addition, Transport Canada has established a room close to their operations centre where keep industry representatives, including COPA, can be in place during an emergency to provide immediate feedback and advice as well as disseminate information to our members.

To illustrate how the plan comes together and what role COPA plays I will use the Kananaskis G8 Summit. It started out as a 20-day prohibition extending to 80nm. Through consultation with COPA, the period was reduced to 4 days (two days for the event plus a day either side for arrival and departure of VIPs) but the 80nm zone remained because DND said that they needed adequate time to intercept, identify and attempt to divert away or, if necessary, make the decision to shoot.

Given the massive size of the restricted area, COPA pushed for an early announcement of restrictions. The authorities responded with a general plan, which was disseminated, although the final plan was only confirmed when the NOTAM was issued seven days prior to the event.

Our sector of aviation is the most difficult to accommodate because we are not screened in any way. Airlines, on the other hand, have extensive procedures in place to minimize their aircraft’s use as a terrorist weapon. Even though the damage that could be inflicted by a small aircraft is minimal compared with the potential from an airliner, the public perception is such that the authorities feel compelled to keep us on the ground while letting airliners get very close to the venues, such as will be the case with the Olympics, where airliners will be permitted to land very close to one of the venues that is right beside the Vancouver airport. This defies logic but that is just that way it is.

Dissemination of the plan is normally relatively close to the event, even though the authorities have years to develop the plan. Although there has never been a specific threat to plan for, the general planning effort toward minimizing the possible ways that a terrorist could gain access, and this usually results in overkill in the restrictions imposed on our sector. Delays in disseminating the plan usually result from waiting to see if the threat scenario will change as world events change. There are also delays because of negotiations between various security agencies, including foreign, on the final plan.

Each time a TFR is being planned, a meeting or meetings take place with the industry, including COPA, to brief us on the plan and seek our input. In the case of the very extensive preparations for the Olympics, several committees are in place and several meetings have been held over the past number of years. COPA is represented by BC and Yukon Director Terry Wilshire.

Early in the planning process, key people from the Salt Lake Winter Olympics were on hand to provide lessens learned. On top of their list was the need to finalize the plan one year ahead of the Olympics and begin disseminating it to the public at that time.

With one year to go to our Olympics, the plan is still in development and indications are that the first time members will see any detail will be this summer. At this point all we can say is that you should plan for a significant curtailment of your flying for an extended period of time from early February until late March.

The following is a preliminary map of the Olympics restricted areas, as supplied by NAV CANADA. It is subject to change as the plan is developed so it is important that you check for Aeronautical Information Circulars and Supplements beginning in July for more up-to-date and expanded information.



click to enlarge

Class ‘F’ Restricted Airspace -

Effective January 29 to March 24, 2010

Two Olympic 30 NM Rings: (Gold)

Centered on Vancouver and Whistler

Security Requirements:

Three Olympic Control Areas (OCA) (RED)

Security Requirements:
(In addition to the above),
All Aircraft Operations Require:

  • #9; Pre Registration
  • #9; Pre Flight Authorization
  • #9; Aircraft Inspection
  • #9; Passenger Screening

Seven Olympic Restricted Zones: (Black)

Access restricted to approved :

Military, Police, Medivac Aircraft

During the Francophonie Summit there were 22 airspace incursions, with several intercepts and in one case, an aircraft was directed to land by an intercepting aircraft but took off again and had to be directed to land again. It appears that relying on NOTAMs is an ineffective way to ensure that people know about the TFRs.

COPA will continue to advocate for common sense and minimum restrictions. However, the reality is that restrictions will be the norm for any significant international event held in Canada. We will try to provide information as it comes to our attention but you should not rely on this as your only source. TFRs can come at any time and can extend further in space and time than you may consider reasonable. It is more important than ever to check NOTAMs every time you fly. Your licence and perhaps your life may depend on it.

  • #9; Flight Plan
  • #9; Discrete SSR Code
  • #9; Communication with Nav Canada

Olympic Airspace Structure