August 19th, 2014 by Alicia Calzada
Although the FAA has issued a temporary flight restriction over Ferguson, Missouri, those restrictions should not include news helicopters.
The flight restrictions have been widely reported, and several news organizations have reported that the restrictions apply to news media. However, the regulation giving the FAA authority to issue the temporary flight restriction contains an exemption for news media.
NPPA member William Luther, a photojournalist at the San Antonio Express-News who holds a private pilot’s license, brought the exception to NPPA’s attention earlier today.
The FAA issued the temporary flight restrictions under the authority of 14 CFR § 91.137(a)(2) (Temporary flight restrictions in the vicinity of disaster/hazard areas.). That section relates to the issuance of a TFR necessary to “provide a safe environment for the operation of disaster relief aircraft.” When a temporary flight restriction notice is issued under that subsection, aircraft are banned from the designated area, unless certain exceptions apply. One of the exceptions permitting flight within the restricted airspace is that the aircraft is carrying accredited news representatives.
Specifically, the regulation permits aircraft “carrying properly accredited news representatives,” if, “prior to entering the area, a flight plan is filed … and the operation is conducted above the altitude used by the disaster relief aircraft, unless otherwise authorized by the official in charge of on scene emergency response activities.”
As a result of the persistent legal problems many journalists have faced covering protests in Ferguson, NPPA’s General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher arrived in Missouri today and is providing legal support to visual journalists in the city.