Considerations for passengers on charter flights to Palm Beach when the president is at the Winter White House.
Even the president of the United States needs a day off once in a while. And for Donald J. Trump, his Mar-a-Lago estate near Palm Beach, Florida, has become his go-to Winter White House residence.
However, whenever he’s in town on vacay it triggers a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) that affects all charter flights to Palm Beach International Airport (KPBI).
TFRs are a way of ensuring the security of VIP travelers like President Trump and vice-president Mike Pence. They’re also used for things like:
- Special events (i.e. the Super Bowl)
- Hazardous conditions
- General warnings
One of the challenges with the presidential TFR is that Mar-a-Lago is close the Palm Beach International. As a result, the flight restriction remains in place the entire time President Trump is there.
How Do Presidential TFRs Work?
In essence, a TFR is a defined airspace that limits access to certain types of aircraft only, including:
- POTUS aircraft
- Supporting military aircraft
- Scheduled commercial flights
- Emergency services
In the case of last weekend’s presidential TFR, it was comprised of two distinct rings, measuring 10 and 30 nautical miles, respectively, centred on Palm Beach International. Both rings were in effect from surface level up to 17,999 feet.
Basically, the inner ring is a no-fly zone for general aviation, except for private charter flights that have undergone proper screening protocol (we’ll get to that in a minute). The 10-30-nm outer ring allows for aircraft to fly to and from local airports only.
Can I Book a Private Jet Rental During a TFR?
While it’s not impossible to charter flights to Palm Beach when the presidential TFR is in effect, it is more challenging. That’s because one of the chief requirements is that passengers and crew members must undergo TSA Screening procedures before they’re permitted to fly into KPBI.
To meet this requirement, the Federal Aviation Administration has designated a series of gateway airports capable of providing TSA Screening for incoming charter flights. This includes:
- Orlando International Airport (KMCO)
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (KFLL)
- Westchester County White Plains Airport (KHPN)
- Teterboro Airport (KTEB)
- Washington Dulles International Airport (KIAD)
Therefore, if you’re flying from New York City or Washington, DC, you can choose an originating airport that offers TSA Screening to save making a stop along the way. Other travellers will need to undergo screening procedures at one of the local Florida airports before proceeding to Palm Beach International.
What Can I Expect from TSA Screening?
Private air travelers enjoy minimal security procedures when flying on air charter flights. However, in the case of a TFR, passengers can expect to undergo the same screening process you’d find at a commercial airport. This could include:
- Metal detection
- ID checks
- Passenger and luggage inspection
Fortunately, in these situations, TSA Screening typically takes place in a private terminal so the lineups aren’t as long.
Which Local Airports Are Affected by the TFR?
The primary airport affected by the more restrictive 10-nm inner circle is Palm Beach County (KLNA). In order to fly here, private charter flights first need to pass through one of the aforementioned gateway airports.
Those falling within the 10-30-nm airspace include:
- Boca Raton (KBCT)
- Pompano Beach Airpark (KPMP)
- Fort Lauderdale Executive (KFXE)
When flying in outer ring airspace, a charter plane must have a registered IFR flight plan and remain in communication with air traffic control.
What Happens when a Pilot Disregards a TFR?
You may have heard a news report about two F-15 fighter jets that were scrambled after a general aviation pilot failed to communicate with local air traffic control while traveling in the no-fly zone above West Palm Beach last weekend. It’s serious business and you certainly wouldn’t want to be onboard an aircraft in this situation. We’re betting the pilot doesn’t make that same mistake twice.
Do TFRs Affect Last-minute Charter Flights to Palm Beach?
Another requirement of the presidential TFR is that air carriers must give Palm Beach International at least 24 hours notice of their intended arrival. If you need to get to Palm Beach in a hurry, your best bet will probably be to fly to Boca Raton or Witham Field (KSUA) in Stuart.