Back on Sept 16 in this post
I gave a link to NOTAM (Notice to Airmen)#
8/8191 issued by the FAA on Sept 15 (at 00:00 UTC), which specifies flight restrictions over the Galveston area. No-one commented upon this in the
thread as far as I can see, but because of its importance in connection to the NOTAMs it superceded I’m elaborating on what I posted on Sept 16.
Here is the link to this NOTAM
. As you’ll see, the restriction is that
pilots may operate an aircraft in the areas covered by this NOTAM (except as described).
Specifically, no pilots may operate in the region (defined by the map provided) below 2,000 feet. Unlike the previous related NOTAMs which it
replaces, this one provides for no exceptions to this instruction in respect of piloted aircraft. (I give links to the previous ones below so you can
see what I mean by this.)
Considering that this was a “Hazard”-type NOTAM issued “to provide a safe environment for disaster reponse and relief operations”, it gets
very curious indeed when you see what pilots were
allowed to do under the preceding NOTAMs.
Why? Because all NOTAMS are issued according to regulations that give them authority under the law, and this authority specifies the reasons why they
are issued. NOTAM 8/8191 was issued on Sept 15 under the authority of Title 14 CFR section 91.137(a)(2). According to
this FAA information _/url],
Title 14 CFR Section 91.137(a)(2) flight restrictions are issued for forest fires, spraying activities, and general rescue
Well, that sounds all hunky dory. We have all seen and or read reports that rescue operations were occurring and that SAR teams were in the area.
However, NOTAM 8/8191 replaced [url=http://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_8_8131.html]NOTAM 8/8131
, issued on Sept 14 (at 0208 UTC), and
one was issued under the authority of Title 14 CFR section 91.137(a)(1)
, not (2)
This is highly significant
because as the FAA information document I referenced above states:
14 CFR Section 91.137(a)(1) flight restrictions are issued for toxic gas/fuel/nuclear spills/rescue operations if explosives on board or top
secret flight and actual or possible volcanic eruptions/hijackings.
Please note that NOTAM 8/8131 itself replaced NOTAM 8/8079
issued on Sept 13 (at 12:48
UTC), which replaced NOTAM 8/8051
(issued Sept 12 at 2142 UTC), and [/that] one replaced
the original NOTAM 8/8038
(issued Sept 12 at 1934 UTC). All of these NOTAMs
issued under the authority of Title 14 CFR section 91.137(a)(1)
, as is clearly stated at the very end of each NOTAM. Only the last one I’ve
noted (NOTAM 8/8191) is authorized under Title 14 CFR section 91.137(a)(2)
In other words, according to the FAA
, the official reasons for the air traffic restrictions for the first few days Ike/post Ike were
related to “toxic gas/fuel/nuclear spills/rescue operations if explosives on board or top secret flight”, and were not
“general rescue operations”. (I think we can safely exclude “actual or possible volcanic eruptions/hijackings” in this case.)
It’s also worth considering that the first NOTAM in this series was issued on Friday Sept 12 at 1934 UTC. UTC is five hours ahead of the time in
that part of the US. (See this real-time world clock
for confirmation.) This means that NOTAM 8/8038
was issued at 2:34 pm local (Texas) time, which is well before the eye of Hurricane Ike crossed Galveston and its environs in the early-morning hours
of Sept 13. So, the flight restrictions were not
initially imposed due to large numbers of bodies floating in the water, and were not even put
in place in anticipation of "general rescue operations".
I wonder about the fact that even prior to Ike even wreaking its full havoc upon that region, someone decided that a flight restriction "hazard"
type NOTAM had to be issued under Title 14 CFR section 91.137(a)(1), which specifically covers "toxic gas/fuel/nuclear spills/rescue operations if
explosives on board or top secret flight". Let's face it, issuing a NOTAM under that kind of authorization prior to the storm's eye arriving
strongly suggests that someone anticipated there would either be a need for special rescue operations and/or top secret flights -- and that makes me
I’d be interested in your comments or thoughts on this…