President's visit puts crimp on local air traffic
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A visit from the president brings temporary restrictions on air traffic but should not impede emergency flights, including medical helicopters.
As President Barack Obama makes his way from Ohio to Pittsburgh by bus today, air traffic will be restricted within a 10-mile radius of Downtown from about 10:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., according to temporary orders posted by the Federal Aviation Administration.
From 4 to 5 p.m. a separate restriction will be in effect within 10 miles of Pittsburgh International Airport.
The restriction exempts regularly scheduled commercial passenger flights.
The FAA orders also specify that law enforcement, air ambulance and firefighting operations are permitted in the restricted airspace with prior approval that can be obtained by telephone.
Jim Palafoutas, an operations manager at Allegheny General Hospital, said the notification process does not delay the liftoff of LifeFlight helicopters and service is unaffected by the airspace restrictions.
"We just need to make sure people know we're there," he said.
"They just pick up a phone and say they need to go somewhere," FAA spokesman Jim Peters said. "They are usually given the OK to go wherever they need to go."
While flying in the restricted zone, the aircraft must continuously signal its location with a transponder that identifies it and maintain radio contact with the control tower at the airport. "We call it squawk and talk," he said.
In addition to the more stringent restrictions within a 10-mile radius of the president, called the "inner core," the FAA imposes lesser curbs on air traffic within 30 miles, including a ban on flight training, parachuting, hang gliding, sightseeing trips, radio-controlled model aircraft and model rocketry.
Mr. Obama is scheduled to make a stop this morning in Poland, Ohio, before ending his "Betting on America" bus tour of Ohio and Pennsylvania with a speech on Carnegie Mellon University's College of Fine Arts lawn at 2 p.m.
Road closures are possible during the president's departure after the speech. His route is never disclosed, but typically includes the Parkway West to Pittsburgh International Airport.
Today's visit also could impact the Parkway East from Oakland to Downtown just as the evening rush gets under way.
First Published July 6, 2012 12:01 am