Pilots flying near Charlotte during next week’s Democratic National Convention will need to take extra caution as the Federal Aviation Administration restricts airspace.
The agency will limit the movement of planes within 35 miles of the convention, and many won’t be allowed within 10 miles of the gathering, which will take place at Time Warner Cable Arena from Tuesday through Thursday. The 10-mile ban applies to all but specified aircraft, including approved commercial flights, air ambulances and Department of Defense planes supporting the convention.
“You’ve got to make sure you know your stuff,” said Tom Freeman, a safety specialist for the state Division of Aviation.
Freeman said authorities can be “stern” and use force if someone violates the restrictions, and pilots who misstep could have their licenses suspended or revoked. Pilots should also realize that the restrictions can change at any time and check the FAA’s website immediately before takeoff, he said.
“With anything political, changes can be a reality,” he said. “Say, for instance, the president decided to arrive a little earlier or stay a little later.”
Other flight restrictions may be placed over the area from Monday to Friday, according to the FAA.
For now, the less strict 35-mile “outer ring” extends from Rowan County Airport in Salisbury to Lancaster County/McWhirter Field in Lancaster, S.C. Pilots flying in that area must comply with a list of requirements and cannot perform flight training, parachute operations and other activities specified in rules posted on the agency’s website, www.faa.gov.
General aviation pilots won’t be allowed in the “inner ring,” stretching about 10 nautical miles around the arena, an area that includes Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Richard Cloutier, aviation director of the Concord Regional Airport, 15 minutes northeast of downtown Charlotte, said he doesn’t expect any trouble.
“I would like to think most pilots are well informed,” Cloutier said. “As long as you follow the right procedures, you can fly.”