Obamas' Martha's Vineyard Vacation May Ground Some Businesses

While the Obamas' late August vacation on Martha's Vineyard already has many local merchants on cloud nine, some businesses may actually be grounded due to the first family's visit.

Aviation charter operators across the island could be prohibited or severely restricted from giving tours during the Obamas' visit due to the temporary flight restrictions (TFR) enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) during presidential travel.

"It's a nuisance," said Herb Cabral, Owner of Ocean Wings Air Charter of the restrictions. "It creates a lot more work for everyone."

Cabral says he's glad the first family is coming to the island and is sure it will help the local economy. However, he's concerned the flight restrictions will require pilots to submit additional planning details, and in some cases operators may have to apply for special flight waivers through the (FAA) and Transportation Safety Administration (TSA).

Temporary flight restrictions are enforced to protect the President and first family – as well as other high level U.S. officials – by regulating the airspace around them. The FAA has not yet announced the TRFs for the Obama vacation, keeping local airport officials in a holding pattern.

"We've been expecting it for the past 10 days," said Sean Flynn, Manager of the Martha's Vineyard Airport. "It could be any day now."

Flynn acknowledged the area coverage and length of time of the restrictions could vary greatly.

"Restrictions could be as wide as 30 nautical miles to as small as 3 nautical miles," noted Sean Flynn, Manager of the Martha's Vineyard Airport. "For the Obamas, we anticipate the restriction timeframe will be one that will cover their entire stay," said Flynn.

Local aviation charters are also eagerly awaiting the TFR guidelines. They already know the restrictions will force them to adjust their flight schedules; dictating when and where they can fly. Charters may even be required to halt all flights during the presidential stay or at a minimum, not access the airport for a period of time. This could mean a hit to business.

Aircraft Charter Industry in Martha's Vineyard

"Anything that interferes with us being able to fly people back and forth does impact our bottom-line," said Eric Zipkin, President of Tradewind Aviation. "To the extent that we lose a weekend due to bad weather, construction or the President's visit will affect us in the short term."

Unlike many businesses on Martha's Vineyard that operate year round, the aircraft charter industry is largely seasonal and relies heavily on the increased tourism and revenues the summer months bring. Most charter owners expressed excitement about the presidential visit and what it will mean for the island, but worry about how their business could be impacted.

"Losing a week or a weekend for a seasonal business like ours is a big challenge," said Zipkin. "Every day and every trip is a significant part of your business."

Others in the charter business believe the restrictions will be minimal and that they will be able to work around them.

"As long as we're in contact with air traffic control and they know who we are and where we're going, I don't think it will have that much of an impact," said Martin Goldfarb, owner of Desert Island Air Charters. "I think we'll all be fine."

Vacation homeowners who fly onto the island for quick or extended get-a-ways may also be adversely affected by the flight restrictions imposed during the Obamas' visit.

Depending on the TFRs, seasonal residents may have to request special permission to fly within the restricted timeframe or area.

The Obamas are not the first presidential family to vacation on Martha's Vineyard. The Clintons made the island their summer get-a-way in 1993.

"The Clintons' travel was not very restrictive while they were here," said Flynn. "There will be a world of difference between when the Clintons were here and when the Obamas come," said Flynn.

Much of the difference will be attributed to the drastic changes in flight rules and regulations in a post 9/11 world. Since that time airspace in general has become increasingly restrictive. It will be all the more during Obama's trip since it will mark the first time a sitting president will be on the island since that tragic day.

Blue Heron Farm

The Obamas have visited the island before where they've stayed in the Oak Bluff community; a neighborhood rich in African-American history. However, this will be their first vacation on the island as the first family. They are expected to stay at Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark during the last week of August.

Though the Obamas won't be on Martha's Vineyard for nearly a month, the island is already abuzz.

"People are very excited," said Nancy Gardella, Executive Director of the Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce. "The consensus seems to be that people just want the first family to have a relaxed, good time."

Aircraft operators are hoping that while the Obamas are relaxing, the flight restrictions won't keep their business from taking off.

"He brings a lot of people with him and a lot of people follow him," said Herb Cabral, owner of Ocean Wings Air Charter. "Maybe we'll pick up business from some of them."

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