Trump’s New Jersey visits causing havoc for Linden airport

LINDEN, NJ — New Jersey is getting a taste of presidential disruption every time President Trump decides to visit his vacation home at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster; something New York grew accustomed to this during the Obama years, and in Washington is an everyday occurrence.

And the visits also affect those far from the rural enclaves of Somerset County, Trump’s destination; those who work and fly in and out of Linden Airport have seen major impacts every time Trump visits.

“The businesses in the airport, such the fight school, are shut down,” Operations Director Paul
Dudley told LocalSource in an Aug. 10 phone interview. “News helicopters are restricted and can’t fly where they need to and hover to take pictures. Operations are prohibited or restricted. There are two areas surrounding the president’s movement. There’s the inner circle, which is about 10 miles, and outer circle which is about 20 miles wide,”

The airports are closed or restricted for a total of two to three days at a time on average, and as long as 18 days now that the president will be in the area for most of August.

“The feds are unwilling to offer any solution,” Dudley said. “It’s a matter of national security. It doesn’t matter if it’s warranted or not. The restrictions are over the top as to what is reasonably needed.”

Letters were written by New Jersey congressmen to the Secret Service, urging airports near Trump’s residence to use a similar system as that in place near Washington, D.C., which allows privately screened pilots to fly into and out of airports in security sensitive areas. So far, there has been no response, Dudley said.

“If legislatures would compel the Secret Service to set up a system similar to the one in D.C., Linden Airport would be the first on board to support that effort,” Dudley said. “It’s very unfortunate but many attempts by governors or senators are effectively ignored.”

When the Secret Service was contacted by LocalSource, it reported that the Federal Aviation Administration puts the restrictions into place at Linden Airport. The FAA directed LocalSource to the New Jersey Flight Standards Office, and Jim Peters of the Eastern Region FAA directed LocalSource to the FAA website, which includes the Temporary Flight Restrictions from Aug. 4 to 21.

“All aircraft within the 10 (-mile) areas known as the inner core are prohibited except for approved law enforcement, military aircraft directly supporting the United States Secret Service and President of the United States, approved air ambulance flights and regularly scheduled commercial passenger and all cargo carriers operating under one of the approved TSA-approved standard security programs/procedures,” the FAA page reads.

Some exclusions apply to the outer ring, and it is otherwise limited to “aircraft arriving or departing local airfields, and workload permitting, (air traffic controllers) may authorize transit operations. Aircraft may not loiter.”

All aircraft must adhere to their active flight plan with a discrete code assigned by an air traffic control facility. Aircraft must be transmitting the code prior to “departure and at all times within the (temporary flight restrictions) and must remain in two-way radio communications with (air traffic control).”

Prohibited during the flight restrictions of Trump’s arrival and departures are — according to the FAA — everything from flight training, sightseeing and utility and pipeline surveys to crop dusting, drones and model rocketry.

Pilots are encouraged to check the FAA website frequently to stay abreast of changes that might take place within this temporary flight-restricted area. Small airports such as Linden Airport feel that the FAA restrictions are too rigid and interfere with the important part they play in the larger aviation system.

“There are three legs the Linden Airport stands on and each of them are as important as the others,” Dudley said. “The principle purpose of the Linden Airport is to alleviate traffic from Newark Airport.

“We improve functioning for the general public. We’re part of an aviation highway system. We provide aircraft a place to park and stop for gas. The public is unaware of how small airports benefit them. They think it’s just a place for millionaires with corporate jets.”

Airports in other areas such as Florida, where Trump makes frequent stops, have said they have suffered because of customer concerns regarding their services with customers hesitant to conduct business with their airport due to fears that Trump might be in the area.
“I look out my window and the ramp is empty,” Dudley said when he was asked about the pilots no longer using Linden Airport.

Trump has made frequent visits to Bedminster — his most recent was his fifth since being inaugurated. However, the program put into place in Washington, D.C., does allow known pilots to use local D.C. airports.

“There’s no reason why a plan like that can’t be implemented,” Dudley said. “It boils down to two locations with this president. Manhattan and Bedminster are the locations of his principal activity.”