FAA No-Fly Zone Around Ferguson Was “To Keep The Media Out”


Federal officials agreed to a police request to restrict 37 square miles of airspace around Ferguson, Mo., for 12 days in August. Local authorities acknowledged the purpose was to keep away news helicopters during violent street protests, the Associated Press reports. The Federal Aviation Administration struggled to redefine the flight ban to let commercial flights operate at nearby Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and police helicopters fly through the area but ban others. “They finally admitted it really was to keep the media out,” said an FAA manager about the St. Louis County Police in recorded telephone conversations obtained by AP under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. A FAA manager said police “did not care if you ran commercial traffic through this TFR (temporary flight restriction) all day long. They didn’t want media in there.”

The managers worked out wording they felt would keep news helicopters out of the controlled zone but not impede other air traffic. The conversations contradict claims by the St. Louis County Police Department, which responded to demonstrations following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown that the restriction was for safety and had nothing to do with preventing media from witnessing the violence or the police response. Police said as recently as Friday to the AP that they requested the flight restriction in response to shots fired at a police helicopter. Police confirmed there was no damage to their helicopter and were unable to provide an incident report on the shooting. On the tapes, an FAA manager described the helicopter shooting as “rumors.” (The Los Angeles Times reported that media actually were not barred from flying near Ferguson–they just assumed they were.)

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