Disney’s No-Fly Zone

Disney World and Disneyland are unique in a number of ways. One unique aspect of the parks consists of what is, or more accurately, what isn’t above you: aircraft. Disney World and Disneyland share the unique trait of being some of the only commercial establishments granted a permanent no-fly zone in the United States. Why are the Disney parks no fly zones, how did they get that way, and does it even matter?

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The Los Angeles Times
“No-fly zones over Disney parks face new scrutiny” (Nov 10 2014)

The Orlando Sentinel
Helicopters rise above no-fly zone (Feb 23 2004)
No-fly zones shield Disney’s resorts (May 11 2003)
Not flying over Disney (May 14 2003)

South Florida Sun Sentinel
No-fly zones shield Walt Disney parks (May 11 2003)

Pensacola News Journal
Christian group wants Disney’s no-fly zone down (Jun 4 2003)

The Associated Press
Judge upholds Disney no-fly zone (Jun 6 2003)

The Federal Aviation Administration calls these no fly zones “temporary flight restrictions”, which is kind of ironic in Disney’s case since they’re effectively permanent, but I’ll get to that in a minute. By and large TFR’s aren’t uncommon but they are typically, as their name suggests, temporary. Major sporting events. Rocket launches. Forest fires. The flight restrictions come and go as the events come and go and most of them last anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days. Disney’s TFR is entering it’s 18th year.

The flight restriction forbid almost all aircraft from flying in the airspace at altitudes under 3,000 feet. It covered Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure over in Anaheim, and in Florida it covered the Magic Kingdom and part of Epcot. This is why today you could still spot aircraft such as helicopters flying by Epcot and Hollywood Studios, as one is on the border, and the other is outside of it. So while it covers the most crucial parts of the property, it doesn’t encompass all of Disney World. The Animal Kingdom, at that point, actually already had a noise-sensitive area established, which means that aircraft were requested (but not required) to stay above 2,000 feet for the sake of the animals below. I say almost all aircraft because military, rescue, and police aircraft were all exempt from from the restrictions.

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