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FAA Issues No-Fly Zone Over Exxon Pipeline Spill

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The FAA announced a temporary no-fly zone would be enacted indefinitely over the Arkansas oil spill. With word that an Exxon employee was controlling the airspace, though, speculation pointed to the idea the oil company was trying to keep the media away.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced Monday that until further notice, no aircraft will be allowed to operate over the Mayflower oil spill in Conway, Arkansas. While there was scant explanation for the mandate, it was “effective immediately” – and ordered to stay in place “until further notice.”

The FAA’s online posting raised some questions Wednesday, though, by noting that “only relief aircraft operations under direction of Tom Suhrhoff” are permitted in the area. On his LinkedIn profile, Suhrhoff lists himself not as an emergency expert or safety official, but as an aviation adviser for ExxonMobil. Prior to ExxonMobil, according to his profile on the professional social network, he worked as a US Army pilot for 24 years.

The only reasoning provided on FAA.gov for “temporary flight restrictions” was a “hazard” warning.

On April 1, the day flight activity was suspended, an aerial video surfaced online revealing the extent of the damage.

An FAA spokesman told reporters that the flying ban applied to aircraft flying at 1,000 feet or lower and within five nautical miles, so that emergency support are able to respond to the disaster immediately.

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