Air Space Access

MAYFLOWER (KATV) - The view from high above Mayflower shows the extent of a major oil spill and the early progress towards cleaning it up.

We wanted to bring you this sky-high perspective before today...but could not because the air space above the spill was closed by the FAA.

Why could we fly now when no flying has been permitted since Monday?

Monday afternoon a temporary flight restriction...or TFR...was requested. Exxon Mobil uses aircraft to monitor the progress of the clean-up and doesn't want to worry about a lot of air traffic over the spill site. Keeping the media grounded...they say...was a mistake.

The view from Chopper Seven shows how Highway 89 is acting as a natural barrier helping protect Lake Conway from the thousands of gallons of oil spilled last week.

Several other floating oil containment booms are also in place...creating more protection.

And it appears ground zero for the breach occurred in a back cul de sac of Northwood subdivision. Some lawns and backyards in that area have already been scraped. Others will soon follow as clean-up crews remove contaminated soil.

Nearby oil-blackened wetlands wait.

We haven't showed you these images until now because a strict "no-fly zone" was in effect.

On Wednesday alone the FAA issued "no-fly-zones" over an iron mine in Minnesota, a gas leak in Texas, a search-and-rescue mission in California, both a wildfire and an air show in Arizona and for some VIP visiting Delaware.

The TFR issued in Arkansas on Monday was an A-1, meaning officials felt conditions were hazardous on the surface or in the air.

But residents were being told the air was safe.

Questions asked by KATV and other news organizations were followed by a change late Wednesday.

The "no fly-zone" remains in effect but it is now an A-2, meaning flying exceptions are made...including for interested news organizations.

Although conspiracy theorists pounced on the strict "no-fly zone"...thinking Exxon wants to limit negative publicity...the FAA says the A-1 designation was a mistake on their end and was not requested by anyone with Exxon Mobil.