Angel Flights, the nonprofit organization which flies people who are critically ill to off-Island medical appointments, has shut down Martha’s Vineyard operations this week, apparently in reaction to flight restrictions in place for the duration of the presidential vacation visit to the Island.

The move came despite assurances that special dispensation was made for the mercy flight operators during temporary flight restriction (TFR) orders to protect air space over Martha’s Vineyard from August 23 to 30.

Paula Strasser said that the eight to 10 flights scheduled for this week have now been cancelled.

“We cancelled all the flights for the week because of the restrictions,” said Ms. Strasser, a flight coordinator for Angel Flights Northeast.

Officials were unable to explain the reasons for the cancellations in calls yesterday from the Vineyard Gazette to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the United States Secret Service and the Transport Security Administration (TSA), the three federal agencies in control of the flight restriction and the travel waiver program for the airport this week.

A spokesperson for the FAA said that the protocol would be handled by the TSA. However, a spokesperson for the TSA said that the United States Secret Service is ultimately responsible for restrictions.

Secret service spokesmen Malcolm Wiley said that he is certain that an accommodation would have been made for Angel Flights, though Mr. Wiley was still looking into the question at deadline time for the Gazette.

“I’m sure it’s not the case,” he said. “We always make accommodations for that kind of operation, and specifically Angel Flights.”

Mr. Wiley added that the Angel Flights pilots should have been vetted and cleared so that they would not have to go through the standard waiver application procedure which applies to pilots during the restriction period.

“I can’t even imagine that there wouldn’t have been accommodation; I’m 100 per cent sure there would have been no restriction,” he said.

But Ms. Strasser said Angel Flights was reacting to a change in the arrangement.

“We’re doing what we’re told,” she said. “They have to wait until the last minute with security; the TSA change what they want whenever they want.”

The three federal agencies work in tandem with the operation of a flight restriction in place around presidential travel. The the Secret Service sets the parameters for the restriction; the FAA issues and enforces the restriction and the TSA processes travel waivers.

Airport facilities manager Sean Flynn, who acted as coordinator between the agencies and Angel Flights, said his understanding was that the special dispensation was awarded to the emergency flight organization.

“This is the first I’ve heard that it’s fallen apart,” said Mr. Flynn, “I was informed that an alternative process was put in place.”

Dorothy (Dede) Hagen of Vineyard Haven is suffering from cancer and regularly uses Angel Flights for medical appointments on Cape Cod and in Boston.

Her husband, John Hagen, watched last week as an Angel Flights for Boston scheduled for yesterday morning was cancelled.

“Individual pilots were dropping out one by one; first we got a message that the return flight was cancelled,” Mr. Hagen said. “It didn’t happen in one communication.”

The couple was originally told they would have to make alternative arrangements, but Angel Flights placed Mrs. Hagen on a 10 a.m. Cape Air flight to Boston from Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

“Angel Flights came through. I don’t know who picks up the tab [or] whether they will bill the Obama administration. [Angel Flights] have just been a godsend; I can’t say enough about the program. I wasn’t aware that Angel Flights was working something out for us; I thought we were out in the cold.”

Angel Flights Northeast, founded in 1996, recruits more than 900 pilots on a volunteer basis. The organization has flown more than 38,000 missions to date.

In other news with the temporary flight restrictions, Mr. Flynn said the transition to operating under the restriction at the airport has been effective.

“We’re working the bugs, but it’s going well. We’re moving.”

The TFR sets up two levels of restricted fly zones — an outer perimeter of 30 miles in which all air travel is subject to flight plans and any aircraft must broadcast — or squawk — a discreet code with flight information from the flight transponder.

An inner core of 10 nautical miles around the airport prohibits travel without a waiver, with a few exceptions including approved law enforcement aircraft, some military aircraft, approved ambulance aircraft and some commercial aircraft.

To qualify for a travel waiver under the restriction, pilots must send applications at least 72 hours ahead of time. All approved flights must stop at one of three gateway airports for security screening: Westchester County airport, Barnstable airport and TF Green Airport.

Traffic is down compared to the same day last year, said Mr. Flynn. But he said people may get used to dealing with the restrictions and the shorter day. Security checks at portal airports take place between 6 a.m. and 8 p,m. “And the 72-hour window will trip some people up,” Mr. Flynn said.

Katama Airfield which is within the flight restriction zone is severely affected by the restrictions. Though there is a screening facility at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, there is none at Katama. Since the private airfield is positioned within the restriction zone, pilots cannot take off from the airport in order to go to one of portal airports to get clearance to fly within the restricted zone.

As a result last week, it appeared certain that the airport would have to shut down for the duration of the presidential visit. However, Mike Creato of Classic Aviators said his company has been given permission to quietly run one biplane for tourist sightseeing runs on a limited basis.

“Not sure how or why we’re so lucky; they have gone out of their way to try and do something to help us,” he said.

Otherwise the airport is closed.

“There is no transient air traffic,” he said, “It’s tough for the people who can’t fly, but that’s the way it is for this year.”