| We express our |
sympathies to the
their families, of
attacks. We are
outraged that the
freedom of our
skies has been
used to attack
| News |
| A TIME OF CRISIS |
All civil aircraft operations in the United States were halted Tuesday morning after terrorists in hijacked civilian airliners attacked the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Limited air carrier operations were allowed to resume Thursday morning, and FAR Part 135 charter and air taxi operators were allowed to fly late Thursday. Resumption of IFR flights for the rest of general aviation (FAR Part 91) is expected next, but the timing of that move was not clear late last night, and there is no indication that it will come soon. VFR flights will resume last.
A MESSAGE FROM AOPA PRESIDENT PHIL BOYER
ALL IFR AND VFR GENERAL AVIATION FLIGHTS ARE PROHIBITED WITHIN THE NATIONAL AIRSPACE SYSTEM UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. Never did I think that I would see a notam like this. I had spoken Thursday morning with both the Secretary of Transportation and the FAA administrator. As the ultimate optimist, I could only continue to hope that their promise of reopening the national airspace system to full access by general aviation would be real.
Yes, we are in the early recovery phases of a major national crisis. But the communication failure within the FAA itself and other government agencies has produced an aviation crisis in its own right. Throughout Thursday morning, the news media touted an FAA notam indicating that the airspace would be open to all aviation users at 1500Z. AOPA verified this, downloaded a copy from DUAT, and placed it on our Web site.
Within minutes, I received a call from a high-level FAA manager indicating that the subject of GA was still under review. Reluctantly, and with great disappointment, we changed our Web posting to warn pilots that they might not be able to fly at 1500Z. However, pilots who did obtain a legal briefing got that notam, filed flight plans, and in some cases even departed at what they thought was a legal hour. But in fact, they had unknowingly violated a new notam issued at 1457Z prohibiting all GA flights. The horror stories then began to unfold. Flight crews had told their corporate CEOs they could depart at 11 a.m. Eastern time (1500Z), taxied out, and then were turned around by the tower. Some flights did get into the air, but don't count them lucky. F-16s intercepted not only corporate aircraft, but also a Texas student and flight instructor. All were forced to return to home base and land.
When we first became aware of the possibility that this could happen, AOPA's senior vice president of government and technical affairs, Andy Cebula, called the head of FAA Flight Standards and obtained his pledge that no one caught in this mixed-up notam mess would be subject to an enforcement action. "Chaos" is the best way to describe the FAA environment that your association is working in. Flight service stations are offering conflicting information to pilots, sometimes contradicting information issued from FAA headquarters.
It appears that users are being allowed back into the airspace system segment by segment. Late Thursday afternoon, it was Part 135 flights, better known as charter flights to you and me. But that decision may be reversed. Later Thursday, Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta and I spoke again. In a lengthy phone conversation, he told me about the continuing debate among the President’s national security team. The nation still faces serious security threats. The Capitol building was evacuated because of a suspicious package. Many airports have received bomb threats. And the three major New York airports were closed right after they reopened because federal authorities detained more suspects, including one reportedly carrying false pilot credentials.
Nevertheless, Mineta convinced a meeting of the president's National Security Council (which included Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller) to at least consider allowing IFR general aviation operations soon. "But Mr. Secretary, I'm most concerned about the return of basic VFR privileges," I said. "And this type of flying presents no security threat to the nation." Secretary Mineta agreed, and we spent 45 minutes on the phone discussing general aviation and the continued security threat. But he told me that the National Security Council perceives VFR flight as uncontrolled, and therefore a greater threat somehow. It became very obvious to me that the Secretary of Transportation tried his best to change that perception. He had the right arguments, he made the correct points, and he was much more eloquent than any one of us. In some cases, he even called on his primary flight training background to make points we wanted heard.
And then late Thursday evening, AOPA learned that, because of the continuing threats, the approval for Part 135 operations might be rescinded.
The bottom line is that decision-makers outside of the FAA and the Department of Transportation believe the nation still faces a heightened security risk, and that general aviation might be used to attack the nation. While we all know that is pretty farfetched, the mood at the moment is to not take any risks, no matter how unlikely they might be.
AOPA is continuing to push on all fronts to get general aviation back in the air. But let me manage your expectations. When the security threats lessen, first will come the approval for Part 91 IFR flying. Then, no sooner than 48 hours later should come the restoration of VFR privileges. We will continue to post updates on AOPA Online as quickly as information becomes available.
AVIATION TO RESUME IN ALASKA
Recognizing the vital role that general aviation plays in Alaska, the FAA approved Wednesday night the restart of flight operations in the state. The FAA told AOPA that it expected that aircraft would continue to be allowed to fly in Alaska regardless of what happens in the lower 48 states.
GA PILOTS OFFER AIRPLANES FOR RELIEF EFFORT
AOPA as well as its members have offered aircraft to aid in the relief efforts. AOPA volunteered its member-owned Cessna CitationJet, N4GA, to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Aircraft owners who wish to volunteer the use of their aircraft may fax FEMA at 202/501-1439. Include a description of the aircraft, where it is located, and contact information.
POLICE CLAMP DOWN ON SMALL AIRPORTS
Several AOPA members reported that police officers were not being rational about access to on-field businesses, ramps, and hangars. At Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland—54 miles north of Washington, D.C. and home to AOPA headquarters—local police required permission from the airport manager before allowing access to ramp areas. The city stationed a dump truck at the airport to block the runway in case an aircraft attempted to take off. Several transient pilots were stranded in Frederick and used bus transportation or rental cars to return to their hometowns. AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers have been monitoring activities at the nation's airports to help things get back under way as soon as possible.
TERROR ATTACKS HAMPER GA EVENTS
The National Business Aviation Association has postponed its annual meeting and convention that was to take place next week. NBAA said that it wanted to "redirect the association's resources toward national recovery and aid to the victims and their families" following the terror attacks. A date has not been set. Also, at press time, the Reno Air Racing Association is hoping the National Championship Air Races will continue despite having to change the qualifying criteria because of the delay caused by the national flight restriction. The event was to begin yesterday and run through Sunday in Reno, Nevada. To check the status of the event, visit the Web site.
COMPANY ANIMATES DEADLY ATTACKS
Flight Explorer has prepared graphical animations showing flight paths of the American and United Airlines jets that struck the World Trade Center in New York on Tuesday. The company provides PC-based software that tracks the flight profiles of aircraft throughout the United States. Click here to view the animation on AOPA Online.
| Commentary |
| AOPA MEMBERS REACT |
“...Thank you for your efforts on behalf of general aviation to get us flying again. AOPA members appreciate your tireless efforts on our behalf,” Kurt Williams, AOPA 907547.
“...You're doing a fine job under very difficult circumstances. Please keep up the good work,” Terence L. Kindlon, AOPA 1056270.
“...They are killing me! I certainly understand the need for better security for the airlines, but nothing they do will affect us! In the meantime they have me pinned down in Michigan unable to fly and make money. I do aerial mapping in a 172, certainly not a threat to anyone. Does the FAA even remember what GA is? Do they even care?” David Naylor, AOPA 1349031.
“...I just wanted to say thanks for the work you guys have been doing to get GA back in the air,” Rodney Tomlinson, AOPA 4068170.
“...I know you are working hard on this issue, but I just felt I had to write to express my outrage at the unequal treatment of general aviation as the FAA begins to reopen the national airspace system. After all, it was Part 121operators that were involved in the tragedies of Tuesday--not GA. Why is GA being punished? I had to cancel a customer visit planned for today in which I was going to fly a Cessna 172 from Georgetown, Texas, to Snyder, Texas. Weather is absolutely perfect for flying today. This is just another reason why we need AOPA. Give 'em hell!” Jim Rank, AOPA 555439.
If you would like to express your views with other AOPA members, try Web conferencing on AOPA Online. Click here to sign up and select "Hangar Talk" where most of the discussion about the terror attacks has been taking place.
INTERNATIONAL GA COMMUNITY MOURNS LOSS
"...No one can understand, better than we do, what you are being through in these terrible hours. Let me assure you that AOPA-Israel, the Israeli pilots and the people of Israel are all with you all the way, in these hard times," Michael Gutstadt, chairman, AOPA-Israel.
"...As the horror of the attacks settles in and the authorities react, we realize that the world will be a very different place from this point... As our governments try to get our very important air transportation system back up to speed, we need to work together to ensure that the authorities do not forget the many GA pilots and passengers trapped on both sides of the border, who need more than ever to return to their families as soon as possible. We should also work together for the longer term to ensure that unreasonable, knee-jerk reactions to the tragedy do not place restrictions on our freedom to fly," Kevin Psutka, president and CEO, Canadian Owners and Pilots Association.
"...With the expression of our highest sympathy with the people of the United States of America and our friends in this free and democratic country so dreadfully shocked and blessed by the barbarian and inhuman act of terrorism. AOPA-Switzerland and our country share your feelings and sorrows in an unprecedented tragedy. We are with you in this very difficult and challenging situation and we assure you our support for all the efforts to cope with the consequences of a few apocalyptic hours and to stop the madness of worldwide terrorism," Ruedi Gerber, president, AOPA-Switzerland.
Among the other countries expressing condolences to AOPA were Russia, Hungary, Germany, Spain, and France.
For the very latest on this crisis and its impact on the U.S. air traffic system, please regularly check AOPA Online. The site is updated immediately as AOPA learns new information.