EAA's View: Five Years After 9/11 - Where Does GA Stand?
September 7, 2006 — We are seeing much time and space dedicated to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and all that has occurred since. The events of that day five years ago affected all Americans -- some directly, others through the ripple effect such historic experiences create. The U.S. general-aviation community was also altered forever. These changes in perception and reality have been reported by the mainstream media, but too commonly news reports still strike a suspicious tone about aviation and those of us who fly. The post-9/11 issues some five years later have perhaps lost some of the urgency, but none of the importance, of those prevailing immediately following those hectic and uncertain days.
After 9/11, EAA, along with other general aviation organizations, pilot groups and individuals, was thrust into a brand new world where the individual's freedom to fly in the U.S. was scrutinized as never before. No other issue has dominated the time and efforts of all aviation organizations as this has.
Today, there is good and bad in the big picture. Recall that general aviation was shut down in the U.S. and faced an extremely bleak and uncertain future in the days after 9/11. There were major questions of whether individuals would ever again have the freedom to fly in and around major metropolitan areas. Talk of incredibly onerous, expensive and unrealistic security measures that would be demanded of all aircraft was commonplace. Our freedom and dreams of flight were threatened as never before.
It took a tremendous amount of dedication and hard work by EAA and all aviation groups to patiently and repeatedly educate Congress and the many agencies and people involved in the newly created security bureaucracy. It meant bringing common sense and thoughtful solutions to a highly charged atmosphere that was not at all favorable to aviation.
In a period of pessimism, EAA's ability to form key relationships to produce practical solutions - called "relentlessly positive" by a leading aviation magazine - helped lead the way to get people and airplanes back in the air. EAA is rightly proud of its work, and that of EAA members and fellow aviation groups. EAA's Chapter network, AOPA's Airport Watch and consensus recommendations from GAMA, NBAA, NATA and HAI, among others, showed the GA community's leadership in this area.
While in many ways, our aviation discussions have turned to topics such as user fees and fuel prices, the specter of security-related changes is never far from us. Most general aviation pilots are today able to enjoy their privileges largely unfettered in the post-9/11 world, but there are areas that still demand solutions. Those include, among others:
- The restrictive ADIZ airspace surrounding Washington, D.C., that has smothered GA activity in the mid-Atlantic region and created severe economic burdens for affected airports, particularly those known as the D.C. Three: College Park, Hyde Field and Potomac;
- Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) that often pop up on short notice and cause problems even for pilots who go to great lengths to abide by the law (these are particularly troublesome during national election campaigns);
- Overflight bans at major-league stadiums and other venues that were rushed through under the guise of "security," but actually only preserve economic control over those venues;
- A patchwork of emerging state regulations that are politically expedient but do little to enhance security, such as mandatory background checks for pilots and students, along with other personal security issues;
- An overzealous general media, which repeatedly and unnecessarily fans the flames of public fear and distrust regarding aviation through sensational reporting.
- Public perception that has aided individuals and groups with their own agendas to shut down airports, such as the case with Chicago's Meigs Field. Just as the events of 9/11 affected all aviators, the entire aviation community is required to be part of the ongoing solutions. EAA will strive to remedy unfair situations, by using its own considerable efforts and collaborating with other aviation groups. We also understand the unpredictability of events could change the picture very quickly.
Our work is far from finished. Aviators must remain vigilant and always practice good airmanship, as skepticism remains in many areas of the public and media. A primary fact also remains: General aviation, like any conveyance, is vulnerable in some respects to misuse - but it is not a significant threat to U.S. security. This is a point that must be made by individuals and groups at every possible juncture. It also shows the necessity for aviation enthusiasts to support EAA and other aviation groups that have the resources and relationships to find solutions.