Five Years In The Industry's Life
Unless you've been hiding under a rock this week -- and some would say that's a good place to be, for a variety of reasons -- you've probably been inundated with retrospectives on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Missing from much of that news coverage has been any discussion of how the business aviation industry has fared over the five years. AVweb looked back into our archives to review what restrictions were imposed on the industry, which were not, and which still remain. Additionally, we examined what the industry looked like in 2001 and compared it to today's outlook. Overall, it appears the industry has done quite well, thank you, although some lingering problems remain.
In many ways, the business and other segments of general aviation have weathered the storm of 9/11 restrictions quite well, with new aircraft designs coming along and sales records being set virtually every calendar quarter. Back in late 2001 and early 2002, it didn't look like the industry would be where it is today.
- Perhaps most troublesome are remaining restrictions in the Washington, D.C., area, including what can only be described as a cumbersome pre-clearance requirement for operations to and from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). However, given that DCA was closed to non-scheduled operations for years following the attacks, progress has been made. Meanwhile, the existing Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) is mostly transparent to business aviation flights operating under IFR except when certain special events require increased restrictions.
- For charter operators using large aircraft (with maximum gross takeoff weights in excess of 12,500 lbs.), the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) so-called Twelve-Five Rule has been assimilated and complied with. While initial problems existed with the rule -- most of which could be attributed to the TSA's abysmal understanding of or willingness to consider how non-scheduled aircraft operations don't mix with airline-style passenger screening -- most of them have been resolved. Still, operators tell AVweb that personnel turnover problems at the agency mean that constant education and re-education of TSA inspectors accustomed to dealing with airlines soak up much time and energy that could be better spent.
- Meanwhile, fractional operators have been mostly left alone by the Twelve-Five Rule, since their passengers can't simply walk in off the street. And large corporate operations remain immune to the TSA, perhaps since their flying is probably more secure than ever.
- Overall, demand for business aviation services has never been greater, according to numerous industry benchmarks. Observers generally attribute the steady growth to increased frustration with delays and the intrusive nature of airline passenger screening, when they are not pointing to the continuing decline in service provided by most scheduled domestic U.S. carriers. To say that 9/11 created business opportunities for the industry would be to ignore both the tragedy itself and the effort required to arrive at this point in the industry's history, but there you are.
- Finally, the industry has been mostly successful at convincing state, local and federal lawmakers that additional security-related restrictions on business aviation are either unnecessary or unworkable. In addition to the dangers of creating a patchwork of local requirements, the industry's own decentralization and autonomy -- the vast majority of the airports served by business aviation have little to none of the infrastructure required to support what many policymakers might like in the way of security restrictions -- has worked in its favor.