Remarks Prepared for Delivery
Good morning. Never has there been a time when communications between the FAA and AOPA has been more important. We need to talk with each other and we need to talk straight. So let me get right to the point.
I know these have been extremely difficult weeks for you. And let me assure you, I know, and Secretary Mineta knows, that you are not the security risk. The individual GA pilot is not the culprit. The risk is the fact that it would not be difficult for a trained individual to steal a plane, load it with explosives, and use it as a weapon. And, it will continue to be a risk – and perceived as a risk – until we restore public confidence. As the intelligence agencies see it – and as a worried public sometimes sees it – general aviation provides the least-managed and potentially largest fleet of weapons in the United States.
The world changed forever on September 11 when planes struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I was in the FAA Ops Center at the time. The strongest image in my mind was watching the electronic map of the United States showing all the airborne aircraft. Thousands of airplanes. Then fewer. And fewer. And fewer. And finally, the map was blank.
Watching the map that morning was chilling – grounding civil aviation. This was unprecedented. Never, not since the Wright Brothers, had there been so few civil aircraft aloft. Yet, as Secretary Mineta has said, this action saved lives, perhaps thousands of lives. It was a step that had to be taken.
And, yes, the fight against terrorism affects us more in Washington and on the East Coast than it does many of you from other parts of the country. But, daily life is different everywhere. Post Offices have new procedures. Many of us are not receiving our regular mail. Public buildings have Jersey Barriers or other security measures. Commercial airports across the country have increased security measures, more visible law enforcement presence. And people – everywhere – are apprehensive.
A plane flying overhead is no longer cause for wonder. People see a plane and worry. Every day the FAA hears from citizens concerned about suspicious aircraft – one aerobatic pilot testing the smoke system generates dozens of calls.
It is a nation on edge. It is a nation on alert. And it should be.
These are enemies who will kill themselves in order to kill and terrorize Americans. This time, they used commercial airplanes as their weapons of hate. We now know that they could have chosen to use the GA aircraft they trained in – or the agricultural aircraft they tried to purchase.
With commercial aviation – the universe is more defined. We can put in place point-of-departure security at more than 400 airports. The airlines’s 7,000 aircraft are subject to clearly defined procedures. We have measures – and more are to come – to ensure we know who is flying those planes – when – and where.
We don’t always have this information about general aviation. When air defense patrols are flying they want to know who is friend, and who is foe. Frankly, it would be easier for them – especially in high threat areas – if aircraft, the ones difficult to identify, the ones not subject to standard security procedures – were on the ground.
They are thinking about only one thing – national security. They are not thinking about livelihoods. They’re not thinking about how general aviation contributes to the fabric of our society. They’re not thinking about how general aviation adds to our quality of life.
But we are thinking about it. I want to tell you – and I want to say this as clearly as I can – we are doing something about it. That’s the whole point of the Federal Aviation Administration – getting aircraft to fly. It’s what we do. Idle aircraft – corroding engines – lost livelihoods – that all goes against the grain of everyone who works here. As Tom Davidson likes to say, "I’m a controller. I want to pump and bang as much aluminum as I can."
Bill Peacock, head of air traffic, as well as Tom, who is leading the "get-planes-back-in-the- air effort," are both in Ft. Lauderdale. I hope you get a chance to meet them. I hope you’ll ask them your questions.
As a government, are we pleased with how everything has been done?
Do we think everything has been thought all the way through and is fair and consistent?
With the benefit of hindsight, are there things the government could have done differently?
But, are we satisfied that we are doing all we can – working as hard as we can – coordinating with everyone we can – to get you flying? The answer is yes.
Tom Davidson and Nancy Kalinowski in air traffic, Bob Cammaroto and Art Kotsaka from Security, Howard Swancy and Hooper Harris from Flight Standards, Paul Greer in the counsel’s office – these people – and others like them – are working around the clock to restore the aviation system. They come in each and every day with one thing on their minds. How can we get more planes in the air?
Ask Melissa Bailey, AOPA’s top air traffic person, how hard we’re pushing this. AOPA is pushing too. Real hard. Melissa was here every day for four straight weeks. We gave her a desk in the air traffic suite on the fourth floor.
Let me tell you how we approached doing what had never been done before. There is no playbook on how to restore an aviation system. There are no guidelines on how to work with national security agencies. We are working to restore aviation in a new environment – a new world as Phil said. We’ve never experienced this level of threat management.
Steve Brown put this approach together. He has done an extraordinary job – balancing objectives, finding solutions, reaching common ground – reopening airspace. Steve approached this challenge with the clear understanding that you cannot move mountains all at once – especially when you’re dealing with government defense and security agencies.
What Steve knows is that you must take it step by step.
We couldn’t turn general aviation back on like a light switch. We had to do it gradually – and only after we had demonstrated that we had put in place measures that were safe, that addressed the known threats, and that met security requirements.
That’s what led to Enhanced Class B and TFR’s. One step at a time.
This measured approach is how we were able to return limited VFR flying on September 19. It’s how we were able to lift more restrictions outside of Enhanced Class B on September 20. It’s also how we were able to bring so much activity back on September 28 when we issued the world’s largest notam.
Sabra Kaulia can tell you what it’s like to put out a 15-part notam. At the same time, we balanced this with precautions. We issued the warning that pilots who violated restricted or prohibited areas faced risks – military interception, forced landing, and, as a last resort, deadly force.
Early last week, we were set to go back to regular Class B airspace, but we received intelligence information that called for caution – and called for additional restrictions. The nuclear TFR notam expired early yesterday. Now we’re back where we want to be – opening airspace. Our focus initially has been on restoring domestic airspace. International operations are a much bigger challenge. This week we’ve made some good progress – we issued a waiver to the notam and you can now operate VFR and IFR between the U.S. and the Bahamas.
Right now, we’re focused on Boston, New York, and Washington. We’re working on College Park, Potomac, Republic, Bedford, and Beverly – among other public use airports.
Bob Cammarato, who’s leading the charge in Security, says the most painful thing for him is that people are being hurt financially. And badly.
We know this.
In terms of operations, we are about 90 percent restored. We will keep pushing – doing what needs to be done – until we reach 100 percent.
I know that one way Americans understand freedom is manifested through general aviation and the freedom to fly. Restoring that last 10 percent will really be a barometer of the restoration of our personal freedom.
What can you do?
First and foremost, be responsible. Don’t be the pilot we hear about who is being prosecuted for circling a nuclear power plant. That happened last week in Colorado. Read the notams. Follow the notams.
Second, keep the ideas coming. Keep giving us your recommendations on how we can operate in a more secure way – with the least impact. AOPA has already come forward with many good ideas – some are already being implemented. We’re going to need your help as we push for that last 10 percent.
And, third, keep communicating. AOPA has been doing a terrific job communicating, getting the word out about the changes, the restrictions, the new requirements. Warren Morningstar and his crew are running what must be one of the world’s most useful – and used – websites. On September 28, the day of that huge notam, your website had 1.8 million hits. Your organization is communicating in other important ways. The day pilots inadvertently busted P-40, Camp David, you responded immediately with an e-Pilot alert. I’m told the Air Safety Foundation designed, printed, and shipped posters to area airports and FBOs within 23 hours.
We all wish we could go back to September 10th. But the reality is that September 11th profoundly changed our nation, and it changed aviation. Aviation security is now national security. Aviation’s future will include more security than before.
We must keep communicating, coming up with better ideas, and as we used to hear on Hill Street Blues – "Let’s be careful out there."
It is a different world. There are threats. They are real. There are people prepared to use aircraft – of any size – as weapons. We must take safeguards.
But we must not stop living.
We must not let terrorists hold aviation – and hold us – hostage.
In the current issue of Flying, Mac McClellan writes about his first flight after September 11. "The view of Manhattan as we climbed out about 25 miles to the northeast was devastating. The smoke still poured from the Trade Center rubble, but what was most shocking was the gaping wound left in the skyline that was so familiar to us. We had seen the destruction on television from most every angle, but not from the air…We both looked over our shoulder for a long time as we flew west in perfectly blue and smooth air."
His wife said it best: "Manhattan looks like a huge sailboat that has lost its mast."
"The country is still afloat and may have lost its mast," Mac wrote, "but thank God it still has a rudder and will begin to use it to steer a new course."
Note: Be sure to check out the rest of AVweb’s Special Report on AOPA 2001!