Benchmarks in Closure and Reopening of NAS

 - October 8, 2007, 10:25 AM

Tuesday, September 11
• DOT Secretary Norman Mineta, via the FAA, ordered the grounding of all aircraft in the National Airspace System effective at 9:25 a.m. EDT. At 2:07 p.m. the final civilian flight landed. Oceanic flights inbound to the continental U.S. diverted to Canada. Canada soon closed its airspace.

• Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC) authorized the release of medical emergency, military and law-enforcement flights and assigned discrete beacon codes based on callsign, aircraft type, reason for mission, names and social security numbers of all on board, departure and arrival time, route and beacon code.

• In the evening, a call was made for business aircraft operators to aid national emergency response by contacting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Wednesday, September 12
• Notices regarding “absolutely essential” flights were re-released and modified.
• ATCSCC announced a two-step recovery plan toward resuming operations. Airport authorities were required to report to the local FAA air traffic manager compliance with required security measures then notify ATCSCC. When a sufficient number of airports had reported, the FAA began resumption of flight operations, beginning with recovery of diverted overseas/Canadian aircraft. General aviation flights were prohibited.

• ATCSCC offered no established timeline for resumption of normal operations.
• The FAA announced that airliners diverted to Canadian airports could continue to original destinations with original passengers. All other IFR and VFR flights other than those “absolutely essential” were prohibited.

• The Canadian plan was modified to allow airlines to ferry crews to the airports to relieve/replace the original crewmembers, with passenger flights to resume the next day maintaining their same callsign outbound and inbound.

• All carriers, non-revenue flights and U.S. cargo carriers without cargo were authorized to operate to recover diverted flights and reposition aircraft and flight crews to those airports available following security certification in the contiguous U.S.

Thursday, September 13
• ATCSCC began releasing to the public the list of security-certified airports, beginning with an initial list of 52 that within three hours expanded to at least 200, with rapid additions over the next two days.

• Secretary Mineta announced that normal Part 121, 129 (cargo) and 135 flight operations could begin at 11 a.m., along with GA regardless of purpose, including crop dusting.

• At about 11 a.m. Secretary Mineta reversed the decision allowing GA aircraft under Part 91 to fly, in response to FBI and CIA concerns. NBAA urged a member letter and telephone-call campaign in protest.

• Emergency flight definitions were expanded to include evacuation from tropical storm Gabrielle in certain Gulf states.

• By 4:30 p.m., 250 commercial aircraft were aloft.

• Nav Canada resumed the provision of air traffic services for international and transborder flights, including overflights, and for aircraft operating under VFR. The Canadian Transport Minister’s restriction on all cargo aircraft remained in effect, with the exception of northern resupply operations.

• By the evening, some 20 U.S. cities were being patrolled by F-15s and F-16s.

Friday, September 14
• In the early morning, Part 91 flight restrictions were reiterated, and Part 129 cargo flights were allowed with certain exceptions. Non-U.S. or Canadian flag carriers were not approved to overfly the U.S. sovereignty.

• The remainder of Part 135 operations were cleared.

• General aviation’s 200,000 aircraft and Part 91 operations were then authorized to fly under IFR only. No-fly zones were set for Part 91 IFR traffic for 12 airports/seaports/heliports within a 25-mi radius from JFK and 13 landing sites within 25 mi of the DCA VOR. Special procedures allowed access to the Westchester County Airport in White Plains, N.Y., and the Manassas (Va.) Airport. Teterboro (N.J.) Airport, as well as Leesburg and Montgomery County Airports near Washington, remained unavailable to Part 91 operators.

Saturday, September 15
• In the afternoon, Part 91 crews could depart Reagan Washington National beginning at 4 p.m. in a window of three hours, with additional windows for the next two days. New security checks were added.

• In the evening, Part 91 crew departures were allowed for Chicago O’Hare and Midway in a three-hour window beginning at 7 p.m.

• Continental Airlines announced that due to airspace closure, it would cut its long-term flight schedule by 20 percent and lay off as many as 12,000 workers (one-fifth of its workforce).

Sunday, September 16
• In the early morning, NBAA continued to work for the release of Part 91 IFR flights from Teterboro, Newark, Reagan Washington National and Dulles; the return of flights with N-registry located outside the U.S.; and departures of N-registered aircraft from the NAS. Meigs Field remained closed.

• IFR Part 91 operations were allowed to and from the UK, Canada, Mexico, Japan and Bahamas, provided no intermediate stops were made. IFR Part 121 and Part 125 operations including ferry flights were allowed and all Part 135 operations except for those in congested areas.

• Airborne activation or cancellation of IFR and VFR-on-top were not allowed.
• Prohibitions on Part 91 VFR were restated. Transit beyond the 12-nm U.S. territorial limit was permitted.

• Late in the day, VFR commercial flights were authorized, but previously authorized Part 137 agricultural and crop dusting flights were grounded immediately.

• Flights between Washington state to/from Alaska were reauthorized.
• In the late afternoon, passenger carriers could resume transport of mail and parcels.

• Security procedures were pending for La Guardia, JFK, Teterboro, Newark and Republic/Farmingdale, N.Y., that were expected to allow resumption of IFR flight from certain airports within 25 mi of the no-fly zone surrounding National and JFK for flight crews only.

• Reagan Washington National Airport remained closed indefinitely.

Monday, September 17
• NBAA continued to work toward removal of Part 91 flight restrictions for VFR, and remaining Part 91 restrictions within the airspace surrounding Washington, Chicago and New York.

• Part 91 IFR departures were authorized for flight crews only and no luggage, from a roster of airports within 25 mi of Reagan Washington National and JFK, including Teterboro.

• That morning, Part 91 operations at Chicago Midway and O’Hare remained prohibited, but by late afternoon Midway was announced to open from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Tuesday, September 18
• Part 91 VFR flights remained prohibited, except in Alaskan airspace, and were not expected to resume any time soon.

• All traffic remained prohibited to Reagan Washington National and Chicago Meigs.