Forty years ago and today: facing a crisis

 - October 9, 2007, 12:09 PM

Najeeb (Jeeb) Halaby, FAA Administrator, Sept. 26, 1961: explaining Operation Sky Shield II, the grounding of all U.S. and Canadian commercial airlines, general aviation, charter and cargo flights on Oct. 14 to 15, 1961, to conduct a Norad and Strategic Air Command simulation of a Soviet bomber attack during the height of the Cold War. Halaby addressed these remarks to 600 NBAA members during the 1961 NBAA Convention in Tulsa, Okla.

“I have been looking forward to this meeting to deliver a message, to speak through you to the aviation community. And my message is neither pleasant nor popular. It may make you a little uncomfortable. Perhaps it should. Gentlemen, despite what our past experience may have been there is a necessity now for all of us in the aviation industry to act in preparation for possible disaster, to move forward with plans to survive any nuclear attack that may be thrust upon us.

“The prospect of a nuclear attack is most awesome. To linger on it is almost to despair. To dwell on it at length and without action is to be defeated. But to take it in hand, to consider it, to accept it and then to prepare for it, this approaches the heroic. It is for the thoughtful man, an opportunity to prove his stuff and substance.
“The prospect of a resolute nation, determined and ready to dig in, a nation convinced of its ability to sustain punishment, a nation committed to survival and victory; this is in itself a potent weapon. It will, in part, be the instinctive self-reliance of the unregimented, the individual leadership of the unorganized, the native get up and go of free citizens, that will keep us unbowed.

“As Americans, especially as leaders in aviation, we have an obligation, a responsibility to our nation, not only to survive but to pull ourselves out of the mud, if we find ourselves there, and move forward. And this is what I ask of you today; to give to the nation a solid demonstration of aviation’s determination to survive, to win. You who have been hesitant, take up a new course. Meet with our disaster control officials. Study their recommendations, and then without fanfare or alarm move out and get the job done. I ask you business airmen to make your preparations, learn the tasks and complete the required exercises. I should like in the near future to know that this is done. I should like to know that aviation, should we find ourselves face to face with the disaster of nuclear war, has made preparations. I should like to know that aviation is ready. Thank you.”
Jack Olcott, president of NBAA, Sept. 12, 2001: explaining the cancellation of the 2001 NBAA Convention scheduled for September 18 to 20 in New Orleans after the terrorist attacks the previous day.

“This is, as stated on the television, a war. It’s the way that third world nations fight a war; they are individuals in war without uniform, targeting our civilians. You and I are the combatants. If you and I disrupt our normal lives, we have lost. We don’t have a specific plan yet for the next few days; we are set to learn
from this.

“The events of yesterday were acts of war, as many of our nation’s leaders have stated. Unconventional war, but war nevertheless. The perpetrators are using the only weapon they believe they have available to them [terrorism] and their targets are you and me–the citizens of our country. We believe that terrorists win when they cause us to change our way of life, our way of conducting business and our confidence in ourselves. Thus the challenge for the NBAA centered on how we would respond in a way that was sensitive to the nation’s needs and effective, yet not be curtailed by terrorism.

“Together, we will fight this war the best way we can. As citizen soldiers moving on with our lives, with confidence that our system will protect us, and prevail.
“Each individual with whom I spoke said terrorists must not dictate our actions.
Rather than going forward with the convention as unusual, however, they recommended a more focused response, such as using the resources of the association’s staff and members to coordinate business aviation capabilities with the needs of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross and other government agencies. Our staff is doing these actions, as directed by the board. Furthermore, NBAA’s Annual Meeting & Convention is an informational exchange, and the need for information is greater today than it was before Tuesday’s tragic events. Issues such as security, dealing with airport issues and ATC are hotter today than yesterday.”