Getting back to normal, whatever that may be

 - May 22, 2008, 5:02 AM

Almost three months after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, people still talk–perhaps now more wistfully than hopefully–about “when things return to normal.” But as a high-level FAA official posed recently, “How are we going to define the new normal?”

Business aviation got a wake-up call when it was summarily lumped in with all of the rest of general aviation in the National Airspace System lockdown on September 11. When airliners and Part 135 charter operators were allowed back into the air on September 13, Part 91 operators had to remain on the ground with the remainder of GA.

With dozens of corporate aircraft and their passengers stranded at various points around the country and the globe, the fact that charter aircraft and some fractionals were able to resume flying did not sit well with the business aviation community.

Frustrated Part 91 operators complained loudly when Part 135 operators were arbitrarily considered to be on the same commercial plateau as the airlines, even though both operated mostly identical equipment with comparably trained crews. In the eyes of President Bush’s national security team, those who charged their passengers money for transportation were considered “commercial” operators and all others were not.

General aviation was probably fortunate that a person with a considerable knowledge of business aviation was at the helm of the Transportation Department, and that may have helped ameliorate even more Draconian measures. Even so, DOT Secretary Norman Mineta and FAA Administrator Jane Garvey later admitted that aviation rulemaking was being driven by White House advisors to President Bush, primarily the members of the National Security