Still unable to comprehend the monstrous scale of the September 11 terrorist assault on the U.S., the international air transport industry got a swift taste of the disruption and chronic uncertainty that undoubtedly lie ahead. Business aviation–which some are now saying will become increasingly important as companies look for a safe and convenient alternative to airline travel–faced serious restrictions in the week following the attack.
The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) announced two days after the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon the formation of a Business Aviation Security Task Force to develop procedures to “prevent the illegal use of private, corporate, charter and fractional business aircraft by potential terrorists.”
In Europe, reaction to September 11 included shock, outrage, empathy and resolve. Terrorism and the threat of violence have been staples of the European consciousness for decades. Whether it’s the Irish Republican Army in the UK or radical Islamic militants in Germany, Europeans have had to be far more conscious than Americans of the terror threat.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport directors are being assigned to 450 of the busiest U.S. airports used by the airlines. These officials are responsible for TSA employees at those airports as well as for airport security provisions. Business aviation and other general aviation associations are encouraging their members to develop
a rapport with their TSA airport directors, so as to increase their understanding of
Security comes from a combination of policy, procedure and technology–nuts and bolts. All three have received their fair share of attention since September 11, but the demand for security hardware is the most tangible manifestation of how aviation has changed. Pre-existing examples of technology–from sophisticated electronic surveillance systems to simple wheel locks–have been improved.
A few days after last September 11 it became apparent that the FAA and even the Department of Transportation did not have much say in aviation security matters. Both FAA Administrator Jane Garvey and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta admitted as much in congressional hearings one week later.
The days following the unprecedented shutdown of the National Airspace System caused massive grumping and anguish in the corporate and general aviation community, exacerbated when the federal government allowed only “commercial” aircraft to resume flying.
Aside from the cost of military actions against the terrorist factions following the September 11 attacks, the big question is, how the government is going to pay for everything else it wants to do.
Hesitant to “look a gift horse in the mouth,” Regional Airline Association president Debby McElroy applauded the Office of Management and Budget’s decision to allow bankrupt carriers, including RAA members Midway Airlines and Shuttle America, access to part of the $10 billion in loan guarantees signed into law as part of the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act.
The Transportation Security Administration’s notice of public meeting and request for comments on “Aircraft Repair Station Security” (Docket No. TSA-2004-17131) garnered 20 comments by the March 29 deadline. Responses came from individual pilots, small and large maintenance facilities and special interest groups.