Aviation Has Changed For You -- You Told Us How
This weekend, ANN asked
you to tell us how 9/11 changed aviation for you. Based on the
tremendous response, there is no question that
you all approach and think about flying differently since
9/11 -- some more so than others.
The comments ranged from those that felt not much impact at all,
to those who felt such profound sorrow and indignity it still
affects their views 5 years later.
From a personal perspective, we were grateful to find that we
aren't the only ones still haunted by the stunning events of
that fall morning.
Many of you seemed to find catharsis as you shared your
stories of that fateful day:
[I] find that flying is
somehow less magical. It's hard to put the thoughts and
emotions of that morning away fully, and it seems like the bloody
terrorists have succeeded in convincing some factions in government
that taking away some very American freedoms is a reasonable
I still keep up with aviation (almost fanatically, as is the way
of most pilot/aviators I know) and look forward to the day when
life's responsibilities relax enough to allow me to get back in the
air. The nagging question I'm left with, however, is whether
it truly is only those responsibilities that are actually driving
me to spend my spare time (and money) at sea rather than in the
This might sound odd, but thanks for letting me put this into
words. I've thought about it for some time, but never fully
articulated it. I'm not sure I like the sound of the story,
but it is mine.
Matthew F. McManus
I remember no planes in the sky for three days following the
attacks. I also remember not being concerned so much about the
closed airspace as being bewildered and numbed by the images on the
television. Were more strikes coming? Who was responsible? How will
this change our lives?
John M. Merryman
Many of you talked about
how 9/11 affected you as regards commercial travel. I don't think
any of us thought commercial aviation would be unchanged, but
I doubt we considered the full effects. We are saddened at the
loss of the simple things that used to make commercial flight so
enjoyable; family and friends can no longer greet arriving loved
ones at the gate as they get off the plane.
ANN has covered most of the big events as they've occurred over
the past five years, but perhaps it would be instructive to recap:
some 155,000 airline jobs lost, a reduction of around 800 jets from
airline fleets and six bankruptcies. According to TheStreet.com,
the Majors have eliminated nearly $16 billion in annual operating
expenses -- mostly labor costs -- between 2001 and 2005. Changes
Some of you work in the airline industry:
Since I travel 50-60%, it has been misery atop more
misery. At first, the planes were empty-and let me tell you
that flying to Europe on an almost empty plane gives one very mixed
feelings. While it is nice to stretch out across the whole
middle section of a B747, it's extremely depressing when my success
depends upon the success of the airlines. By the time
everyone started flying again, it was too late. I was on my
third job in as many years, the airlines were broke, the pilots and
flight attendants had given concession upon concession, and we were
all bitter, financially-strapped, and completely stressed out.
Orange County, CA
I watch people even closer than I used to and for different
reasons. I used to "people watch" for fun, but now I watch for
suspicious behavior from the time I get to the airport until the
time I leave. Until recently, I used to play "Find the Air
Marshall" while traveling [for fun]. [Now] if I do think I've
nailed one, I relax more on my flight. I feel like I'm "on duty" on
every flight because of my experience and knowledge. It's not as
much fun for me to fly as it used to be.
no city given
And some of you use
commercial carriers frequently:
My last trip was coming out of LA on the day they had the
Pakistani's arrested in London. LAX was a horror show. [Neither]
the TSA [nor the airlines told] anyone what was happening. We spent
more than 5 hours standing [in 95 degree heat] while the TSA
cheerily came by and took all our water.
Gregory N. Roberts
A few responders were especially derisive of airport security
After the mistreatment of heroic Governor Joe Foss, I wrote to
the TSA and suggested that a terrorist might implant a device in a
woman's breast or body cavity. I thought surely they would
begin overzealously groping all women passengers (for our
protection, of course). Women would have enough sense to
boycott commercial flight, and the government would have to concede
that it cannot protect us from this kind of threat. But no,
women willingly tolerate such abuse even now, because they are
misled into thinking it is for their protection.
no city given
The only true benefit to safety has been the installation of
bars and restraints on cockpit doors - the rest of [the] charade
with security at airports makes little difference. I guess the
airport security angers me more than other aspects because I
believe it is frivolous and an over-reaction. Remember, every 9/11
terrorist legally entered those aircraft and they took them with
boxcutters. Today, the government has allowed scissors and short
knives back in cabins, so what has changed?
no city given
What about general aviation? We all know of the businesses that
have been affected negatively. Flight schools and FBOs in the DC
area still suffer under the veil of a permanent "Temporary" Flight
And yet, a number of general aviation businesses are
flourishing. Cirrus Aircraft is experiencing tremendous growth.
They are selling aircraft almost as fast as they can make them.
Columbia aircraft is enjoying similar success. The experimental
aircraft market has never been hotter, and sport planes are just
beginning to show their potential.
Could it be that some people would rather brave piloting their
own aircraft than face the idea of flying on a commercial jet?
Since that nightmare, my brain has become a no-fly zone.
My heart is in it, I really want to buy that airline ticket...then
just about the time I'm ready to venture forth, another terror
threat beats me to the gate. I have flown during the past 5
years...but only in 60-year-old warbirds with Yankee Air
Museum. I know the mechanics, I know the pilots, I know the
passengers and they know me, our carry-on luggage is never
considered dangerous, and we only take our shoes off when we want
to, usually after a long day at an airshow.
Mary Ann Bittner
I am a retired USAF command pilot and veteran flyer. I own and
fly an experimental kit built Amphibian. I don't fly on commercial
airlines unless in a box in the cargo compartment.
I flew as a pilot for a major carrier for 30 years, but I just
don't trust the security people to be able to stop a
terrorist. I either fly my own airplane or drive where I want
Since 9/11 I've earned my Private license -- one of the first
plastic ones. I look for every excuse to rent a Cessna from my FBO
instead of using an airline.
Many of you expressed deep sadness or anger with our
I realize now that I am not the only pilot who feels that yes,
in many ways, the terrorists have won. Their objective is to
destroy our freedoms, whether it be the freedoms that we have shed
blood for over the past 230+ years, or the simple freedom to pull
off the road next to an airport and watch a busy traffic pattern
without being interrogated for it.
no city given
Because of the oppressive security measures put in place by the
government, I have gone from a 100,000-mile-per-year frequent flyer
to a non-flyer. I will not fly again until my civil liberties are
restored and I can travel without identifying myself to the
government. I am not afraid of terrorists. I am afraid of my
Robert F. Dorr
I can't imagine what it will be like later down the road for the
kids who can't go to the airport and watch airplanes ascend from
the ground. It brings a tear to my heart to think that one
day you won't be able to "hang out" at an airport like I do every
weekend here in Oklahoma. Aviation is full of the kindest
people you will ever meet on the planet. To think that those
kind people will be inaccessible someday is a hard thought.
no city given
There were a number of responders who have curtailed their
flying because they fear what might happen should they stray off
I believe that 9/11 changed the perception of the public about
flying. Now airplanes and pilots are looked at with fear by
uninformed people (most of them). Before 9/11 if you circled
an event to look at it, no one really noticed. Now they call
the police. Pilots and [flying in general] are now looked at
as a criminal activity.
P. Bayard duPont
We have our own mini-ADIZ here in the Tampa Bay area. It's
the MacDill AFB (MCF) Class D, closed to all GA operations.
It too has been in effect since 9/11. While violations don't
get a USAF fighter, Tampa Approach or MacDill tower will "tag" you
as an airspace violator.
Jack W. Tunstill
Albert Whitted Airport (SPG), FL
The aftermath of 9-11 has meant that every time I go up I now
have to worry about the possibility of being terrorized by an F-16
because I stupidly wandered into an imaginary circle on a sectional
chart. The world has changed forever and I doubt we will ever get
the bureaucrats out of the
La Porte, IN
I live about forty miles south of the Wash/Balt ADIZ. I used to
rent aircraft at Manassas but no longer. I used to get radio
work done there also but no longer. It's not worth the risk
of going through some FAA action against me because of a
controller's mistake. Clearances get lost, VFR traffic gets
diverted... why bother if you don't have to?
no city given
Weather is one thing. I can see the weather. Seeing
a presidential motorcade somewhere along some vague and imprecise
campaign trail from a distance in excess of the required 30 miles
is quite another. To decide to take flight now requires that
you quite literally trust the briefer with your life.
no city given
As bad as all this sounds -- and most remarkable to us -- many
of you feel little to no stress, anger or fear in spite of all
that's happened. Everyone acknowledges the tragedy, its just that
some of you have found ways to deal with the situation and your
personal feelings in ways that leave your love of flying
This gives us a great deal of hope for the future!
The resurgence of general aviation aircraft manufacturing in our
country -- no matter the motives from which it results -- is a good
thing. Many low-cost air carriers continue to provide excellent
travel service, some are even flourishing. Several of the major
airlines that entered bankruptcy are on the brink of emerging,
leaner and better able to serve their customers.
And what is probably, in our opinion, the most important
development for individual aviation enthusiasts -- the emergence of
the sport plane/sport pilot market. The number of new, affordable
and downright capable aircraft available is truly astonishing. It's
a wide-open market for intrepid entrepreneurs.
Perhaps John Merryman of Portsmouth, NH says it best:
The horrible events of 9/11 injured this country but did not
kill it. Like the human body itself, our system is robust and has a
remarkable facility to heal itself. Remember the stock market
opening within a week? Flying resumed in three days? The massive
effort to clean up Ground Zero and return that area to business? We
must remember all of the victims, [their loved ones] and those who
were there and can never forget what they experienced. And then,
move forward to some unknown point in the future when we can look
back on another challenge met.
Thanks John, for your wisdom and hope.