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Freedom is not just another word (an open letter from the SSA President)

We paid a price for the attacks. In the wake of the events we were forced to surrender some of our freedoms in order to band together to protect other potential victims.

The question now is to determine whether the price we have paid in aviation is permanent.

As the events of last week recede in their immediacy and we begin the process of rebuilding our country and pursuing our enemies we in aviation continue to pay a high price.

Gliding is facing some very difficult challenges in the coming days and weeks. For the past several days I have been receiving calls, e-mails and letters from SSA members throughout the US wondering if and when we will have our freedom to fly restored. Virtually all of the calls are polite and reasonable. Regardless of the tone of the conversations the theme is consistent: "Let us have back our freedoms or the bad guys win."

SSA has been working hard to share information with you as members. Certainly the information we have posted to the website is not always complete and it is often frustrating for its lack of specificity. But we have chosen to give you ALL the information as we receive it ourselves, unvarnished and straight from the shoulder. You deserve no less.

Before going on I think there are a couple of critical points for all of us to recognize.

1. The FAA and DOT are not the enemy. In fact, they are working hard to get us back into the air. But they do not have the power to make the decision. Currently, the key decisions are being made by the leadership of the intelligence community, the FBI and the Department of Defense..

2. This is not just an issue of flying through the air. A critical issue on the table involves the security, or lack thereof, at general aviation airports.

3. For better or worse we are a sport. As such we are defined as being less critical than other aspects of the aviation infrastructure. But what our leaders need to understand is that this is not simply about an individual deciding not to fly for fun this weekend. This is about businesses whose livelihood depends on a vibrant and active sport.

Our basic position:

- We do not believe that gliding poses a threat to national security.
- We firmly believe that we can regain our use of the airspace without significant changes in our operations.
- We are firmly committed to support our government as best as possible in the face of reasonable and realistic restrictions when we understand the needs for those restrictions.

What are we doing:

- We are working at all levels of the leadership to offer information, assistance and support. We feel if the leaders in Washington know more about us then they will understand the non-threat we present.
- We are in continual contact with key managers within FAA to offer information, support and guidance as to what we need to resume operations.
- We are actively in contact with other air sport groups as well as "the big guys" in the form of AOPA and others.
- We are working on setting a series of meetings in Washington with transportation officials and some of our friends on Capitol Hill in order to present our case.

What we are not doing:

Throughout this entire situation we have avoided and will continue to avoid any intense rhetoric or raised voices. We recognize that our members are facing severe stresses. We also recognize that the leaders of our government are facing their own stresses. The last thing we can, or should do is simply add to their burden. If we do we will not succeed in our work. We have to remember that loss of money and loss of some flying time is simply not comparable to the financial and human losses endured by others last week.

I truly regret that aviation became the tool of terror. We have lost some freedom as a result. It is up to all of us to work hard, and responsibly, to regain what the forces of evil took from us.

Thank you for your support and God Bless America.

Larry Sanderson
SSA President

Posted: 9/18/2001 By: General News

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