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An Update from the President - September 25th

As you all know, the terrorist attacks of September 11th caused a massive upheaval in the aviation industry. All aircraft in the US were immediately grounded, full stop. The reaction of our government was swift and reasonable. I know that some folks began to question the wisdom of grounding all aircraft unilaterally but quite honestly what other choice did they have? Our country was under attack from unknown sources in a manner that caught us by surprise. Our leaders reacted in a manner intended to maximize the protection of lives without regard for the inconvenience it might cause. Personally I would expect nothing less from them.

Now let's talk about the good news.

Almost immediately efforts began by government managers to restore the aviation system to an operational status. Obviously the process needed to be a phased effort. First priority was to get commercial travel back in operation in order to get passengers home and minimize the negative impact on our economy.

Unfortunately, light aircraft and sport aviation had to take second priority. As the days stretched on we found ourselves still grounded.

Many aviation organizations began efforts to restore their operations, SSA among them. We often refer to these folks as the "alphabet groups." EAA, AOPA, NBAA, NATA and many others began the effort on working to get their particular part of general and commercial aviation back into the air.

SSA's efforts on behalf of gliding took the form of increased communications with our members, intense contact with FAA senior managers and forceful articulation of our positions to FAA and the Department of Transportation.

Last Thursday we, along with other groups, received restoration of individual VFR flight operations outside enhanced Class B airspace. By Friday we had received clear permission to resume flight training and demonstration rides so long as those operations were outside enhanced Class B airspace. The truly excellent news is that the restoration of these flight operations did not involve imposition of new transponder requirements.

The effort to get general and sport aviation back into the air was not a solo effort. All the aviation "alphabet groups" worked together and with the same goals in mind. SSA's key role was in the protection and preservation of our unique position within the system. With the strong support of our FAA partners we were able to accomplish most of our immediate goals.

But what about the bad news?

Our work is far from over.

There are a number of commercial and club operations that are within or very close to enhanced Class B airspace. These operations are either not functional yet or are very severely limited by their proximity to the controlled airspace. SSA will be working with these sites to re-establish their viability and regular operations within the system. However, what we face is almost a case-by-case effort. In coming days we will identify the problems and work with individual sites to the best of our ability to get them operational again.

We have numerous foreign registered gliders in the US most especially from Canada. These gliders may not operate in the US except under IFR rules and for the sole purpose of departing the country. We need to get these gliders back into the air so that their owners, who in many cases are SSA members, can resume their normal flying activities. We are already working with FAA managers to identify a course of action that will get these gliders flying as soon as possible.

Another problem is what is this term "enhanced" we are using to describe Class B airspace and how will it affect us? In essence, the "enhancement" is to add to the airspace under control. We need to work out agreements that will allow our operations to continue to operate in this airspace whether "enhanced" or not.

The events of the past two weeks have been in the form of crisis management by the government. And I, for one, will tell you that I am proud of their efforts and grateful for the leadership they have displayed. But now the game will be changing.

Over the coming weeks and months there will be many new proposals and rules suggested all in the name of enhanced security. Our goal at SSA will be to measure each one in terms of its ability to produce the desired result without taking away our fundamental freedoms to fly. To this end we will be in close contact with the government authorities to influence the course of new rules before they are locked in stone.

What I can tell you now is that we will support reasonable rules and legitimate attempts to make our country safer for all who fly and live here. At the same time we will also do everything in our power to make sure that no new rules and regulations are set in place that limit or restrict our ability to fly when there is no additional security benefit to the public.

In closing today I have to express our appreciation to our friends at FAA for their professionalism, their patriotism and their phenomenal efforts in the face of a nearly overwhelming tragedy.

I also thank each and every one of you as SSA members. Your rational response to the challenges, your own patriotism and your own commitment to working for solutions in a positive manner are all in the best tradition of America.

Thank you for your support of SSA,
Larry Sanderson, President
September 25, 2001

Posted: 9/25/2001 By: General News

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