What is the 9/11 legacy for business and general aviation?

911-blogs1.gifBy Kate Sarsfield, Business and General Aviation Editor

I remember the tragedy of 9/11 unfolding before my eyes.  I was sitting heavily pregnant in the office, glancing casually at the TV in the corner of the room.  My nonchalance turned to horror as I watched an airliner plunge into the North Tower of New York’s iconic World Trade Centre. Before I had time to gather my thoughts, a second aircraft hit the South Tower. There were cries of disbelief from my colleagues. We all watched transfixed as the tragedy continued to play out in front of us.  I will never ever forget the horrifying images of people falling 1000′s of ft to their deaths and the sight of the towers – packed with innocent people – crumbling to the ground.

It did not occur to me at first that this calamity was an act of terrorism – it was incomprehensible that someone would be prepared to commit mass murder on such a scale. How naive I was.

Of course. The repercussions of the terrorist attack reverberated throughout the business and general aviation community. While corporate/charter aircraft movements escalated in the aftermath of the attacks -boosted by throngs of anxious, wealthy individuals turning their backs on the airlines – the industry became one of the many scapegoats for the US government.

Fearful that terrorists could use business and light aircraft as a weapon for another massacre, US authorities promptly imposed a ban on all visual flight rules (VFR) flights within Class B airspace and introduced a plethora of Temporary Flight Restrictions across the country.  These measures led the grounding of thousands of light aircraft many of which were still banned from flying weeks after their commercial counterparts were allowed to resume operation.  As a result, many GA business -  including flight schools – suffered hefty financial losses, which forced the closure of some companies.  

The industry was (and remains) fully aware of its vulnerability as a terrorist tool and a target for unwanted government attention. To head off potentially unworkable and costly regulations – the business and GA community drew up and adopted a host of safety and security measures designed to positively identify pilots and passengers and prevent unauthorised use of private aircraft.  We will never know whether these measures have deterred would be terrorists from using a business or general aviation aircraft to inflict mass casualties, but this industry will continue to be vigilant and security conscious as long as the threat of terrorism remains.   

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