I just saw this addition to Phil Boyer’s earlier statement on http://www.aopa.org AOPA’s web site.
Later Thursday, Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta and I spoke again. In a lengthy phone conversation, he told me about the continuing debate among the PresidentÂ’s national security team. The nation still faces serious security threats. The Capitol building was evacuated because of a suspicious package. Many airports have received bomb threats. And the three major New York airports were closed shortly after they reopened, as federal authorities detained more suspects, including one reportedly carrying false pilot credentials.
Nevertheless, Mineta convinced a meeting of the PresidentÂ’s National Security Council (which included Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller) to at least consider allowing IFR general aviation operations soon.
Â“But Mr. Secretary, IÂ’m most concerned about the return of basic VFR privileges,Â” I said. Â“And this type of flying presents no security threat to the nation.Â”
Secretary Mineta agreed, and we spent 45 minutes discussing general aviation and the continued security threat. But he told me that the National Security Council perceives VFR flight as uncontrolled, and therefore a greater threat somehow. It became very obvious to me that the Secretary of Transportation tried his best to change that perception. He had the right arguments, he made the correct points, and he was much more eloquent than any one of us. In some cases, he even called on his primary flight training background to make points we wanted heard.
And then late Thursday evening, AOPA learned that, because of the continuing threats, the approval for Part 135 operations might be rescinded.
The bottom line is that decision-makers outside of FAA and the Department of Transportation believe the nation still faces a heightened security risk, and that general aviation might be used to attack the nation. While we all know that is pretty farfetched, the mood at the moment is to not take any risks, no matter how unlikely they might be.
AOPA is continuing to push on all fronts to get general aviation back in the air. But let me manage your expectations. When the security threats lessen, first will come the approval for Part 91 IFR flying. Then, no sooner than 48 hours later, should come the restoration of VFR privileges.