|Airport Owners Panic Over
Capital News Service
Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2001
ANNAPOLIS - Owners of small airfields in Maryland are losing thousands of
dollars a day and their properties could close because flights were halted
from the airports nationwide after hijacked jetliners crashed into the
Pentagon and World Trade Center last week.
Stanley Rodenhauser, owner of Freeway Aviation in Bowie, said he lost 10
pounds in the past week because he isn't sure whether his airfield will be
in operation next week.
"We're going to go bankrupt," he said. "We cannot do
anything. I never thought at 60 years old that, in this great country, I
could be homeless."
Making matters worse: Rodenhauser also learned one of the suspected
hijackers attempted to rent a plane from his airfield. "I felt like
someone had raped my wife," he said.
Since the morning of Sept. 11, the FAA grounded all flights that use visual
flight rules, or sight navigation. Major airlines have been allowed to fly
limited flights, and all large airports but Reagan National in Washington
General aviation flights, however, have resumed only in Alaska and for
agricultural purposes across the nation. Aircraft Owners and Pilots
Association officials have told the FAA about the impact the ban has had on
general aviation, but national security officers still have security
concerns about VFR flights.
"I ask the patience of the flying public," said Secretary of
Transportation Norman Mineta in a recent statement. "Please remember
that we are recovering from a massive disruption and widespread
Small airports nationwide are losing more than $4,000 a day, said Keith
Mordoff, spokesman for the owners and pilots group. Freeway Aviation could
see layoffs of some of its 25 full-time workers to make up for losses,
Freeway Aviation derives its revenue from flight training and rentals of its
16 planes, as well as from parts and fuel services.
"All this stuff is worth nothing," Rodenhauser said. "If it
[the ban] continues much longer, the industry will be destroyed." And
he said he isn't getting much information from the government. "They
will not tell you a thing," he said. "No one is listening to us.
We cannot get through to anybody."
Members of Congress are discussing a $17.5 billion aid package to the
airline industry. Meanwhile, the FAA is planning to phase in normal
standards for general aviation flights but does not know when full operation
will resume, said Hank Price, FAA spokesman.
"We're [general aviation] kind of on the bottom of the food chain when
it comes to these things," said James Davidson, owner of ATC Flight
Training Center in Fort Washington. "No one is saying anything to me
Davidson is getting plenty of calls from pilots and trainees asking when the
airfield will reopen. If the airport reopens soon, he said he "expects
to be overwhelmed." If the ban continues beyond this week, he said,
"we're looking at closing down."
The database of those who have taken classes at the ATC Flight Training
Center has been turned over to the FBI because of concerns some of the
hijackers might have taken classes there, Davidson said.
Freeway Airport evaluated suspected hijacker Hani Hanjour when he attempted
to rent a plane. He took three flights with the instructors in the second
week of August, but flew so poorly he was rejected for the rental, said
Marcel Bernard, chief flight instructor at Freeway.
The standard evaluation consists of one- to one-and-a-half-hour flights east
over the Chesapeake Bay area. Hanjour paid $400 cash and provided a valid
pilot's license from Arizona, Bernard said. He failed because he showed
problems landing the airplane, and the flight instructor had to help him,
But Hanjour's problems were nothing unusual, Bernard said. "At the
time, he didn't raise any red flags," he said. "He never did get
angry or make any unusual statements."
Copyright © 2001 University of Maryland College of
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