Last year was one of triumph and tragedy as Mother Nature walloped the country from floods in Southern California that closed airports to the devastating triple threat of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.
GA came to the rescue in all those situations, as pilots volunteered for countless rescue and relief missions. The Civil Air Patrol, as usual, was first on the scene, providing much-needed relief, as well as reconnaissance with its state-of-the-art technology.
Hurricane Katrina forced the National Business Aviation Association to move its annual convention — one of GA’s biggest — from New Orleans to Orlando. Wilma forced the postponement of the Sport Pilot Expo in Sebring, Fla., from October to Jan. 12-15.
Many could say 2005 was the year for Sport Pilot (see separate story on page 32). At the other end of the spectrum, personal jets were newsmakers, with the Eclipse 500 making its first public appearance at Sun ‘n Fun, while the HondaJet debuted at OSH — but stayed for just three hours. Cessna’s Mustang made its first flight, as well as Aviation Technology Group’s Javelin jet.
It also was a year when TFRs, security and federal regulations took center stage at many pilot gatherings.
The DC-3 airports — College Park, Washington Executive and Potomac Airfield — reopened to transient traffic in February for the first time since Sept. 11. Later in the year, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) closed Potomac for security violations. The field was able to reopen just before Christmas. GA also returned to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), albeit with onerous restrictions that still make it impossible for the average GA pilot to land there.
In May, a Cessna 150 “terrorized” Washington, creating panic when it mistakenly busted the ADIZ. This led to a lot of noise from lawmakers about further restrictions. Later in the year, the FAA proposed making the ADIZ permanent, a move that led GA pilots to submit an unprecedented number of comments to the proposal — more than 19,261 at last count. Because of the response, the feds extended the comment period to Feb. 6 and scheduled public meetings this month on the proposal.
That activism will need to continue as GA gears up for an even bigger fight over user fees in 2006 (See separate story on this page).
Other highlights of 2005:
– “The Aviator” opens, boosting attendance at aviation museums around the nation;
– Steve Fosset sets another record in the Global Flyer;
– Aircraft Spruce celebrates its 40th anniversary;
– SpaceShipOne makes a triumphant visit to OSH before heading to Air & Space Museum;
– Lockheed Martin takes over Flight Service Stations;
– Chicago fined by FAA for Meigs Field closure;
– A group of Commander owners band together to save the bankrupt company;
– Tuskegee Airmen hold their final reunion;
– Mooney unveils special 60th anniversary edition;
– “Memphis Belle” moved to Air Force Museum in Dayton;
– First air races held in June in Tunica, Miss.