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YOU can make a difference in 2002

By Colin Saunders
January 6, 2002

2001 was a disastrous year for airlines, but 2002 doesn’t have to be.

Two thousand and one was the most catastrophic year ever for commercial airlines. As the world economy slowed, business travellers stopped flying. Leisure travel dropped off too, so much so that by mid-year several airlines were in danger of collapse. Swissair, and its subsidiaries Sabena, Air Liberte and AOM, were on the brink of bankruptcy, a path that Ansett and Canada 3000 soon followed. The world’s major airlines announced massive losses, and even perennially profitable Singapore Airlines expressed unease about its earnings potential.

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Worst terrorist attack of all time
as seen from a small Cessna.
Photo © HECTOP

A bad situation became much worse on September 11. Although the airliners used as weapons that day belonged to American Airlines and United Airlines, all of the world’s air carriers felt immediate repercussions. Air traffic in North America came to a standstill as the United States and Canada invoked their NORAD defence agreement. Airliners stayed on the ground while jet fighters flew combat patrols over major cities. Aircraft inbound to the United States diverted to Canadian airports, some of which took in more than sixty widebody airliners.

When North American airspace was reopened to commercial traffic, the airlines found that they were operating nearly empty aircraft. Passengers cancelled trips or didn’t show up for flights. People were afraid, and it seemed that there was nothing airlines could do to convince passengers that flying was safe.

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Firefighters at the scene of the AA A300 crash on Nov 12, 2001.
Photo © Michael F. McLaughlin

However, people did begin flying again. But just as they did, another unbelievable tragedy struck New York City. The loss of an American Airlines A300 caused a new round of questions and doubt. Was it terrorism? How could this happen? What did those poor people think as their plane went down? It was all too terrible to contemplate. Then we heard of a man with explosives hidden in his shoes. This year has given new meaning to the expression “fear of flying.”

Yet, many of us have flown since the world went mad. Since September 11, I have flown eight times, my first flight taking to the air on September 19. I must admit to feeling a certain nervous tension each time I take to the air, and I have found myself wondering how I would handle a hijacking. Would I take on terrorists like those brave souls in Pennsylvania and, recently, over the Atlantic? Would I be trapped in my seat by an overpowering fear? I am not alone in asking these questions. Who hasn’t shared these thoughts since mid-September?

In the air transport world, things changed noticeably in the aftermath of 9/11. The first was the greatly increased security at airports. From the check-in counter onward, every time I flew I felt that I was watched—studied—questioned. Airline employees, security guards and governments now seem to take security seriously, something that was not always true in the past. Security before September 11 was an afterthought. Now, when it works as it should, we know it can save lives.

Because safety succeeds or fails on the ground, we also see a change in the attitude of passengers. People no longer seem to mind line-ups at the security screening checkpoint; no one moans when a guard asks to see inside a bag. Instead, we take comfort from their suspicion and diligence. If a passenger does complain about something so pre-9/11 as “Big Brother,” he can count on glares from his fellow passengers. Security is now everyone’s business, and everyone takes it seriously: too late to save thousands, but better late than never. Yet, it is the need for this new, heightened level of security that keeps many people away from the airlines, despite the undeniable fact that the airways are more secure today than they were on September 10. Somehow, we have to change the travelling public’s attitude about flying.

We are all afraid of terrorists on-board airliners. But we, the airline aficionados of the world, have to overcome this fear because we have a special responsibility toward the airlines we love to discuss, read about and photograph. Our families, friends and colleagues know about our passion for civil aviation, and we are often asked what we think about airline “A” or “B.” Our opinions matter to many people, and therefore it is up to use our influence and do something to help our airlines.

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Photo © Peter Unmuth - Vienna Aviation Photography

Do exactly what the terrorists don’t want you to do: go to your local airport, wherever you live, and fly. Travel to a nearby city, go to a vacation spot or go around the world. When you arrive back home, tell everyone you know that you flew and ask them to do the same. Use your influence, and your experience, to prove to those you know that air travel is safe and fun. Our airlines need us, and it’s time that we give them something for all that they’ve given us.

May peace, prosperity and health be yours in 2002.

Written by
Colin Saunders

Colin Saunders is the Article Editor of Airliners.net

35 User Comments:
Username: Garuda [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-06 12:15:21 and read 29309 times.

Amen to that....

Great piece of work, Colin.


Username: OH-LZA [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-06 13:27:45 and read 29296 times.

Again an awesome article Colin!


Username: AFC_ajax00 [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-06 13:47:22 and read 29290 times.

Very nice article, lets all hope that 2002 will indeed be a much better year than 2001.

Username: EGGD [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-06 14:19:24 and read 29282 times.

Great Article Colin.

I really agree, i try to fly at every oppertunity, unfortunetely that doesn't come along very often, especially when you have to pay off a camera for the next 9 months.

When I last flew, I wasn't scared, or afraid, I knew that everyone onboard were going on holiday, just the same as me. It doesn't matter that I 'happen' to love flying, its just a common fact, this does not happen often!

Air Disasters have happened before, and dare I say it (its true) will happen again, but they have not been so much in the spotlight since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I suspect that the next crash will be blown out of proportion by the news, and all they are doing is trying to put people off flying, I think that is terrible!

The news is always wrong anyway, they can't get their facts straight.



Username: CPH-R [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-06 14:23:56 and read 29280 times.

Actually, according to CNN, 2001 was the most safe year in aviation, ever since World War 2, in regards to the number of crashes etc.

On the other side, if we take the number of casualties on the whole, I think the statistic would be kinda ruined.

Username: DC-10 Levo [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-06 16:37:15 and read 29258 times.

A very well thought out piece there Colin.
Lets all hope that 2002 will be better than 2001.

Username: CcrlR [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-06 16:45:04 and read 29256 times.

Great article Colin. It's just like George Bush told us to shop after Sept. 11th when the economy was down. This is the same thing. Just do what the terrorists didn't want us to do. FLY! I am going to do just that this year. I am not scared of them and I will not stop flying either. The people that were in that United 757 that crashed in Pennsylvania didn't want to be used as a terrorist's tool in his evil game and neither do anyone else now. People will fight back against terrorism and they will be in 2002.

May Peace, happiness, and good fortune and health be with you and everyone here in 2002!

Username: CRJ'sRule [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-06 16:52:07 and read 29253 times.

Good Article.

People are overreacting a bit about aircraft accidents. Apparentally you have about the same chance of winning the lottery that you do of dying in an aircraft accident, and as most people realise that won't happen, why not fly?

Username: Lanpie [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-06 17:52:46 and read 29237 times.

Very good article.

Yes, 2001 has been a bad year for the airlines. If you go back about 20 years, at the beginning of each decade the airlines had financial problems.

At the beginning of the 80s, inflation was very high same for interest rate, it took a few years to get over it.

At the beginning of the 90s, the same thing came back economic situations was bad for the airlines. It became worst when you had the Gulf war in 1991, high fuel prices and high overhead for the airlines. The situation got better after 1995.

In early 2000, most of the airlines finances were looking bad, high fuel prices, high overhead and less passengers flying. It got worst at the beginning of 2001 and it was worsen after September 11. Only a few companies were making profits but smaller of the previous year.

In Canada, the situation in 2001 is very bad. Many airlines have closed and Air Canada is having a very hard time to cope with the situation.

Hopefully, the economy will get better and passengers to travel again.


Username: TWAMD-80 [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-06 20:29:40 and read 29214 times.

That was a great, well written article. Hopefully with the new security measures, 2002 will be a better year than 2001, and people will see that flying is safer than ever.


Username: Teahan [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-06 22:08:36 and read 29193 times.


Definitely a very nice and enjoyable read. Thanks.


Username: Flyingblind [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-06 22:33:07 and read 29186 times.

What a great article! I am a layed-off airline employee and I hope that the industry can some day be as strong as it once was.

Username: Saab340 [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-06 23:01:00 and read 29170 times.

Great writing! I thank you for the heart warming words that we all need during this time of uncertainty.


Username: Tguman [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-06 23:12:37 and read 29167 times.

I think airlines will be able to cope within this next year. I personally believe that what is hindering many from taking to the air is the Media's constant look at the security. If the press would back off and say it is ten times safer to fly know than before Sept. 11, then airlines will be able to survive. While I believe that we have influence on the people around us, it is the public that is out there that needs the help.
President Bush says go fly somewhere, fly to New York, return to your life as normal as possible to what it was before 9/11. Yet the news officials still question whether new regulations are fit to stop it from happening again.9-P I thought that during war times everybody rallied behind the President.
Just some thoughts

P.S. the part about President Bush is just an inference on my part about what I think he should be trying to say or might be trying to say.

Username: CV990 [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-07 13:45:58 and read 29085 times.


I arrived from my summer vacation on the 28th. July 2001, a few weeks before the 11th. September tragedy. By no means I will stop flying!!! People who did that where very traumatized but like when we lose some that we love we must follow ahead and don't look back, I'll feel safer now because security improved but I never felt unsafe before. I think air transportation is THE BEST WAY of travelling I'll go for it always!

Username: Jderden777 [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-08 00:56:33 and read 29039 times.

i must say it was a very well-written article Colin!

i am flying at every single chance that i get...i do think the media needs to just back off and stop being so harsh on the airlines - it seems kinda selfish to me...and kinda ignorant and counter-productive...they say how the economy is slow and how airlines are struggling and how security is lax and so forth - yet i'm sure their input convinces some people not to fly...but hopefully the airlines will soon recover from these recent tragedies...i know i will be doing my part to help them out! when i decide where i want to fly to next....hmm....:-)

good luck everybody!

jonathan d.

Username: AirT85 [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-08 01:59:29 and read 29035 times.

Wonderful article!
I too have flown recently, three times over christmas. While i was a little nervous about getting back on an airplane they were the best flights i had had in so long! I love flying, always will, and no terrorist @$$hole is gonna keep me away from it!

Username: DeltaBoy777 [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-09 04:49:24 and read 28948 times.


I applaud your work!! I plan on flying this summer several times and believe my fellow Airliners.net friends should also. During this time of trouble we all need to stand together and be strong, and flying is one way we can do this. I ask that everyone remember the people of September 11th and say I am flying in rememberence to them and their families who have suffered so much.

May 2002 bring blessings, prosperity, and peace.

**:)Breakthrough in '02:)**

Username: 9Y-ISA [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-09 16:42:23 and read 28918 times.

First off, I would like to compliment you Colin for taking the inituative for doing this article. I think I speak for all aviation enthusists when I say it was well written and put together.

When people tell me about flying is to dangerous, I get very upset at that B.S. There is no reason to say that.
The way I reply to them is:
1) Do you walk around your "means of transportation"(M.O.T) before you start it and go. Well, a pilot has to do a visual "walkaround" before that plane takeoff.
2) How many checklist do you have to go through before you reach your destination? Pilots do atleast 10 or more before the flight is completed.
3) After your M.O.T. reaches your destination is there anything mechanical personel there to meet you? As soon as the airplane reaches the gate there would be aircraft technicians waiting to inspect the aircraft which shows that the aircraft is checked both before and after the flight.
4) When do you do engine maintenance on your M.O.T? When something goes wrong? Well airplanes go in for maintenance after certain hours of flying time, not waiting for something to go wrong.
5) How many gauges do you have on your M.O.T.? You ever walked in a cockpit and try counting how many
they have? Not only that, but they even have back-ups just in case one fails. You can tell exactly whats going on anywhere in the airplane just by sitting in the cockpit, monitoring the instruments.
6) Airport security is at its best now than ever before. Governments all around the world has invested millions of dollars for better security.

My friends, this list can go on and on...so for someone to say flying is not the safest way for traveling, well i'm sorry but I don't see it that way!!


Username: Colinsensei [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-10 03:20:20 and read 28875 times.

Thank you all very much for your kind words. I had planned this little editorial for a while, but wasn't sure how it would be accepted. It's nice to know that so many others agree with my stance.

Take care, and happy flying!

Colin Saunders

Username: Tappan [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-10 23:21:14 and read 28826 times.

Very poignant.
Great writing.
Mark Garfinkel

Username: American_4275 [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-12 00:43:39 and read 28786 times.

Excellent piece of writing. I agree on all your topics and hope, like you, that things will get better.


Username: Trintocan [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-12 01:50:30 and read 28780 times.

Very pertinent indeed and well-written. Wherever we all are, we must all go flying. Do go spotting too but just be careful where you go - stick to official spotting areas as far as possible. I visited LHR's gallery yesterday, 4 months to the day after the attacks, and spotted a bit, patronised the store and just spent a while taking in the sights and sounds of aeroplanes. That is our passion. May it always be so.


Username: Turbolet [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-12 10:18:34 and read 28764 times.

A good article on the whole, the points stated have been discussed at length. Though I cannot agree with one statement:
People no longer seem to mind line-ups at the security screening checkpoint; no one moans when a guard asks to see inside a bag. Instead, we take comfort from their suspicion and diligence.
Are you sure? As far as I know everyone grumbles about the queues and 'random searches'. And they're right, too, when after all the hassle a man still gets a Beretta on board an airliner. Security needs improvement.

Username: Leftseat86 [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-12 10:44:02 and read 28762 times.

Very nice...I'm sure MattD will find it interesting.

I think that the airline industry was already suffering on a whole before Sept 11, and that the events just came as a major blow to most carriers, Southwest aside! :D
I will be flying United whenever possible, because, hey, we've already lost TWA, and for United to go would be awful... UA! :D :D

Oh yeah, look out terrorists, we're coming for u...

Username: Matt D [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-12 20:12:30 and read 28747 times.

A well written article indeed. But as I've stated on the forums, I absolutely, positively refuse to get near any airplane as long as we are all being treated like criminals. I realize the need for security, but this knee-jerk, flex-my-muscle approach to it is as far as I am concerned, making the treatment worse than the disease.

That's all I have to say.

Username: Obithomas [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-13 04:34:02 and read 28727 times.

Since as young as I can remember, I have always loved airliners and flying. Even as an adult who has travelled dozens of times a year, I still approach a flight with some anticipation, regardless of delays and inflight meals.

Sep 11th has not changed that, and I am glad to see Mr Saunders' article. But, like Matt D above, I have refused to fly in the current atmosphere of paranoia and fear.

I don't claim that no security measures are needed, nor even that a greatly heightened level of security is needed. What is not needed is the level of paranoia and mistrust that surrounds flying in the US today. Many other countries have faced threats of terrorism and have greatly heightened security without resorting to the level of personal distrust that we seem to have descended towards.

In a time when airline pilots ask passengers, who have cleared FAA security, to disembark because the pilots and/or passengers are uncomfortable with the appearance or ethnicity of these passengers, I say that I don't fear hijackers as much as I fear those people who are terrorized by the hijackers.

The US has always been a great nation in part because of the level of trust and openness between ourselves. If we treat each other like criminals based on the actions of 19 people on visitor visas, the terrorists have won on an even more fundamental level than if they simply shut down our airline system.

Thank you for reading.

Username: B767-300 [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-14 16:21:37 and read 28673 times.

Good job this is a nice and well writen article.

Username: Deanie [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-15 16:24:36 and read 28644 times.


Username: STT757 [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-16 04:35:48 and read 28625 times.

I just got back from Cancun, my first flight since 9-11 and I loved it. I want to fly again real soon, perhaps over the Easter holiday.

Fly, don't give the pricks the statisfaction.

There are so many cool things to see and experience, so many people to meet. Travel Europe, explore Mexico's beaches and historical treasures.

But I would like to encourage everyone who can afford it to come to NY, as a native NY'er (now in NJ) I like many in the tri-State area have been both deeply saddned by the worst of humanity and uplifted by the bravery, honor and determination I've seen after the attack by rescuers and regular people alike.

Come to NY, and spend money:)

Username: Turbulence [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-16 18:31:33 and read 28605 times.

Well written!!!!.

I've flown recently (Dec 24th) and I find myself in Brazil, at my wife's family. Next friday-saturday (Jan 18th & 19th) I (actually we: my wife, my little 13 month old little daughter and myself) will be flying my longest trip ever: GYN-BSB-SSA-LIS-BCN (trip report to come).

Be sure that I have been saying before, I'm saying now, and I'll keep on saying, that flying is the safest transportation way, for what "9Y-ISA" wrote and much much more, and that fly is what we need to do for growing our passion and helping the best invention ever go safer than never before.

Fly whenever you can, and spend money wherever you go. Fly and encourage your friends and relatives to fly. Fully agreeing with Colin, this is the very best you can do.

Best turbulences

Username: B767400ER [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-18 00:44:50 and read 28582 times.

Great article. Nicely written also!

Come out and visit our islands of Hawaii! Now's the best time to travel and you know we'll all be safe. Everything is back on its upswing and things will hopefully return to normal very soon! Here's happy travelling to a safe 2002!

-B- :)

Username: 747-600X [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-19 05:59:47 and read 28546 times.


2001 was one of the safest years in all of aviation history, actually.
34 Multi-Engine airliners crashed in 2001, a considerable notch less than many other years and the lowest of any year since 1946.
In 2001, 1118 people died in those planes when they crashed, and even including the completely unusual terrorist attacks wherein about 150 of those flyers met their ends, that figure is still hugely less than the 30-year average of 1400 people.
The article was very nicely written but, I feel, not deeply researched. This in turn inclines me to believe that it may have been written quickly so as to take advantage of a vacancy in the Articles section which would very quickly be filled. Though none can say for sure, if that were the case I would be most dissapointed.

I was, however, very impressed with the last paragraph. The advice given is wholesome and sincere, and for it I'll vouch - I've flown several times since September 11th, including just two weeks after that tragic day. While I dislike usage of such phrases as "another unbelievable tragedy", given that it was entirely beleivable and no more or less so than any other crash (this referring to the American A300 crash for which the quote above was used in the article), I still find the article a nice piece of writing even if initially somewhat innacurate.

Username: Colinsensei [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-19 21:36:16 and read 28535 times.

Hi All,

I suppose that I have to explain what I meant by "the most catastrophic year ever for commercial airlines.” I am not simply referring to crashes or loss of life, but also the economic losses and, more importantly, the loss of faith and good will in the airline industry. All of these things combined made for what I believe to be the worst year ever for commercial aviation. That loss of faith has translated into a massive downturn in passengers, which has led to job losses in the airline industry and the cancellation of airliner orders. What four crashes in aviation history have had a similar impact? The DeHavilland Comet disasters led to the demise of the British jetliner industry, but did not have worldwide repercussions.

As for the “unbelievable” nature of the A300 crash, I certainly could not believe that an accident (a real accident) happened so soon after September 11. Yes, airliners do crash and yes, this crash was in and of itself nothing new. However, for it to happen when it did, in New York, was utterly unbelievable. Perhaps I should have used a synonym for unbelievable, such as “incredible,” “astonishing” or “mindboggling.”

If anyone feels there are gaps that to fill on the articles page, I urge them to submit stories for consideration. This page is “by you/for you.”

Thank you again for your kind comments,

Colin Saunders

Username: 747-600X [User Info]
Posted 2002-01-26 09:32:50 and read 28422 times.

Mr. Saunders,

Your "rephrasings" were worth it... thank you for explaining what you meant a bit more.

I guess I sometimes have a too-factual mind when it comes to things like this. The odds of an airplane crashing in New York were no greater or lesser than any other period of time, so to me it's just sort of sad. I can, however, appreciate with sometimes offset empathy the mindboggled nature of being emotionally unable to withstand the extremities of these disasters.

Thank you again, and my sincerest apologies for the "filling a gap" comment which I think may have been frankly out of line.

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