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Nikki Statler, Director of Marketing
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Impacts of the Attacks: Thinking Back 20 Years on September 11, 2001, and the Air Zoo

Twenty years ago, during the hot and humid summer of 2001, a host of visiting airplanes filled the sky during the gala Warbirds Over Kalamazoo. The B-17 Yankee Lady flew in, Otto the Airshow Helicopter performed and provided rides, and Waldo Wright Flying Service’s New Standard Biplane offered a weekend of vintage adventures. The late Dale Snodgrass dazzled the crowd with a low pass in his T-6 while the Army National Guard presented Blue Thunder. As flight enthusiasts kept their eyes to the skies, they couldn’t know that soon, an airborne tragedy would impact America and the Air Zoo.

It wasn’t lost on the Air Zoo family that during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the airplane itself had been used as a weapon. Lives were taken. Lives were changed. Swiftly, aviation-related impacts advanced across the nation. 

The federal government reacted by closing airports. President George W. Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) and launched the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Airports cancelled flights and travel demand dropped 30% as some learned to fear air travel.

The Air Zoo faced aviation-related impacts, too. According to former President and CEO Bob Ellis, “Before September 11, 2001, the Kalamazoo Air Zoo frequently received requests to fly its historic aircraft over parades, football games, and special events.” Bob explained that the impacts of the attacks rendered those once-electrifying flyovers illegal. Former Air Zoo Director of Operations Kim Robinson remembers that historic day. “Bob was out of state… and I was in charge” she said. Kim explained that the aviation-related modifications and regulations “pretty much signaled the end of our flight program due to the increase in insurance costs.” Sorrow hung over the Air Zoo during that difficult time.

But with hope and tenacity, the Air Zoo—just like the USA—moved forward. In his newsletter address to members, Bob honored those lost and affected by the attacks. He conveyed the shared uncertainty that many felt 20 years ago when he said, “all of the rules have changed.” Then, he nudged a shaken community to help get people and planes back in the air again by extending this heartening advice: 

“Now, go fly on an airplane.”  

Posted by Nikki Statler at 6:00 AM
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