Free to Fly

How will the new approach to aviation touch down in Hood River?

As lives settle in again, neighbors and friends hear more and more reports about Sept. 11 and the days that follow.

We are in an era where -- on one corporate radio network's playlist -- "Leaving On A Jet Plane" is a banned song.

One Hood River woman was flying out of Florida on Sept. 11. Passengers on the plane were told of nationwide flight cancellations, as they were flown back to their place of departure. She spent the next four days waiting for a flight home.

The airways, once a symbol of our fast and mobile existence, are now the most uncertain of zones. Airliners fly all but empty, airports have stricter controls, and "fear of flying" has a grave new meaning for many people.

It all happens when airline service had already rendered air travel a running joke. Before the tragedy, flying had become more frustrating than fearsome. The term jet-set, reflecting our heightened perception of the mode of travel, may never have the same appeal.

Air travel restrictions in late 2001 have found ever new dimensions. A Pendleton casino announced its Oct. 19 hot-air balloon show might be cancelled -- pending FFA approval. Air travel was born on lighter-than-airs, but even they are not immune to modern security needs.

The annual poster contest conducted by Oregon Air Pilots Association will take off as usual, but it comes with its own grounded caveat. The contest theme, ironically, is "The Freedom to Fly." Kids 8-16 can enter their artwork and win a $100 savings bond and a private flight.

It ought to be a completely creative and well, free, activity, but the association saw fit to add a "special note" to parents and teachers in its press release on the contest:

"As we look on in disbelief, we cannot ignore the fact that airplanes were used as tools of destruction and only minutes later airplanes were protecting our president and deployed in countless other missions to defend our country.

"As the recovery efforts get underway, aviation will be a vital part of the mobilization of rescue workers and vital supplies to assist victims and their families.

"We acknowledge that some people may develop a fear of aviation and the associated safety and security issues. We also know others will be moved to seek out advanced knowledge of aviation and its many positive contributions to our lives."

That's sound thinking. Seeking out aviation's positive contributions is also something that has already happened in Hood River. Just three days before the Sept. 11 tragedy, hundreds of people flocked to the newly-renamed Ken Jernstedt Airfield for the annual fly-in. That day, everyone looked at planes differently than they might now.

The airfield is named for a man who defended his country in the Asian theater during World War II. Now, as the U.S. embarks on a "new war," it's a good time to look at the other side of the coin in naming our airfield for a man who fought bravely in one war.

What is the role, and what is the security status, of the Ken Jernstedt Airfield in the next war?

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