U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta has ordered the national airspace system re-opened to commercial and private aviation, effective at 11 a.m. Eastern time Thursday.
The Secretary’s decision was made after a series of meetings throughout the day and night Wednesday with White House and Cabinet officials, Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Jane Garvey, aviation industry leaders, as well as intelligence and law enforcement representatives.
“The re-opening of our national airspace is good news for travelers, for the airlines and for our economy. But I must caution everyone that a system as diverse and complex as ours cannot be brought back up instantly. We will re-open airports and resume flights on a case-by-case basis, only after they implement our more stringent levels of security. This phased approach will assure the highest levels of safety, which remains our primary goal,” said Mineta.
On Wednesday, Secretary Mineta had approved a limited re-opening of the system, allowing aircraft diverted during Tuesday’s terrorist attacks to continue to their destinations or be repositioned in anticipation of today’s decision.
At the same time, he announced a series of heightened security measures, including a ban on curbside luggage check-in and off-airport passenger check-in. Before being allowed to re-open, airports must clear their terminals of people and conduct thorough searches. Once re-opened, airports will feature an increased presence of law enforcement officers, restricted access beyond the screening area and other restrictions.