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Aviation Industry Changes Since 9/11

For many Americans, and many American industries, the whole world seemed to change after 9/11.

The largest-scale changes, of course, occurred in the aviation industry. In the short-term, flights were grounded while the government weighed options and made decisions on how to better protect citizens from aircraft-related terrorist attacks. In the weeks and months following, the aviation industry went through one of its worst down-swings. Airlines cut many jobs, people had to re-educate themselves for new positions, and everyone had to adjust to new security practices.

Captain Joe Prater, President of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said, "After the attacks of 9/11, our profession paid a heavy price to help our industry survive the downturns and bankruptcies that followed. Few pilots came through it without enduring concessionary contracts or furloughs. But in the end - armed with the desire to fight to restore our careers and contracts - we only redoubled our efforts to work together, in solidarity, for the benefit of all members" (ALPA New Member Booklet).

The Aviation and Transportation Security Act, passed in November, 2001, created the Transportation Security Administration and made airport security a federal responsibility. Security requirements permanently altered some aspects of the aviation field.

Behzad Aryavand, Education Director of the Manassas, Virginia, campus of the Aviation Institute of Maintenance and long-time aircraft mechanic, said he had seen many changes in the industry during his time, the most notable of which were the security-related changes after September 11.

Aryavand, who has been in the aviation since the mid-to-late '80s, said he could remember nights in his early years when there was nothing more peaceful than getting out of work in the wee hours of the morning after "a long day of wrenching on airplanes" to the blue lights and absolute peace and stillness of the tarmac. Nowadays, it would be unthinkable even for an insider like an FAA-licensed mechanic to be able to move freely about the tarmac with no specific reason.

There are so many more fences, security checks and cross-checks, so many security guards watching every move, that it has become harder to feel that sense of freedom and up-close love of the airplane. But Aryavand says that love still comes to those who get close enough to the vehicles to understand how they work, what they do, and the sheer miracle that these monstrous machines are even able to take flight.

In order to get that job close to the plane, potential applicants today must be much more careful about their actions. Background checks have become a very important part of the hiring process. As a result, Aryavand suggests that anyone considering a career in aviation pay particular attention to their actions. "Keep your nose clean," Aryavand said. Even something as minimal as an excess of traffic tickets or a suspended license can make the difference between a lucrative aviation career and no job at all.