Attack on America
Ben Cole took this photo of Manhattan Island, New York
as he flew his single-seat Stingray up the Hudson River in late
July, 2000. The twin World Trade Center Towers that once dominated
the Manhattan skyline are now but a memory.
Ultralight Flying! magazine joins with America and the rest
of the world in expressing great sorrow and outrage at the September
11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. The
attacks completely destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade
Center, and did incredible damage to the Pentagon. The loss of
life is incomprehensible.
September 11, 2001 was the day terrorists flew two hijacked
passenger-carrying jets into the twin towers of New York City's
World Trade Center, and a third was crashed into the Pentagon
in Washington, D.C. A fourth hijacked jet crashed in western Pennsylvania,
evidently short of its undetermined target. It's a date Americans
will always remember.
These outrageous acts of terrorism shut down the national airspace
system (NAS) in America for the first time since World War II.
Most commercial operations have resumed. Most VFR operations,
including ultralight flight and ultralight training, have resumed
(see www.usua.org for the most current information).
While the aftermath of these events dominate the news, Ultralight
Flying! magazine remembers the grandeur of the World Trade
Center's towers and the people who occupied them through the eyes
of two ultralight pilots who had the privilege of flying their
ultralights by these American symbols of power and freedom.
In June '88 Roland Alexander flew his amphibious ultralight
Buccaneer from Florida up the East Coast to Maine. One of the
excursions he made en route was down the Hudson River in the special
VFR corridor created for small aircraft operations.
"When I was planning my flight up to Maine, I thought
I'd just skirt the Statue of Liberty and continue flying up the
Eastern Seaboard," says Alexander. "A friend of mine,
who is from the New York City area said, 'You've got to fly up
by the Hudson River by the towers of the World Trade Center. It's
a sight you'll never forget.'
"And he was right. When I reached New York City, I flew
around the Statue of Liberty then headed north up the Hudson River
for about 10 miles before turning around and heading back. The
WTC towers were huge, perfect square pillars and I was so close
"It's hard to imagine those magnificent towers are now
For pilot Ben Cole, who spent July and September in '00 flying
his single-seat amphibious Stingray through 49 states, the privilege
of flying up the Hudson River will always be remembered.
"I actually flew closer to the World Trade Center towers
than the Statue of Liberty," Cole recalls. "This was
the procedure. I left New Jersey, you had to be over 500 feet
and under 800 feet, and you had to be on the right side of the
Hudson River if you were going north. You don't even have to talk
to the controllers. You have to have a transponder and squawk
1200 and you have to announce your progress. 'This is 249 Bravo
Charlie crossing the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at 600 feet. This
is 249 Bravo Charlie passing Governors Island at 700 feet.' And
you'll hear other people, mostly police helicopters, sightseers
or news helicopters announcing, 'This is police chopper so-and-so
abeam the Lady,' (that's the expression they used, meaning they
were flying by the Statue of Liberty)."
Once Cole skirted the Statue of Liberty, he flew up the Hudson
"The World Trade Center towers dominated the skyline on
that part of the Hudson River," says Cole. "They were
giant glistening towers that were absolutely beautiful. They were
so tall, the wind currents through there created a good bit of
"They were perfectly square - so simple yet so dominate,
so inspiring. They were just a different dimension as far as the
other buildings go. Everything else around there - the Empire
State Building, the Chrysler Building - were all the more traditional
architecture, but these were just so distinctive. They were like
the pinnacle of the architecture in New York City. They were close
to the water and it just didn't seem like the ground could support
them, they were so tall and massive.
"When I flew by the towers, I was probably flying at 700
feet and they were towering above me another 400 feet. I remember
looking over at them and thinking, How many people are watching
this little airplane go up the Hudson River. I wonder what they're
"The towers just stood there like silent sentinels. They
were all-glass wonders, highly reflective."
The act of crashing two jetliners into those towers "is
a watershed moment in American history," Cole says. "I
haven't broken down and cried since I was a kid, and when I saw
those buildings come down, I teared up. I couldn't stand it. I
was watching TV, the planes had hit, the commentator was talking
about something else and this building just collapses. And I'm
thinking, Thousands of people just died.
"I was stunned. It just seemed incomprehensible."
No doubt, along with many other repercussions, these terroristic
acts have affected the way we aviate in America, both commercially
and recreationally. The future will show just how much American
aviation has been and will be affected.