Grounded Georgia pilot bides time in Brookhaven

Published 5:00 am Friday, September 14, 2001

Tom Ross was supposed to be in Decatur, Ala., Thursday.

Instead, the pilot from Fayetteville, Ga., was spending anotherday at a Brookhaven hotel while his Cessna 310 sat covered at thelocal airport. Thousands of miles away from Tuesday’s terroristattacks in New York and Washington, Ross remained groundedfollowing a Federal Aviation Administration decision to closeairports and lock down the airspace.

“I’m used to getting in my plane and going and doing what I dofor my customers, and I can’t do that,” Ross said yesterdayafternoon as a television in the hotel lobby relayed the latestnews on the attacks and rescue efforts.

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Ross, owner of Atlanta Bar Code, arrived Monday to installupdated inventory control equipment at the Georgia-PacificMonticello mill. He completed his work Wednesday and planned to flyout that afternoon to work at an Alabama International Paperplant.

“The airplane really is a lifeline for us,” said Ross, 54.

Nevertheless, Ross is taking the grounding in stride, saying anyinconveniences are “nothing significant.” He said it’s really nodifferent than if he had planned to be gone a full week.

“I check with the office and talk to my wife to see thatnothing’s going on,” Ross said.

Ross described the terrorist attacks as an incursion oncitizens’ freedoms. He said it’s frustrating to lose part of thatfreedom.

“That’s what irritates me,” Ross said.

With a knowing laugh of a veteran of almost 40 years of flying,Ross said the thought of trying to fly home has not crossed hismind.

“If the FAA locks down the air space, I’m not going anywhere,”Ross said.

Ross’ history with planes includes military service, flyingcommercially for Eastern for over four years and three years with aregional service. He said he has flown 727s into New York,Washington and Boston.

“I know what’s going on at the airports,” Ross said aboutheightened security measures.

For his situation, he has been calling regional flight servicecenters to get information about when general aviation flightscould resume. He indicated disappointment that higher updecision-makers were not passing on enough information to the frontline services so that they could speak with authority on flightplans.

At the Brookhaven Airport, manager Benton Furlow said he spokewith an FAA official Thursday afternoon who gave no indication ofwhen flights could resume.

“All the general aviation planes are still grounded,” Furlowsaid. “We’re still right where we were two days ago.”

Some commercial flights resumed briefly Thursday. Even in thebest-case scenario, though, Ross said it would take three to fourdays for airlines to resume normal operations.

“General aviation is not going to overload the system,” Rosssaid.

Although Ross has spent more time in Brookhaven than originallyplanned, the community has left a good impression. Ross saideveryone has been nice and gone out of their way to help.

“Every place I’ve been, everybody has been real kind andcourteous,” Ross said.