Photo: M.A. Case / New Canaan Resident
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To the Editor:

On behalf of the New Canaan Democratic Town Committee, I extend my thanks to all who attended the DTC annual barbecue at Kiwanis Park on Sunday. We were especially honored to have our two U.S. senators, Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy, and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes with us and we are grateful for their inspirational remarks and their time that they spent one-on-one with the enthusiastic crowd.

In addition, we welcomed Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, Attorney General George Jepsen, General Assembly Representative William Tong and Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim.

Throughout the event, the speakers offered their strong support for all of our local candidates who are running for elected office. Six of our candidates — Kit Devereaux for first selectwoman, Rob Fryer for town treasurer, Sheri West for Board of Education, Liz Gores Donovan, Sven Englund and Colm Dobbyn for Town Council — spoke about their vision and commitment to New Canaan and were energized by the turnout and encouragement each received from the dignitaries and the crowd in attendance.

Looking ahead, our Democratic candidates recognize they represent all constituents in New Canaan, adults and children, regardless of party affiliation. Accordingly, they each look forward to introducing themselves and hearing from all New Canaanites over the next weeks leading up to the municipal election on Nov. 7.

Bob Smith

New Canaan DTC Chair

To the Editor:

I am responding to Jim Cameron’s commentary titled “Hidden turbulence in air travel safety” that you published on the opinion page Sept 23. I know that Mr. Cameron writes about commuting issues and I suggest that he limit his “opinion” to trains, buses and Highways. His opinion on Air Safety was filled with alleged facts which were, in order, partially true, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong. He was restating urban myths, outdated practices and participating in the all too common sport of airline bashing. I am a senior Captain with one of the three major U.S. airlines, with 34 years of experience and prior to that I spent 9 years as an Aircraft Commander for the USAF flying cargo jets. I would like to correct the record.

Rear facing seats: Mr. Cameron is correct on the research and that the Military fly cargo/passenger planes with rear facing seats. Please consider that these planes are designed to fly their passengers into hostile airspace and land at airfields that may be in war zones. Their chance of coming under attack and landing with “incident” is many times greater than on any airliner. Furthermore, airlines cannot force passengers to buy tickets for rear facing seats whereas the Military does “order” its personnel onto flights whether they prefer forward facing seats or not. Rear facing seats have been considered by airlines but the flying public objects and the increased safety benefit is not significant enough to force the issue.

Seat Belts: Mr. Cameron objects to the term Bumpy Air. I never use it and most of my colleagues don’t either. I report light or moderate turbulence. In 34 years of airline flying, I have never experienced severe turbulence nor the worse level called extreme. This is mostly because the FAA prohibits flying U.S. based aircraft into know or forecast areas of severe or extreme turbulence. On a very rare occurrence, some aircraft inadvertently experience severe turbulence when forecasts and reports are wrong or conditions in the atmosphere change. Yes, we try not to scare our passengers with announcements that suggest doom and gloom and most passengers would not know the exact delineation between “light” and “moderate” so some pilots might simplify their terminology to the very basic “bumpy air”. But when there is turbulence of any level, passengers are told to return to their seats and wear their seat belt. Most airlines recommend wearing seat belt whenever seated just as is required of the pilots on the flight deck. There always is the chance for un-forecast turbulence. As for “Clear air turbulence”, which Mr. Cameron seems to think describes all turbulence, it exists but is only one of many types of turbulence that an aircraft may encounter. My company is spending hundreds of millions of dollars per year on forecasting, reporting, and disseminating information on turbulence to its flight crews in a real-time, worldwide basis. Every passenger should understand that the plane flies just as safely in light or moderate turbulence as in calm air. This is a matter of comfort not safety. The only risk is for passengers not belted in if the aircraft is “bumpy.” So, take safety into your own hands and wear your seatbelt at all time.

Life Jackets: I am exposed to accidents reports for all major and most minor aircraft accidents and incidences. As far as I know, during the Jet age (mid ‘60s onward) only one jet aircraft has ever ditched and as you and I saw on TV, Captain Sullenberger’s plane floated very nicely. I’m sure the passengers on that flight were very happy to know where the exits were, and to have their life vests on, as they waited in ankle deep 31 degree water for the ferries and police to rescue them. So far, all planes that have been ditched (1), have floated. I’m not sure why you state that “Planes don’t float”. And your dismissal of detachable slides is equally disturbing. This is a self-inflating device capable of carrying up to 70 people at sea equipped with boarding ladders, heaving rings, survival tools, signaling equipment, repair kits, storm canopies and more. It doubles as the egress slide for land evacuations and is quite an engineering marvel. If you look at the pictures US Airways Flt 1549, you will see many passengers awaiting rescue while standing or sitting on the slide/rafts in the freezing Hudson river.

Evacuations: You state that the certification tests are rigged. Sure, the tests are rigged, so that a threshold of performance can be established for a newly designed aircraft. If the tests work in 90 seconds, it indicated that a real evacuation will not be hindered by design flaws. Every load of passengers is different, including age, fitness, language, and attitude. Every evacuation will be different. The common factor is the flight attendants are professionals and experts at conducting aircraft evacuation and will get you off a plane as expeditiously as possible, when the need occurs.

Security: Sir, you just don’t have a clue as to what goes on behind the scenes with respect to cargo and baggage and I would need a book to describe it and clearance to do so. I will simply refute your statement that “a person can easily ship a bomb.” It is a ridiculous oversimplification that is simply not true.

Liquids: You state “The real explosives-perfumes and duty free booze-are still allowed.” Sorry but these are both flammable liquids, not explosives. There is a big difference. Yes, they could hurt someone if used as a weopon, but they could not cause a plane to crash or be taken over to be used in a 9-11 type attack. Almost any item that you carry onto a plane could be “weaponized” in some way or another.

Your conclusion is that you “hate to sound like a grouch, but flying is no longer fun. It is neither glamorous nor safe”. Not fun and glamorous is your opinion, but not Safe is absolutely wrong. American aviation is absolutely the safest industry there is. The industry is currently boasting amazingly good safety statistic. We have gone for quite a few years without a significant air crash or death caused by an air accident. That is millions of flights and billions of passengers carried safely. As far as fun and glamour, it is all there for a price. If you shop at Walmart, you have a particular type of shopping experience, probably not glamorous, yet at Mitchell’s, I’m sure it would be glamorous. You might pay 10-50 times as much for a suit, and that would be your choice.

I am immensely proud of working for my company and equally proud of our safety record and of the product that we provide the flying public. The United States Airline industry is one of Americas greatest industries. My guess is that 99% of my passengers are happy and satisfied or even delighted with their travel experience on my flights. I take great pride in that statement. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what to do for the 1% who are grouches.

Captain Lawrence Rehr