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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Danbury Airport has a long history of complaints

The lack of security at Danbury Airport has been well known problem and for years and after 9-11 people who live in surrounding towns have increased their complaints to Mayor Boughton for years with no success.

Joe Leheny has lived next to Danbury Municipal Airport for 38 years. He has complained from time to time about engine noise and late-night, low-flying planes.

Now that a drunken Bethel man allegedly stole a plane from the airport and flew it around for a few hours, Leheny is questioning security at the small airport.

"I'm sorry that it happened. I would hope it won't happen again. But we live in a copycat world. When's the next drunk going to try it and crash into my house? You worry a little," Leheny said.

Airport neighbors, long at odds with Danbury airport administrators and City Hall over everything from engine noise to tree cutting, said their past complaints about security at the airport fell on deaf ears.


Sherman's group made a presentation to the Danbury Aviation Commission three years ago. One of the many issues discussed was what neighbors said was lax security at the airport.

Specifically, the neighbors said at the time the airport's perimeter fence was too low in places and a gate near a large, above-ground fuel tank was never locked.

"We made the warning and they ignored it. From what I hear, they are ignoring this warning. I want to see (Danbury officials) take responsibility for their airport," Sherman said. "We had a plane stolen. There is something wrong there. They have to stop burying their heads in the sand."

John Katz, a Ridgefield resident who serves on the board of the Wooster School, a private school next to the airport, said last week's incident underlines the city's poor management of the airport.

Unfortunately, it took a theft of a airplane by a 20 year old drunk kid for some politicians to raise a red flag and take a closer look at the problem in Danbury.
Prominent politicians Monday called for more investigations into the theft of an airplane from Danbury Municipal Airport last week, citing post-Sept. 11 security concerns.

U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton seek federal investigations into security at the nation's small airports.

"Danbury airport, and possibly other airports around the state, clearly have security issues and reviewing security in small airports is something we need to look at closely," said Shays, R-4th Dist.

Shays is preparing a letter to send to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Federal Aviation Administration, and plans to get the signatures of Connecticut's seven-member Congressional delegation.
As I stated in earlier posts, the lack of security at Danbury Airport is nothing new. Mayor Boughton was well aware of the situation as well as Rep. Nancy Johnson (Danbury is part of the 5th district), Gov. Jodi Rell (a resident of Brookfield which is next door to Danbury) and anyone who lives in Danbury area because problems and crashes at the airport have been in the news for years.

Although Mayor Boughton promises to investigate the matter but not everyone is confident that the mayor will follow through on the recommendations.

The mayor said the city will hire a consultant next month to do a top-to-bottom assessment of security of the small airport.

"We can always do more for security. We're not happy with someone sneaking into the airfield and stealing a airplane," Boughton said. "But we need a plan to do that. We are going to spend $25,000 on a consultant who studies airport security. He is going to review all of our practices and then make suggestions as to how we can improve security. We're responding in a measured, reasonable way."

Sherman, though, said Boughton has promised to do airport-related studies in the past but did not follow through.

"It sounds to me like fancy footwork. It's possible if the study is actually done, actually completed and reports something and the recommendations are sound and implemented, I would applaud that," he said. "But the reality is you don't need a study to see what some of the obvious problems are at the airport."