Thousands of Connecticut residents are taking advantage of the holiday-shortened week by traveling to visit friends and family. For most, the top inconvenience in getting there, wherever “there” is, will be traffic congestion and delays caused by trying to squeeze too many drivers on the state’s overwhelmed highways. Those travelers flying to their destination will face the normal challenges of commercial air travel like delays and cancellations, but with just a little bit of luck, all of them will end up where they want to go.
The same luck was not with the group of travelers who ended up in Connecticut last fall during the October 2011 snowstorm. Hundreds of people were stranded at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks when the freak autumn snowstorm forced 28 flights to be diverted there. Some passengers spent nearly eight hours in airplanes on the tarmac before the airlines and airport officials could get them off their aircraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration is leading the review and planning process to ensure that similar situations are better handled in the future.
Last month, Bradley officials released the airport’s Emergency Contingency Plan for similar events in the future. It mostly serves as a missive as to why the October disaster happened in the first place: inadequate equipment, too few personnel, and limited capabilities. For example:
Bradley International Airport does not own or operate any of the equipment needed to safely deplane passengers from air carrier aircraft and is, therefore, unable on its own to provide for the deplanement of passengers. Additionally airport personnel are not trained to assist in the deplanement of passengers using equipment owned or operated by air carriers or contract service providers. However, we have requested that each airline, ground handler and FBO operation on the airport provide us with a list of the equipment and resources they have for deplaning passengers and contact information. We will provide this inventory and contact information to airlines as soon as practicable after receiving requests from such airlines experiencing excessive tarmac delays at the contact number listed above.
None of it inspires confidence about preparedness for next time.
In the context, though, the report is predictable. The whole episode barely entered the public consciousness because the same snowstorm left thousands of residents huddled in the cold darkness for much of the following week. The Hartford Courant wrote an editorial and a few legislators called for investigations, but that was about the extent of it.
As the Courant editorial noted, the opportunity to impress the visitors was lost. Of graver concern is the contradiction of the state’s basic message to the world.
At the most fundamental level, there are two sales pitches states make to attract businesses and families. One message is value and the other is easy. What makes a state great?
Some states advertise making it easy. Alabama, for example, announced a deal last week to bring the first Airbus factory to the United States, creating more than 1,000 new jobs. They are jobs that could have gone anywhere, including Connecticut. Alabama made it easy for the company with low taxes, comparatively low labor costs, and a corporate welfare package. Those jobs make it easy for a family to consider places like Alabama when considering where to live.
Connecticut’s sales pitch, on the other hand, is about value. The message is that you have to pay a premium to live or do business, but the perks justify the expense. When our actions make the statement demonstrably false, we undermine ourselves.
Heath W. Fahle is the Policy Director of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy and a former Executive Director of the Connecticut Republican Party. Contact Heath about this article by visiting www.heathwfahle.com