- The Washington Times - Friday, July 26, 2002

Flying 77

Carmen D. Villani Jr., a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute who served in the Air Force for six years, is a captain for American Airlines. He lives near Washington Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia.

Just days before September 11, Mr. Villani reveals to Inside the Beltway, he flew Flight 77 and was scheduled to fly it again on Sept. 13. To say he's interested in airline security including the issue of guns in the cockpit is an understatement.

That's not to say the captain supports arming pilots.

"Congressman Don Young [Alaska Republican] asked during congressional hearings on the matter of arming pilots: 'Do you really think that 9/11 would have happened if our pilots had been armed?' I believe a more pertinent question is: If our government agencies had 'connected the dots' to the intelligence they had received and the strategy of dealing with a hijacking had been to resist rather than cooperate, do you really think that 9/11 would have happened?" he says.

"Even more troubling is his inference that flying aboard commercial aircraft is not safe unless pilots are armed," the pilot continues. "Such an assertion ignores the fact that [Israeli airline] El Al has not had a hijacking in 34 years and their pilots are not armed. It also doesn't recognize that since 9/11, there have been three attempts to bring down a commercial airliner and all were successfully averted due to the courage and resolve of passengers and crew members alike."

Just yesterday, Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, invoking the name of Charles "Chic" Burlingame, the captain of American Airlines Flight 77 when it slammed into the Pentagon, sponsored legislation to arm pilots.

Recently, Mr. Allen questioned former Transportation Security Administration head John Magaw about whether it would have made a difference if Capt. Burlingame had been armed. Mr. Magaw replied, "It may have," although the TSA then opposed the option (Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta has since stated that position is under review).

"We owe it to the thousands of courageous pilots like Captain Burlingame who protect and safely transport us, to give them every reasonable method to level the field against those who would do us harm," Mr. Allen says.

Mr. Villani isn't so sure.

"I believe the 'safe zone' concept is a more viable option," he says of a proposed cockpit-security system creating a secured zone for flight crews inside the plane, allowing them to open the cockpit door and move about with safety.

The developers, ARINC Inc. and RQuest Product Development Corp., tell us the system has four components: a bullet-resistant cockpit door, a secondary webbed door, a retractable security curtain allowing flight crews protected access to lavatories and galley, and bullet-resistant seat backs for the pilots in case somebody else is carrying a gun.

Space for Green

He was accused of taking votes away from Democrat Al Gore in the controversial 2000 presidential election. Now Ralph Nader, who ran for president in 1996 and 2000 as candidate of the Green Party, is huddling with the Democratic Party.

In fact, Mr. Nader revealed at a press conference this month that he's consulting with House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri on the issue of corporate reform.

"The Democrats have now decided to make this the big political issue for the November election," Mr. Nader said. "I spoke to Mr. Gephardt, and he confirmed that their strategy is to link this corruption to the Republican Party."

Meanwhile, Mr. Gephardt this week sought the presence of several consumer-related groups to rally behind him at his own press conference. Among them was Mr. Nader's Citizens Works Advocates.

"I want to thank all the groups that are here and have fought with us to stand up for the people of this country," said the Democrat. "I don't want to leave anybody out, but without their hard work, we wouldn't be here today."

Typical liberal

"The far left is busy these days," observes Jennifer Bishop of Austin, Texas, the president and chief executive of buttafly.com.

"Between whining about the country's war efforts and attending celebrity benefits for fashionable diseases, they simply don't have the time for trifles like political debate and thoughtful analysis of issues," she says.

Therefore, as a public service, Miss Bishop this month invented the "Hysterical Liberal Magic Eight Ball," found on her Web site.

"So," she says, "if you would like to hold a discussion of current events and politics but can't find any liberals, don't worry. Just click on the magic ball for the answer to any tough question from the point of view of an emotional, irrational liberal."

Inside the Beltway yesterday asked the liberal eight ball two questions and received two answers: "The solution is to raise taxes" and "You're stupid."

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