BERLIN, Vt. (AP) — Gov. Peter Shumlin doesn't mind flying in the state's half-century-old single engine-plane, even though two of his predecessors declined to use it.
"I was born without a fear gene," the Democrat, who is finishing up his third and final two-year term, boasted in an interview. He joked that the 1960 four-seater Cessna is his "security team's nightmare and a lieutenant governor's dream."
The plane has been getting more use by the governor and attention this year now that Shumlin has moved from East Montpelier, not far from the Statehouse, back to his home area in southern Vermont, about two hours away by car.
Guy Rouelle, the state Agency of Transportation's director of aviation, said the plane is well-maintained and safe to fly and used only when weather conditions are favorable.
"We would be breaking all kinds of federal laws if we were flying an airplane that was not approved to be in the air," Rouelle said.
The governor agreed and said previous instances of the door popping open midflight were a matter of user error.
"Once you figure out the door handle, you're in pretty good shape," Shumlin said. "It took me a few times to figure out exactly how to keep it shut. So on more than one occasion I found myself securing it in midair."
Shumlin said he took the plane once to a meeting in New York with Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. There was a bit of plane envy when Cuomo arrived in a twin-engine jet, Shumlin acknowledged.
"I asked my team to get there early and hide it around the back of the runway so he (Cuomo) wouldn't see it," Shumlin said.
Rouelle said neither of the two governors who immediately preceded Shumlin, Republican Jim Douglas and Democrat Howard Dean, used the plane.
Dean didn't immediately reply to an email seeking comment. Douglas said it was at the advice of the Vermont State Police, who provide security for the governor.
"They discouraged governors from flying in a single-engine plane," Douglas said. "I frankly never gave it another thought."
An Associated Press reporter who flew in the plane more than 20 years ago with state officials recalls that it made for a tough interview. It was too loud to hear much of what was being said and too bumpy to take good notes.
Shumlin, who has made the fight against climate change a premier issue, asserted that the carbon impact of using the plane is no worse than traveling by car, but that claim doesn't appear to fly.
A roundtrip flight from Berlin, the closest state airport to Montpelier, to Springfield, the closest to Shumlin's Westminster home, takes a little under an hour in a Cessna using 12 gallons of fuel per hour, Rouelle said. In one of the large SUVs he rides in, the 166-mile trip would take 8.3 gallons.