Acutely aware of the Palo Alto Airport's limited-visibility future, the airport's pilots' and aircraft-owners' group is pushing tighter takeoff-and-landing procedures to show more consideration for East Palo Alto neighborhoods.
But the Palo Alto Airport Association stops short of urging a ban on such flights in a new proposal presented by Vice President Bob Lenox this week.
The airport is presently operated by Santa Clara County under a long-term lease that technically expires in 2017. County airport officials have told Palo Alto that they will not continue operating the airport after that -- and even would like out of it sooner. Palo Alto is investigating whether it should operate the airport itself.
"It's put-up-or-shut-up time, folks," Lenox summed up his bluntly worded e-mail, referring to the airport's tenuous position.
"We are a minority that exists with the tolerance of the community at large. We all understand that a key component of safe flying is risk management. We must do whatever we can to further enhance what really is, in the longer perspective, an excellent safety record."
Lenox began his e-mail in more measured terms:
"In the aftermath of this past week's tragic accident, the airport is under increased scrutiny."
"The aviation community must do all it can to minimize risks to the surrounding areas, and the perception of risk.
"The accident last week came perilously close to causing bodily harm to individuals on the ground. As it was, the psychological and physical damage was immense, and the political pressure on the airport has never been greater," Lenox said.
He said pilots could do two things immediately to ease concern of residents: Don't ask or accept departure routes over residential areas and (for high-performance planes) reduce takeoff engine power slowly, not all at once.
"There are jangled nerves in East Palo Alto," Lenox said. "The change in engine sounds is alarming, despite it being considered good operating practice by us. The perception of a rapid change in engine RPM is unsettling!"
"Hundreds of emails and phone calls between the (association's) Board, the pilot community, media, emergency response and the community have literally been a full-time job for some members of the association over the last few days," he said, in an appeal for help from the group's members in terms of time and funding.
But one pilot, Peter Carpenter, is even more blunt and urgent than Lenox.
Prior to last Wednesday's crash "there were a small and vocal minority of people opposed to the airport, a somewhat larger and more vocal group of airport supporters and most of the others were on the fence," Carpenter said in an e-mail to Lenox and other pilots.
Since Wednesday "many of the fence sitters have moved to the anti camp and none have moved to the pro camp," he said. In a separate e-mail, he cited Town Square forum comments as running 9-to-1 against continuing the airport operations.
The airport has one runway, but it is referred to by two names: Runway 13 and Runway 31. That refers to which way planes are headed on the runway, based on compass readings minus the third digit.