Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 23, 2010

Chilling recordings relate plane-crash fears

FAA releases tapes of air-traffic exchanges with pilot following Feb. 17 East Palo Alto crash

by Sue Dremann

Two audio recordings of communications between air-traffic controllers reveal rising anxiety and a tense exchange as the controllers realized pilot Doug Bourn had crashed on takeoff from the Palo Alto Airport Feb. 17.

Bourn and two fellow Tesla employees died in a fiery crash in an East Palo Alto neighborhood after their twin-engine Cessna took off in heavy fog and suddenly veered to the left, striking high-tension powerlines and a tower before crashing into an East Palo Alto neighborhood and causing a 10-hour power failure in Palo Alto.

The recordings, released by the Federal Aviation Administration at the request of the San Jose Mercury News, detailed that air-traffic controllers felt fog-related visibility was so risky they told Bourn they would not take responsibility for Bourn's plane or his two passengers.

The recordings initially capture the usual protocols for flights. A controller reviews Bourn's flight plan for the trip to Hawthorne, Calif. He was to "turn right heading 060 within 1 mile," the controller said. Bourn can be heard confirming the plan.

Bourn was then released for takeoff, with a caveat.

"We have your release and the runway is not visible so it's at your own risk," a controller matter-of-factly told Bourn.

After a 30-second silence, the controller told Bourn the release was only valid for two minutes.

"OK. I, uh, did not hear that I'm cleared for takeoff," Bourn said.

"I cannot clear you for takeoff because I don't have visibility on the runway so the release is all yours and it's at your own risk, sir," the controller said.

"OK. 25 Juliet, rolling," Bourn replied.

The plane took off but quickly dropped off the radar screen. Controllers at Palo Alto Airport, Moffett Field in Mountain View and Norcal TRACON tried to reach Bourn by radio. There was no response.

"Twin Cessna 25 Juliet, contact Norcal Departure. ... Twin Cessna 25 Juliet, contact Norcal Departure. ... Twin Cessna 25 Juliet, contact Norcal Departure," the controllers repeated over a 42-second period, while an alarm beeped insistently in the background.

Then power failed in the control tower.

Palo Alto Controller 1: "Airport One, Palo Alto Ground. ... We have a full power loss up here."

Airport One: "Yeah, it looks like the whole airport the power's out. The beacon's not on right now. ..."

Palo Alto Controller 1 to Moffett controller: "Yeah, we have a full power loss right now and if you can get ahold of them tell them we have a report that they may have been crashed off the end of our runway."

Moffett and Palo Alto controllers exchanged information that neither they nor Norcal TRACON could raise Bourn on communication channels.

Palo Alto Controller 1: "I keep trying to call them."

Moffett: " ... You guys need to get out there to the end of the runway to see it..."

Bourn's plane had veered sharply to the left and struck a high-tension tower and power lines shortly after takeoff and then broke apart and crashed in flames into the Beech Street residential neighborhood in East Palo Alto.

Several homes were damaged, including one that was destroyed, as were a number of vehicles. No one on the ground was injured, although some narrow misses were reported.

DROP BUG HERE:

Listen to the audio recordings: Pilot Doug Bourn confirms flight plan with Palo Alto air-traffic controller; Palo Alto air-traffic controller issues the release for Bourn's take-off but says it's 'at your own risk' (recording includes 30 seconds of silence); Palo Alto and Norcal TRACON controllers try to communicate with Bourn; Palo Alto and Moffett Field air-traffic controllers fear the plane has crashed

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be e-mailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Retired Staffer, a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2010 at 12:29 am

This question is for the aviators in the audience: Is it possible that either the pilot or the aircraft suffered a fatal event on takeoff, and he was trying to "come about" and land the plane on the golf course instead of flying into the fog? Thanks for your input.


Posted by PatrickD, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 22, 2010 at 12:53 am

I think that's unlikely. You're taught to try and land straight ahead at PAO on runway 31.

I still think the most likely scenario was the critical engine failed (ie. the left engine) and there was adverse yaw to the left which caused him to go off course. That would explain the low altitude as well since it would be difficult to climb with one engine out. The fog definitely contributed to the accident.


Posted by FlyingPilot, a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2010 at 4:29 am

He took off in conditions that were absurd. He let the pressure of getting his passengers to their meeting in SoCal influence his judgement. A stupid way to die and totally avoidable. Just a guess, but I'll bet he caught a power line (it was zero-zero that day at that time) and in he went with his doomed passengers.

When the families get wind of his criminally poor judgement - look out for the lawsuits that will follow.


Posted by Gordon Reade CFII MEI, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2010 at 7:44 am


As a Multi Engine Flight Instructor who has instructed out of Palo Alto for more than twenty years I have just three things to say;

1) After any fatal accident non-pilots always enjoy attacking the pilot who is now unable to defend himself. It makes them feel superior.

2) In this case the pilot did nothing illegal. He violated no regulations.

3) Even if a pilot flies in only the most optimum condition imaginable his judgment can still be questioned. If the goal of a pilot is to avoid an accident at any cost he or she would never start the engine.


Posted by Daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 22, 2010 at 8:12 am

Gordon Reade CFII MEI-I really resent the smug, condescending attitude toward-"non-pilots". When an airport is virtually adjacent to residential neighborhood we sub-human "non-pilots" have a right to be concerned and alarmed. Let me relay to you verbatim the comment of a friend of mine, a Vietnam era US Navy pilot who had also been a commercial airline pilot for 25 years:"The guy had no business taking off in such conditions, I wouldn't have taken off under those condition for all the money in the world".


Posted by Gordon Reade CFII MEI, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2010 at 8:13 am

Dear FlyingPilot

No one knows from one moment to the next what will happen to an airplane in flight. Even if you do everything right aviation can still kill you in a New York second.

If it had been you, would you want the postmortem carried out on a public forum where anyone could post under names like "FlyingPilot"?

Public finger pointing amounts pilots does not well serve our community. Nor does labeling the departed as "Stupid".


Posted by Gordon Reade CFII MEI, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2010 at 8:21 am

Dear Daniel

If you feel so strongly about third party aviation fatalities you might want to ask your pilot friend to post on this forum and to do so using more than just his first name.

Better yet, contact me and I'll train you how to be a flight instructor. I'd welcome your business and you can train the next generation of pilots. My email is address is reade@stanford.edu.

Clear Skies

Gordon


Posted by Daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 22, 2010 at 8:41 am

Gordon Reade CFII MEI, yours is a non sequitor and condescending reply. I have no interest whatsoever in being a flight instructor or flying small planes. However, as long as the PA airport is open, I want every area resident to be safe from reckless pilot conduct, lax following of safety procedures and bad or non existent FAA regulations.


Posted by Gordon Reade CFII MEI, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2010 at 8:46 am

Hi Daniel

Can you name even one instance of a third party aviation injury or death associated with the Palo Alto Airport? I can not.

Gordon


Posted by Daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 22, 2010 at 8:53 am

The latest crash could have easily caused deaths. Planes have crashed in the baylands before and pilots, although no residents were killed. Your question is tantamount to asking if third party deaths ever occurred in the US from nuclear plant malfunctions and if the answer is negative the conclusion is that we can just have nuclear plants in residential areas and not worry too much about third party casualties. Unlike the San Carlos airport, this airport is adjacent to residential neighborhoods, the mentality that caused the late pilot to take off is wide spread and the issue of third party deaths is not if, but when.


Posted by Gordon Reade, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2010 at 9:16 am

Hi Daniel

So your answer to my question is (in a very roundabout way) "No". I thought so!

Yes, planes have crashed into the baylands because pilots were avoiding areas of population. Did you ever think to say "Thank you" to any of the pilots?

Nuclear power plants? Now that green house gases are the hot button item, I thought nuclear power was in again.

Gordon


Posted by Rob Tanner, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2010 at 9:37 am

Daniel:

Let's refrain from a rush to judgment, shall we? Until the NTSB completes its investigation, we have *no idea* what caused this crash.

- it seems unlikely, but it could be that the fog played no part in the crash
- it seems unlikely, but it could be that there were no mechanical (i.e. engine, instrument) failures
- it seems unlikely, but it could be that the pilot suffered some medical incapacitation at precisely the worst time

Until we receive the final report, all of these comments about pilots "acting rashly" and endangering the lives of the citizenry are just incendiary garbage and based on wild speculation rather than fact.

I also got a chuckle out of your bold statement that the San Carlos Airport as "not adjacent to residential neighborhoods." If you had any real knowledge of local aviation, you would know that this statement is patently false. In fact, San Carlos is far more exposed to adjacent residences than is Palo Alto, and (unlike Palo Alto) has buildings directly off the departure end of the preferred runway.

Doesn't really matter, however...as Mr. Reade says, there has never been a third-party injury or loss of life as a result of airport operations at either San Carlos or Palo Alto.

When you're ready to have a reality-based discussion, then we'll be here to have that conversation.


Posted by Rob Tanner, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2010 at 9:45 am

I should add, by the way, that there is nothing "chilling" about these tapes. If you are a pilot or controller, or familiar at all with aviation, these are really quite standard transmissions (by all parties involved).

I suppose they could sound "chilling" to a reporter who clearly failed to do her homework, but there's no smoking gun here guys.

If I were the NTSB investigator, I would be disappointed in these tapes. They fail to give us any information we haven't known since the day of the crash and are unlikely to shed any light on the cause.


Posted by Scott, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 22, 2010 at 10:32 am

Flying Pilot,

You talk about a lawsuit -- whom would someone sue -- a dead guy? Would a lawsuit solve anything, or just make the lawyers rich and perpetuate our culture of "if something bad happens, sue someone"?


Posted by David Epstein, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2010 at 10:39 am

I'm out of touch on FARs and how they have developed in the last few years. Can someone tell me: Was this a "Special VFR Departure?" I was in a couple of flying clubs and was never allowed to use these procedures; obviously for my own good.

I'm an ASEL private pilot. I stopped flying 14 years ago as I felt I was losing my edge. I haven't missed it very much even though at that point it was a source of great accomplishment and joy.


Posted by General Aviation IS Less Safe Than Commercial Aviation, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 22, 2010 at 10:45 am

> Doesn't really matter, however...as Mr. Reade says, there has never
> been a third-party injury or loss of life as a result of
> airport operations at either San Carlos or Palo Alto.

This is truly an absurd comment. What is a "third party"? Do the passengers who have been killed over the years (and there are a number) count? Or do we call them "second parties", and hence, not "third parties"?

And with this kind of comment, presumably we are to believe that "there never will be any third-parties killed at any of the local airports?"

Rubbish!

Accidents, poor pilot judgement, and/or crazy flying, can occur every minute there is a pilot inside an aircraft, either in the air, or on the ground. Anyone who says otherwise is very foolish, or a bloody liar!


Posted by Rob Tanner, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2010 at 10:49 am

Dear "General Aviation IS Less Safe..."

Thanks for your friendly remarks. I can clearly tell from your username as well as your carefully reasoned comment that you are interested in an intelligent, fact-based conversation. ;)

Therefore, I think I'll just repeat what I said in my earlier post:

"Until we receive the final report, all of these comments about pilots "acting rashly" and endangering the lives of the citizenry are just incendiary garbage and based on wild speculation rather than fact."

Cheers!


Posted by Gordon Reade, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2010 at 10:59 am

The term "third-party" is very well defined. A third-party aviation casualty is not a pilot, or a passenger on an airplane, but a person injured or killed by an aircraft falling on them.

No one on the ground (third-party) has ever been killed or injured by an aviation accident associated with the Palo Alto or San Carlos airports and both airports have been in operation for well over 50 years.

How many children in Palo Alto have been killed crossing the train tracks? Too many to count.


Posted by Gordon Reade, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2010 at 11:02 am

Dear David

The airplane was on an IFR clearance. You can't fly on a Special VFR in zero-zero.


Posted by Gene786, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 22, 2010 at 11:04 am

Generally speaking, headlines are not chosen by the reporter. There is no mention of "chilling" in the body of story. The only interpretative statement the reporter made was that the transmission showed "a rising anxiety and a tense exchange" for which "homework" is not necessary.

On the other hand, to this non-pilot (I've been ferried a couple of times in small planes in the course of duties regarding organ transplantation) I think I would could the message that there was difficulty in visibility, "chilling", personally.


Posted by Gene786, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 22, 2010 at 11:07 am

the last sentence should read "I could find the message"


Posted by Vijay, a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2010 at 11:46 am

Let's have some perspective here.There have been a lot more fatalities on the 101 in East Palo Alto than there have or will be due to aircraft at Palo Alto airport.
For example, this tragedy happened in December:
Web Link

The airport has been around for 70 years, which is a lot longer than most neighborhoods. Daniel, was the airport there when you bought? If so, deal with it, and drive safely when you get on the 101. It's far more dangerous.


Posted by Harry, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 22, 2010 at 12:00 pm

As a pilot who regularly flies out of Palo Alto airport and as a PA resident who lives near the airport I'm asking the pilots who post comments to do a better job of addressing the concerns raised by our airport neighbors. It is reasonable for people to be concerned about the safety near an airport after an airplane crashes into a neighborhood. If you like Palo Alto airport, please do the following:

1. Find the legitimate concern being expressed even when you don't like the way a post is written
2. Respond with factual information about flying and ATC procedures and safety practices
3. Show compassion and empathy to those who have just witnessed our country's aviation safety system fail

By doing the above you'll help flying and non-flying people alike. I acknowledge that this can be difficult to do, especially when one feels that their vocation/avocation is being attacked.




Posted by Daniel, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 22, 2010 at 12:45 pm

A pilot taking off from an airport adjacent to residential neighborhoods should never, ever, take off in extremely dense fog. The fact that this pilot, and apparently many others, didn't and don't think there's anything wrong with it proves again that the Palo Alto airport, a tax payers bonanza for hobbyist and jocks must be closed down ASAP. I have no reason to thank dead pilots who supposedly crashed in the baylands instead of plunging into a school, a child care center or a house-they shouldn't have been flying in and out of this unnecessary airport in the first place.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Turn RIGHT to heading 060 ....'

The structure of the dicussion here is ridiculous, slanted, misinformative, biased ... whatever.

Asking someone if they know off the top of their head the statistic about accidents at the Palo Alto airport is totally lacking in honestly and objectivity. It borders on abusiveness or grabbing the mantle of authority. I bet only one or two people could talk intelligently about accidents associated with the Palo Alto airport ... but just talking about them does not explain them or classify them for objective decision making - it is pure propganda of the worst kind ... and was just in one of the first two posts ... the discussion degenerates from there.

No small wonder this country is becoming a dysfunctional greedy mess when people do not realize they have to submerge their biases and try to contribute and vote objectively for the public good.

The pilot who posted first did not mention that he was also an instructor - for money. A total bias that one would have to recuse themselves for, yet here we have comments being made in an attempt to twist people's opinions based on nothing ... but assumed authority.

There are always a lot of factors and slants on any issue, and intelligent win-win decisions can only happen when people share what they know and think in an objective way.

It is not secret I am not a fan of the airport, I want it closed and I put forth as many arguments as I can to convince other people of that point of view. As I sit here in Palo Alto typing this about 3 private planes have already flown over me ... there is a lot of air traffic in Palo Alto. If the crash in this case was the result of bad judgement this country happen again at any time, or it might take another 20-whatever years, but there is someone out there who is at riskj. Just because we do not know who it will be does not mean it is something that is ignoreable, or OK to condescend and make fun of this argument.

There is no published evidence to say that the plane had any kind of malfunction ... and trying to do what is a virtual 180 to land back on the runway or the golf course does not make sense at all if you look at this map:

Web Link

Instead of putting up competing views of reality, we ought to have some way to post the facts and people's qualifications or comments about them to organize them, otherwise all we have is false authority driving all of our decisions ... don't we have enough of that in Washington?


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2010 at 1:00 pm

The airport has not been around for 70 years, and it would not matter if it had been because the city has changed drastically in that time. It is this kind of waste of time argument that the author ought to know and have to good sense not to post. Add something useful to the discussion please.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2010 at 1:04 pm

>> No one on the ground (third-party) has ever been killed or injured by an aviation accident associated with the Palo Alto or San Carlos airports and both airports have been in operation for well over 50 years. <<<

This means what? That no one on the ground could be killed. People on the ground almost were killed, this crash could have been a lot worse ... so because still no one has been killed on the ground, we ignore deaths in the plane and passengers, and the whole possibllity of it?

And you teach people to fly?

Did you train Doug Bourn?

When you take off do you ever go left over EPA?

Give us some input that is not hand-picked bias to support your livelihood please?


Posted by Rob Tanner, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Harry:

Good luck.

If the histrionics of the last few "Anon" posts are any indicator, these folks are not interested in having an informed discussion. Probably best if we leave them to stew in their NIMBY juices.

If the anti-airport brigade can't be bothered to actually discuss annoying things like, you know, FACTS...then I think folks like Harry taking the high road are just wasting their time.


Posted by Gordon Reade, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2010 at 1:44 pm

"This means what? That no one on the ground could be killed. People on the ground almost were killed, this crash could have been a lot worse ... so because still no one has been killed on the ground, we ignore deaths in the plane and passengers, and the whole possibllity of it?"

What it means is that if you are really concerned with safety you need to be realistic about what the risks are. You could be killed by a meteorite impact but it's not likely so I wouldn't advise you to live underground. You could be killed by a falling aircraft but what are the odds of that? Just about zero so I wouldn't stay up nights worrying about it.

"And you teach people to fly?"

Yes I do.

"Did you train Doug Bourn?"

No, I never met him.

"When you take off do you ever go left over EPA?"

Sometimes I do. I also fly over San Francisco. What of it?

"Give us some input that is not hand-picked bias to support your livelihood please?"

Society, as we know it, would not function without pilots. I train new pilots to replace the old. I'm a teacher.


Posted by Daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 22, 2010 at 1:59 pm

"Society, as we know it, would not function without pilots." Totally untrue, society did function without small aircraft pilots in the past and can easily function without them now and in the future. Moreover, training pilots doesn't have to be done using an airport that's adjacent to residential neighborhoods and generously subsidized by the Palo Alto tax payers. I don't live next door to the airport and small planes are flying noisily and low over my house each and every day, against procedures, the way I understand them. I can imagine the hell residents who actually live near the airport go through on a daily basis. Gordon may be a teacher, but it seems like he trains his students to have a smug attitude toward non-pilots and it seems like he teaches them not to take safety and noise abatement procedures very seriously-I would be very afraid of any pilot trained by him flying over my head.


Posted by Gordon Reade, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2010 at 2:00 pm

"A pilot taking off from an airport adjacent to residential neighborhoods should never, ever, take off in extremely dense fog. The fact that this pilot, and apparently many others, didn't and don't think there's anything wrong with it proves again that the Palo Alto airport, a tax payers bonanza for hobbyist and jocks must be closed down ASAP. I have no reason to thank dead pilots who supposedly crashed in the baylands instead of plunging into a school, a child care center or a house-they shouldn't have been flying in and out of this unnecessary airport in the first place."

Dear David

Thank you for being honest. You want the Airport closed, that is your true agenda. I understand, but even if you did get it closed what then? There will still be airplanes flying over head and every time you see one it will strike fear into your heart. Will you try to have all airports closed? Will you try to have the manufacture of aircraft made illegal? Are you going to buy yourself a horse and buggy and a calendar that says 1900?


Posted by Gordon Reade, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Hi Daniel

Have you ever taken the time to visit the airport? If not why not do it right now. At this moment I'm at the office for the West Valley Flying Club. If you want to drop by I'll be more than happy to show you around.

Gordon


Posted by Daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 22, 2010 at 2:25 pm

I wanted the airport closed 30 years ago and I want it closed now. I've always been completely honest about my distaste for this tax payer provided playground for hobbyists and the Nouveau Riche. I'm not afraid of airplanes, I've flown as a passenger in all types of airplanes, large and small, all over the world, including helicopters and military transport planes during my service in the US Navy. I certainly do not wish to get rid of aviation and start riding a horse instead. I want to get rid of an unnecessary airport that is located practically in the backyard of residential neighborhoods. With this particular airport's location we are living on borrowed time and unless we close it down, we will have "third party" fatalities, although any fatality beside the pilot is a "third party" fatality.


Posted by Gordon Reade, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Dear Daniel

Well good luck with that.

Clear Skies

Gordon


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2010 at 3:09 pm

>> histrionics of the last few "Anon" posts are any indicator, these folks are not interested in having an informed discussion.

Sure, my arguments are histrionics but your silliness is informed discussion. LOL.

I want the airport closed, not because of any connect with noveau riche, or any other kind of riche ??? but because this is not the place for it. We are lucky enough to have been warned by circumstances that there is far too much open for individual interpretation for actions of pilots and ground control to run the airport safely ... unless you just look at numbers in the past.

Do you ever read prospecti ? Past performance is no guarantee ... ????

Human failure is in too close proximity of the city and people in Palo Alto. San Carlos is a good alternative for all these people, including Stanford, or some other arrangement can be made for Stanford, solve their own problems.

There is no reason for the airport to exist on land that could be better used, and the reduced noise makes a huge difference to all of Palo Alto bayland area. You cannot hear anything when these planes are constantly taking off and landing.

Selfishly pilots just want to bury their heads in the sand and call other people histrionic than look clearly at what the airport does and does not do, and how safe it is.

It has been said over and over there are clearly no rules for telling someone not to take off and fly right over EPA ... and I wonder what those folks would say about how often planes do that and intrude on their homes, and at what hours.

I see and hear planes over my Crescent Park home just in the space of mowing my lawn today about 5 of them, not to mention jet liners. I can see the value of jet liners, and even private aviation for rich or whoever ... but somewhere where it is more isolated and safe.

The arguments contrary too me, I have read on here for weeks ... and they all are false appeals to authority of silliness like more people die on 101. The argument that society would not function without pilots is kind of another scream ... just like society would not function without soldiers, or criminals either, after all what else would support the police department but a justification to hire police, it is a circular irrelevant silly argument.


Posted by Sue Dremann, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Apr 22, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Sue Dremann is a registered user.

I spent approx. 4 hours repeatedly listening to both recordings, which were 46 minutes each (with many long gaps between conversation) in order to report the quotes accurately.

While there was no wailing or hysteria on the recordings, their content did not appear to be standard, since they related a crash.


Posted by carlito ways, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2010 at 4:53 pm

After intensive investigation the FAA determined that the cause of the accident wasn't pilot error, IT WAS THE STUPID PGE TRANSMISSION LINE TOWER that got in the way.
Palo Alto Airport= Taxpayer subsidized.
Tesla Motors= Taxpayer subsidized(500 million dollars).

It made me chuckle comments made by the flight "instructor" or we may say destructor and the pilot worshiping groupies aroun here.

Keep it up boys!


Posted by Steve, a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2010 at 4:56 pm

WOW! A lot of good thoughts. Some responsible, some not. I've been a pilot for the past 20 years and although not familiar with Palo Alto, I would like to "chime in" with my 2 cents. Residents near any airplort generally share the same concerns about airplane safety. The fact that people continue to live in close proximity to airports suggests that this concern only comes into play when there is negative news regarding airplanes. I must re-iterate a previous post and suggest there is really no place in this country where an airplane is not flying overhead.
The safety record of air travel is really something to be proud of and it keeps improving annually. To assume any reasons for this accident is irresponsible and only promotes distaste for the fellow pilot. It is true that the pilot of this incident (as far as I can tell) didn't violate any regs for accepting this clearance and deciding to take-off. To say he acted irresponsibly is like saying that the 3 million people who drove their cars in the rain last night in LA acted irresponsibly. no one can argue that the accident rate of cars doesn't go up tremendously during times of inclimate weather, but nobody seems to give it a second thought. I think generally people try to mitigate their risk at some level and pilots do so as well. I'm assuming this pilot was well respected, otherwise he wouldn't have had passengers entrusting their lives to him. I'm sure this accident pilot was aware of the increased risk and stress involved with flying in this weather and he decided to accept that risk. My condolences for the family of the pilot and passengers.


Posted by Daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 22, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Steve, you assume many things, most of which are wrong. The Palo Alto airport neighbors, and some who don't live that close to it, have always been terrified of exactly what happened, they didn't just suddenly come out of the woodwork following the crash. How can you say with such certitude that the pilot didn't act irresponsibly, when he turned the wrong way, against procedures, and was arguably flying low over the house of one of his passengers? The constant comparisons made by airport and flying fans to road traffic is misleading, a non sequitor and tiresome. Additionally, this particular airport has been a money losing white elephant forever, although it's being subsidized by the Palo Alto tax payers who lease it out for $1 a year. It serves a few, many of whom aren't even PA residents. It's worthless to Palo Alto yet it's a constant danger to its neighbors and the surrounding areas do its close proximity to residential neighborhoods and low power lines, as well as major noise and air polluter. A pilot who flies out of this aiport admitted on a similar forum right here shortly after the crash that he and his fellow pilots have never taken the noise abatement procedures very seriously(a huge understatement from my experience) and my guess is that they never took many other procedures very seriously either.


Posted by star, a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2010 at 8:01 pm

I think I speak for much of the public that you all are ghouls. How unfortunate that folks posting their own trivial concerns and trying to somehow relate the facts of this tragic accident to conclude that it's all about you and how you can use this tragedy to focus on your specific needs or wants. Maybe a good time to reevaluate your life! To FlyingPilot: Glad to hear you were onboard that tragic day to evaluate the attitude and demeaner of the pilot and passengers.


Posted by Anon, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2010 at 10:39 pm

I lived in the area near the crash site for 18 years, saw the damage and spoke with many people who were there. Sound abatement and pilot behavior in general are really separate issues from what happened in this crash, and its really insensitive to blame the pilot for this crash without more info.

The airport is quite noisy. Most pilots turn to the right correctly. Some do not, and are quite obnoxious buzzing peoples houses. However, even when planes turn correctly, it really doesn't help. As soon as they turn, the noise gets worse on the ground. It seems that a small airplane's engine is much louder from the back than the front. Its not doppler effect, because the planes are moving away from me in both situations. Its just right after that turn, it gets real loud, enough to make it difficult to have a conversation on the ground a quarter mile away.

Which brings me to what happened that day. The plane in question was making a steep banking left turn. The trajectory of the plane was actually slightly south, which means it had to make over a 90 degree turn in a very short amount of space. The plan struck the tower at the point that the lowest wire is attached to an arm extending from the tower. The tower sits below a 10 foot levy, meaning the plane was maybe 40 feet off the ground at this point. Also, what strikes me as strange was that the engine noise was very loud before the crash. It can be heard in the recording, and also people on the ground heard it. I am no expert, but after hearing enough planes from the airport, its really strange that the engine noise was so loud from the front of the plane while it was moving. Just a guess, but low altitude, steep bank, and strange engine noise add up to a mechanical failure of some kind. I understand from other pilots that the twin engine planes are notoriously difficult to control when one engine fails, perhaps impossible if it happens during takeoff.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2010 at 11:32 pm

Steve, I think it is not about plane, pilot or airport safety. Yes, they have a good record, but it is not good enough, and looking at this accident, it or something like it could reccur at anytime in the future.

Like the Sully Sullenberger if this was mechanical difficulty how many pilots know what to do do, and certainly going over the city was an error unless it could not be helped.

I walk and bike right around the end of the airport a lot, and if you walk out there you see how fast this must have happened ... mere seconds.

It seems there is nothing to ensure that this kind of thing doesn't happen again except the cry from the pilots of how low the chance is and how much greater chance we all have of getting hit by a car on 101. I think this is an erroneous way to look at risk ... unless the risk is being born by people one doesn't want to think to much about.

Anything that happens in landing and taking off should be so far away from homes and people that even if this exact event happened again it would not be likely to involve people. To me that means shut the airport and put the load on San Carlos. The layout of San Carlos is so much more planned out and safe. It is much more into the bay and away from houses.

Palo Alto is just not a good place for this. Let's put it this way, the chances of an accident multiplied by the time the airport will be active and the number of takeoff ... weighed against someone's or some household's lives. Is it fair to say that just because there are a lot of people who like the airport and find it convenient for their hobby or business that we should ignore the anonymous people who will eventually die because of this, when there is another good, better, option, ie. San Carlos?

The area of the airport would make such a nice QUIET recreational area for Palo Altans. Look at Shoreline Lake and Park and see what Palo Alto is missing.

Sound abatement and pilot behavior while not directly relevant to the crash are big factors in the use and enjoyment of this whole area by the people who live here and in EPA. This crash just drives home that there are other more dangerous concerns.

I would really ask anyone who lives in either area of PA or EPA to take some time and stand outside at any random hour and count how many airplanes go by and how much noise there is? Go to the Baylands Park and try to have a conversation with someone with planes constantly flying overhead.

There are power lines all over the Palo Alto South Bay area and the power outqage that resulted from this was minor compared to what it could have been ... ie. about a full day. It was a major pain in the neck ... and it was a good warning to think about what could have happened and act before.

I don't begrudge any pilot their right to fly, safely, but Palo Alto after 30 year of growth is not the place for an airport anymore.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2010 at 11:39 pm

>> How unfortunate that folks posting their own trivial concerns and trying to somehow relate the facts of this tragic accident to conclude that it's all about you and how you can use this tragedy to focus on your specific needs or wants. <<

Star ... come now, give people some credit for talking about what is important to them. I disagree or do not see the need for some things people say, but if there is a point there, why not. It is not in bad taste ... this is a community chat forum not a social gala and people can say what they want.

No one knows who might have what agenda, even you, so sticking to the facts is a good idea. The bottom line is that some people want to the airport to stay open no matter the risk to others, and some peoplel want it shut even if it was perfectly safe. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

Very sad that this crash happened, but maybe if the plane took off from San Carlos it would have not hit any power lines ... then again San Carlos is not perfect either.


Posted by Tony C, a resident of another community
on Apr 23, 2010 at 3:38 am

That this pilot and his passengers died is a tragedy. However, we must understand that a piece of all of us is gone. Every pilot, instructor, or other aviator has influenced this guy throughout his involvement in aviation. That he mad a faulty decision is tragic, but he believed in it so much that he bet his and other's lives on it. So, with him goes a bit of us. Let's do better. Fly safe.


Posted by Gordon Reade CFII MEI, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 23, 2010 at 7:20 am

Just one question. How the heck did this idea that San Carlos is a better location for an airport get started? I've been flying out of both Palo Alto and San Carlos airports for 30 years and there is no comparison what so ever. San Carlos if far closer to houses and businesses. Just check it out on Google map.

When I turn right crosswind from 30 I'm pointed right for Larry Ellison's office. And we have people saying San Carlos is less congested! Don't you realize how stupid that is?


Posted by A Palo Alto parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 23, 2010 at 11:30 am

It really doesn't seem like Bourn could hear what the controller was saying:

a 30-second silence, the controller told Bourn the release was only valid for two minutes.

"OK. I, uh, did not hear that I'm cleared for takeoff," Bourn said.

"I cannot clear you for takeoff because I don't have visibility on the runway so the release is all yours and it's at your own risk, sir," the controller said.

"OK. 25 Juliet, rolling," Bourn replied.


Posted by narnia, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 24, 2010 at 9:54 am

Could the pilot have transposed numbers for his flight path? Not unheard of and and not at all unheard of if one is in a hurry.
But if he had flown with visibility he would have noticed where he was going. Instead, he and he alone decided to take of in bad weather. We know the result.


Posted by Gordon, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 24, 2010 at 10:00 am

It really doesn't seem like Bourn could hear what the controller was saying:

a 30-second silence, the controller told Bourn the release was only valid for two minutes.

"OK. I, uh, did not hear that I'm cleared for takeoff," Bourn said.

"I cannot clear you for takeoff because I don't have visibility on the runway so the release is all yours and it's at your own risk, sir," the controller said.

"OK. 25 Juliet, rolling," Bourn replied.


Oh I think Bourn could hear ATC just fine. I think the clearance took him off guard. Remember the KLM 747 at Tenerife? The tower didn't clear the pilot for takeoff there either.


Posted by Gordn, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 24, 2010 at 10:10 am

One more thing I'd like to say about the Palo Alto Airport. Almost everyday Angel Flight pilots fly children and old people into Palo Alto Airport for treatment at Stanford. Almost daily human organs pass through Palo Alto on their way to Stanford Hospital for the transplant program.

For those of you who don't like seeing aircraft fly into Palo Alto do you ever stop to wonder if that might be an Angel Flight carrying a sick child? If it was would you care? If it was your own child would you care?

I'm waiting for your reply.


Posted by Cherie, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2010 at 12:55 am

I don't think that pilots should beable to take off in unsafe conditions as it isn't just as their own risk. Other innocent people can be impacted such as what happened in East Palo Alto. I don't understand how Palo Alto airport let pilots take off when it isn't safe, it doesn't make sense.
We often hear planes flying too low over Palo Alto at all hours. It is very annoying.
I was surprized by the tapes that the Palo Alto air traffic controller didn't display a sense of urgency or concern when he was told that they plane could be down at then end of the runway.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2010 at 10:49 am

Gordon .... as far as organs coming to Stanford, how do they get to everywhere else that does not have a airport a few miles away?

The do it for the children argument is really abused and overused. I bet some real numbers on that would probably prove that the airport does not play a significant factor except that it make things look better for marketing.


Posted by Gordon Reade CFII MEI, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2010 at 9:22 pm

"Gordon .... as far as organs coming to Stanford, how do they get to everywhere else that does not have a airport a few miles away?"


Good question. People who live in remote location and are in need of transplants often die. It really is just that simple.


"They do it for the children argument is really abused and overused. I bet some real numbers on that would probably prove that the airport does not play a significant factor except that it make things look better for marketing."


Angel Flight carries people in need of medical care everyday of the year and they have never charged even a single cent. That is something you will never understand. It's a pilot thing.


Posted by Stan Faust, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 26, 2010 at 4:36 pm

I read with interest the comments of both those who fly airplanes and those who might some day be a passenger in airplanes under 12,500 pouds in take-off weight. It never ceases to amaze me the emotion on both sides. The people who do not fly themselves probably never think much about a car accidents near the Palo Alto airport that have killed many more people than have lost their lives in airplanes accidents near that same airport. The people who fly airplanes are quick to defend airplanes and the Palo Alto airport as being relatively safe. The truth is once you pass about 20 mph in any vehicle the risk of harm and death begin to go up dramatically and because airplanes fly faster than cars usually drive they are a riskier place to be than in a car if you hit something that does not move easily. Because airplanes are a riskier place to be than in a car it is important that the pilot remove as much of the risk as is possible before ever moving the throttles forward. Low time and infrequent flyers need to remove more risk that high time and frequent flyers, but they are not encouraged to do that by the FAA or their non-flyer friends.

I have had a theory for many years about the FAA and its regulations. It appears to me that the FAA wants just enough regulation to make sure there are enough accidents each year to keep them well funded and able to grow each year. The Tower "Controller" did it by the book and if he could not see the runway environment he could not clear an airplane to take-off. In effect the Tower was not operational at the time due to lack of visibility, because what they cannot see they cannot "Control." The FAA regulations allow non-commercial operators to take-off in zero visibility conditions even if it is not the smartest or safest way to operate. The passengers are led to believe that because someone owns an airplane and has a pilot's certificate that they are "safe," because the FAA has certified them at one point. The Tower Controller could have just kept quiet and never given the IFR clearance to Doug Bourn and then things may have turned out differently. It is clear that this accident has now become a full employment act for many FAA, NTSB and Lawyer like people, so they are all encouraged to keep this level of activity going. Not too much, but not too little.


After any accident there is a chain of events which if broken at any one point would have stopped or altered the outcome. What is important in Aviation is to visualize as many of the possible outcomes before going through one of the gates that allow you entry into the next and higher risk area.

I would encourage all non-pilot passengers to help keep us alive and safe. I would encourage all passengers to ascertain the safety of the airplane by at least asking to look at the log books and seeing if the Annual Inspections were done and when was the last oil change and what were the compression readings of the engines and such? When did the pilot have his or her last Flight Review by at least an FAA "Certified" Flight Instructor if not by someone who really knows how to fly safely and has proven that over at least the last 40 years. How often has the pilot flown in the last 90 days? When was the last time that the pilot took off successfully in low visibility conditions. When was the last time that the pilot did an Instrument approach to a runway with only 1/4 mile visibility and a 200 foot ceiling? If the FAA would come up with a Nationwide program to have non-pilots ask these kinds of questions we would all be safer. I would advocate a non-pilot's passenger checklist that could be given out by the FAA with at least 10 things passengers should ask of all of their pilot's before they allow them to carry them safely from point A to point B.



Stan
ATP, CFII ASMEL, Gliders & Licensed Driver

PS: It is not a Pilot's License, it is merely a Certificate like an At-A-Boy certificate that says at one time the holder met a minimum set of conditions and had a minimum set of skills and an aircraft that met a minimum set of standards.


Posted by Gordon Reade CFII MEI, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 26, 2010 at 9:40 pm

"I have had a theory for many years about the FAA and its regulations. It appears to me that the FAA wants just enough regulation to make sure there are enough accidents each year to keep them well funded and able to grow each year."

Now that's quite a statement. Let's remember that the FAA is made up of people and for the most part these people have friends, family and loved ones who fly. Are you saying that there are people who value their jobs more than they value the lives of those they love?


Posted by Stan Faust, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 27, 2010 at 1:08 pm

The FAA is a Government Bureaucracy. Like any Bureaucracy it takes on a life of its own and its main goal is to survive and it does that by growing larger and larger over time and requiring more funding. If a year or so went by with fewer and fewer accidents, near misses or infractions of the regulations it would be increasingly difficult for the FAA to argue successfully that it should continue to grow larger and larger. If you look at the FAA today in comparison to the CAB in the days of the Wright Brothers you will see that it has grown larger and larger, perhaps more than it has needed to grow over time. The Leaders of the FAA over the years have done a very good job of making sure that the FAA has grown as large as it is today and I am most certain they are working to make sure it continues to grow bigger in the future.


Lots of very good and dedicate people work for the FAA at the lower levels, but I have noticed over time that more and more people work for the FAA who neither fly nor maintain aircraft and they appear to have very little personal knowledge about aircraft, pilots and the Air Traffic Control system, especially the civil side of the system. A large majority of the contractors helping the FAA design NextGen have no experience flying in the current system! My theory is not about most of the people who work for the FAA, it is about the Bureaucracy that tends to over complicate things in order to justify its continued existence and growth. As you move up the ladder in the FAA's hierarchy like in any Bureaucracy you have to become more and more politically correct and less and less technically correct. It is just the way it is in any Bureaucracy in the Government or in the Commercial world. Sounds like a good subject for a Ph.D. Thesis.


We who love to fly are constantly amazed at all the energy and time we have to put into making sure we are compliant with certain meaningless FAA regulations that have seemingly nothing to do with improving the safety, reliability or efficiency of Aviation. We are also amazed at why certain regulations related to safety are set at too low of a standard as to skill level. The instrument currency regulation is an example in that it only requires that a pilot make six approaches in the last six months to remain current as to the regulations. Once you get to about 2,000 approaches made in real IFR weather the six approaches in six months is not unreasonable, but if you have only a total of 50 approaches done under a hood in simulated weather and maybe only have about 200 hours of total flying time I would argue that you should make them far more frequently than every six months to remain minimally safe. There are no FAA regulations about the number of instrument departures you have to do in the last 100 years to remain current. It has been my experience that instrument departures are often far more complicated to do safely than approaches, especially when the visibilities are lower than the landing approaches would allow. The regulations allow that you can make a VFR flight at night in a single engine airplane, but sooner or later there is a probability that your engine will stop operating on you on one of those night flights and you will be forced to try to land into a very dark spot and help cause a need for more FAA, NTSB and Lawyers to continue their employment. Because a regulation says you can do something does not mean that it is safe to do, so I would argue that there should not be a regulation that would allow you to do something that is unsafe on its face.


In my previous I thought I would take this opportunity for non-pilots to help us who fly them as pilot's to actually help to enforce some higher standards by at least asking us some important questions before they entrust us with their lives in our aircraft. I never thought I would see a day in our society where smoking was almost banned everywhere. The smoking bans grew out of educating the public as to its dangers and it is my belief that the FAA can begin to help us all by just educating the public to ask a few questions of their intended pilot before they entrust their lives to that pilot. Just because someone has a pilot's certificate with an instrument rating or even has an Airline Transport Pilot's (ATP) certificate and/or is a Certified Flight instructor (CFI) does not mean that they are safe to fly on any one day. We pilots really need the help of our passengers to help keep us all alive and to enjoy safe flights. It has to be a team effort.


The FAA is really great at coming up with hundreds of questions to give us during exams, so I would think that they can come up with maybe 10 questions every passenger should ask the pilot they are about to entrust their lives to on the next flight. The Commercial carriers do a good job for the most part keeping their pilot crews current and the FAA examiners check them out much more frequently than they do General Aviation pilots, so if the FAA educates the public, the public can ask us the hard questions and know what the right answers should be. Public spots on TV and radio would be a great way for the FAA to get the word out and they could be made to be funny and enjoyable. I would suggest giving the public two cards with a list of ten questions each on them. One card would be blue and the other gray. The public could hold the cards up to the sky and then ask the questions on the card that more closely matches the color of the sky. I can think of at least 20 questions for people to ask me before each VFR (Blue) flight and each IFR (Gray) flight. I try to teach each new non-pilot I fly with to ask me a certain set of questions before we fly to help me prove to them that I am worthy of their trust. The first question is when was the last time that I flew in the conditions we are about to fly into today and what was it that I learned from that experience.


It is not a Pilot's License like a Driver's License, it is merely a Government Certificate that says at one time the holder met a minimum set of Government standards. An airplane is far more complicate than a car to navigate safely and flying needs to be practiced frequently to be safe. One needs to practice more frequently in the beginning of their time as a pilot than after they have accumulated 40 years of experience, but even after 40 years of experience rust begins to grow after just 30 days of not flying and at 90 days one can become unsafe in certain weather conditions.

Stan


PS: When offered the first Pilot's License from the Government Orville Wright declined, because he had no need for it. (Web Link) The first Pilot's license was given to a Bureaucrat.


PSS: I cannot find in the Biographies of the following and current FAA Leaders that they have even a Private Pilot's Certificate and there is no mention that they have any experience within General Aviation. I would suspect that the people listed below cost us tax payers a cumulative amount of at least $700,000 per year in salaries, far more than they could make in the public sector in General Aviation, doing similar work.

J. Randolph Babbitt, FAA Administrator
David Weingart, Chief of Staff
Ramesh K. Punwani, CFO
Margret Gilligan, Assoc. Administrator for Aviation Safety


Posted by Gordon, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2010 at 10:30 am

"It is not a Pilot's License like a Driver's License, it is merely a Government Certificate that says at one time the holder met a minimum set of Government standards."

If I were to damage or destroy and aircraft and my paperwork was good (valid pilot's license and flight review) the insurance company would cover the loss. If I was not legal to fly they would sue me-or my estate-in an attempt to recover the money they paid to the aircraft's owner. Bottom line, insurance companies insure pilot's who follow the rules. They do not insure unlicensed pilots.

My pilot's license is not merely a Government Certificate that says at one time I met a minimum set of Government standards. It's the thing that safeguards my family from financial ruin. That is why I carry it.


Posted by Stan Faust, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 28, 2010 at 12:04 pm

My response

Sorry, but if you read the plastic card you carry from the FAA it says it is a "Certificate." The CAB gave out "Licenses" to pilots and then Mechanics and then to Flight Instructors but that stopped when they became the FAA many, many years ago. The FAA does not "license" people to fly like a State "licenses" people to drive cars on public roads. Microsoft gives out a license to operate its software. There are all kinds of different licenses out there, but what you have is merely a Certificate from the FAA. The FAA's Certificate merely attests that at one time you met the minimum standards for the Certificate. The FAA's regulations then amplify what the FAA believes you can do and maybe not do based on the type of Certificate you hold and any ratings you may have on that Certificate over time. CAB and then FAA regulations are an orderly way of doing things in the sky that we have all accepted over time, but I would argue that the regulations of today are far more complicated than they need to be and over time I suspect they will get more complicated. I would rather that the regulations only focus on things related to flying safely and not go off into esoteric extremes or allow others like the TSA and the HSA to add in things that have nothing to do with flying aircraft safely or efficiently, but then I am not King yet nor do I wish to be King.
With a Driver's License a violation of a law can be an Infraction, Misdemeanor or a Felony and all can carry with it jail time if found guilty. The last time I looked the FAA was not empowered by Congress to prosecute people and put them in jail for violating any of its regulations. The FAA can take await the validity of your Pilot's Certificate for a time and levy fines on Commercial carriers, but that is about it. If we had Pilot Licenses and there was Criminal Law instead of regulations then it would be more like it is when you drive a car and are caught speeding, the officer has the right to haul you off to jail and you would then have to go through the Criminal Law process in that jurisdiction. I would argue that we never want to give the FAA the power to arrest us, because there are enough other organizations out there that can do that already like the local Police and the Justice Department and the FBI, etc.. When pilot's have erroneously penetrated TFRs near Washington D.C. it is not the FAA who arrests them and holds them for questioning.


I have always advocated following every FAA regulation that is applicable to your operation and even regulations that are not applicable, but make good sense. Some regulations are a little tough to understand and reasonable people as well as the FAA can have differing interpretations, but for the most part most of the FAA's regulation can be followed rather easily. The problem is that those who just follow the FAA's minimum set of regulations and allow that they can do something, because the FAA does not say they cannot do something often end up dead and take with them other people to an early death. Nothing wrong about death, because it what we all face at one point after we are born. It is, however, good, I would argue, to put off death for as long as you can so that you can do other things like more flying.


It is true that Insurance Companies in general do not insure people who wish to fly in the USA unless they have FAA granted Pilot Certificates, but there are insurance companies who will insure almost anything and without a valid Pilot's Certificate one can obtain insurance for flying purposes if they can afford the price. You could also buy a very big ranch up in someplace like Montana and and fly all over your ranch as much as you would like without a valid Pilot's certificate and do it in an unregistered aircraft, but all of that is very expensive to do and out of reach of most people. It is just easier all around to go with the current system, get an FAA granted Pilot's Certificate if you want and to then buy insurance if you want to do that. Even the Insurance companies often call it a "Pilot's license," but it is still just a Pilot's Certificate. If you do not believe in your skill's being sufficient to the task it is very wise indeed to buy insurance to help defray the cost of repairing a broken aircraft you may be piloting or fixing the damages you may cause others. I have noticed, however, that those who do not have insurance for certain things are often more cautious about what they do and the risks that they take. It is also true that if you own nothing you are suit proof, because almost no lawyer is going to sue someone and not be able to recover their cost of doing business. If someone has insurance they are a prime candidate for a law suit, because the winning side can collect on a damage that was caused by you. I would argue that if nobody had insurance there would be far, far fewer law suits, but that is another subject. I am reminded of the Wright Brothers who did it all without a license from anyone and no insurance.


So, Gordon, what do you think about my idea of the FAA giving out Blue and Gray cards to non-pilots with questions to ask pilots they intend to allow to fly them somewhere? What would be one of your suggested 10 questions on each card? What would you do if a potential passenger had one of these cards and asked you to prove that the aircraft was within weight and balance limitations and you were actually 10 pounds over gross take-off weight?


I am most sorry about the accident that promulgated this thread, but if we can use it as a catalyst to help improve the system in a practical way we will all be better for the process.


One of my rules has always been that I will not take off into Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) that are lower than what I would need to return to a safe landing, even though this is not an FAA regulation. This rule has saved my bacon a number of times, including when I took off in My Twin Comanche one time and lost all electrical power at 500 feet as I entered the clouds on departure and could then easily return for a landing vice having to fly to another airport with dead batteries, no radios and a gear that would not come down normally. The FAA allows that it is OK for me to fly single engine airplanes at night and over fog banks that go down to the ground and in fact the FAA says that a Private Pilot candidate has to have night flying experience in a single engine airplane. I would argue that flying at night or over a fog bank that goes to the ground even with a 300 hour wonder of a Flight Instructor on board while you are in a single engine airplane is not a wise thing to do.

Stan


Posted by Gordon, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2010 at 3:41 pm

"So, Gordon, what do you think about my idea of the FAA giving out Blue and Gray cards to non-pilots with questions to ask pilots they intend to allow to fly them somewhere? What would be one of your suggested 10 questions on each card? What would you do if a potential passenger had one of these cards and asked you to prove that the aircraft was within weight and balance limitations and you were actually 10 pounds over gross take-off weight?"


Dear Stan

If I offered to take a person flying and he replied, "No thanks," that's fine with me. If I offered to take a person flying and he had question about safety-or anything else-that's fine too. I'd be more than happy to answer his questions.

But if I offered to take a person flying and he replied, "Not so fast. First I'm going to pull out my chicken s*** little junior pilot examiner cards and put you on the spot to see if you are up to snuff. You'd better get a score of 80% or better or I'll walk," I'd tell that person to go jump in a lake. Why would any pilot want to fly with a prick like that?

Gordon


Posted by Stan Faust, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 29, 2010 at 8:13 am

Intersting attitude. I suspect that you do not do Part 135 or 141 operations or make at least part of your income from Aviation, right? We already know that you think that you have a "Pilot's License."

So then how do we begin to solve the problem of people who own or rent airplanes that do things that cause the rest of us to have increased insurance rates and have to face the closure of airports? I am reminded of when the old Santa Cruz airport was closed after Woz tried to take off a bit over weight for the conditions for that day and went through some wires at the end of the runway, but survived. I would like to avoid increased regulation by the FAA and other agencies like the TSA and HSA, but after every event that makes the news involving aircraft the CAB and now the FAA seems to step in and eventually put in a new regulation or a twist on an existing regulation that has very little to do the even that caused the new rule and the new rule usually does not solve the problem.

It is like the FAA and others putting 30 nmi radius TFRs around the POTUS and 1 nmi radius TFRs around the Vice POTUS after 9/11 occurred. As if the bad guys would leave on their transponders and fly less than 250 knots and obey the rest of the rules, right? But now we have law abiding citizens with extra hassles in our flying lives without any real protection to the POTUS being done.

So how do we solve safety and other problems without more regulation from agencies like the FAA?

Over to you,

Stan




Posted by Gordon Reade CFII MEI, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 29, 2010 at 11:29 am

Hi Stan

The term "pilot's license" is idiomatic to the language. I know astronomy professors who use the terms "sunrise" and "sunset". Would you correct them by saying that sun doesn't really rise, or set, the Earth rotates? I once hear an English Prof. use the term "baker's dozen" when she really meant 13. Would you have corrected her on that?

Sorry, but I make of my income from aviation. That is how I contribute to aviation safety. I train pilots and I do so to the best of my ability. The key element in any student instructor relationship is mutual respect. Before taking on any new student I talk with him and if my gut feeling-or his-indicates that we are not a good match that ends it right there, no hard feelings.

But if we do end up working together I don't play mind games on him. I don't try to poke little holes in his defenses or self-esteem. I don't set traps for him. I don't try to sabotage his flying by screwing with the volume adjust on the radio. As a student I had instructors pull that one on me and I didn't learn a thing from it. Most of all I don't accuse the FAA of tolerating accidents to increase their funding. What sort of message does that send to a student pilot? What sort of message does it send to the non-pilots who read this forum?

If a potential student tried to probe me for weakness or set me up for a fall, I'd pass him on to someone else. The same thing holds if he subjected me to a pop quiz. I don't have time for games like that and I'm not that desperate for work.

Gordon


Posted by Stan Faust, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 29, 2010 at 3:01 pm

You do indeed appear to represent a large number of new to Aviation Flight Instructors it seems. After you have been a CFI for about 30 years or so my hope is that you will begin to understand a little bit more as I did over the years. let me guess, you do your CFI work out of West Valley, right? I was around when we started West Valley and I have noticed that it has changed a lot from its roots. Some changes are not necessarily good changes I have noticed.

I would suggest that you have your clients ask why you are asking them to do just about everything that you ask them to do, unless of course it is one of those times while you are flying when you have to say, "I've GOT IT!" You will learn to discard a lot of what you have heretofore believed was the proper way to do things and to think about things. On the other hand you can keep on drinking the cool aide and just going with the flow and just watch while General Avaition's space continues to shrink.

Words and Phrases have real meanings. If you call a Rudder an Aileron it takes on a new meaning. If you believe it is a License when it is really a Certificate you will think differently about it.

Believe me, the FAA is about growing bigger and more powerful over time unless we as a community of Aviators begin to gain more power and take back our sky and get rid of a lot of silly regulations and replace them with a more meaningful set of rules that improve safety and increase efficiency.

That leaves us with still trying to find possible solutions to make sure that what happened to Doug and his C310 and his passengers does not happen again somewhere. If we do not figure out a solution I know that the FAA will try to find a solution and most of their solutions end up to be as useles as the TFR solution for the 9/11 event.

I have to go strap on my PA30 and go to Florida to fly my glider for a few days to get in touch with what is real again. I will not be on this net for awhile, but will return Monday or so.

Good Luck,

Stan






Posted by sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2010 at 3:14 pm



Harrison Ford in this interview Web Link point points out that all of aviation generates about 2% of green house gasses, and private general aviation is a tiny fraction of that 2%

Ford is a leading advocate for the environment who also owns 7 planes

when asked in the interview whether this is a contradiction as claimed by the fundamentalist greens he replied

" I will walk everywhere when they walk everywhere"


Posted by Gordon, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 29, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Dear Stan

I've been a pilot since 1977 and a CFI since 1987. Maybe it took you 30 years or so to learn how to be an instructor but not me.

All the best

Gordon


Posted by Stan Faust, a resident of Community Center
on May 4, 2010 at 9:50 am

Aviator since my first solo in 1963 and CFII since 1968. I built R/C models before that.

So it does appear that you fly with West Valley, right? Looks like in the last 23 years as a CFI you still have not figured out you have a certificate vice a license, so one has to wonder what else you have not figured out.

There was a time when I believed in the Tooth Fairy and in Santa Claus, but as one grows up there is a reality that sets in over time. This is especially true if you have been in the military for a time. You begin to understand that really big government institutions can make really, really big mistakes and do that far more often than getting it right.

Nice thing about flying my sailpane is that it has only one seat and it is just me and the eagles, hawks, buzzards ad the laws of physics. I enjoy having my would-be passengers asking me lots of questions about my background and recency before I take them flying, but sometimes it is nice to just go flying by myself. I also enjoy teaching non-pilots the right questions to ask of their would-be PIC before they entrust their lives to that PIC.

As a CFII I also very much enjoy getting Clients that have been trained to believe that they have a license vice a certificate and then watch them light up when they grow into a level of understanding at the Masters and Ph.D. level from their BS beginnings.

If we do not find a way of regulating ourselves then I am most certain that the FAA and others will do it for us and then we will still have to regulate ourselves in order to remain safe.

Good Luck,

Stan

PS: I am still trying to figure out how to be a Flight Instructor and every new Client teaches me more than I do him or her. It is indeed an endless process.


Posted by Gordon, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 4, 2010 at 12:10 pm

"There was a time when I believed in the Tooth Fairy and in Santa Claus, but as one grows up there is a reality that sets in over time."

That's very true. It is also true a one grows even older one might lose touch with reality.


Posted by Stan Faust, a resident of Community Center
on May 4, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Death is the ultimate departure from reality. Those who only follow the minimum set of FAA regulations usually depart from reality before those who practice a more extensive set of standards. It is also true that those who blindly follow ATC suggestions depart from reality quicker than those who question ATC suggestions. It does indeed take a team effort.

The reality is that it is a Pilot's Certificate and not a license to do something and to argue the other way is to be in denial of reality.

I just tried to find an email address for Peggy Gilligan, Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety, of the FAA, but when I tried the email dialogue asked me for her email address which I did not have nnor could find. I sent my suggestion to another dialogue that the FAA has sent up.

Web Link

Web Link

My suggestion remains that I believe that the FAA should spend time trying to educate the non-piloting public about what to ask their intended PIC. The program would eventually give Millions of people White, Blue, Gray and Black cards with 10 questions each on them to ask their intended PIC. The White card would have general questions that would apply to every flight. The Blue card is for VMC and the Gray for IMC and the Black is for night flight. Holding the colored cards to the sky would trigger which card to use. If the cards blow away while holding them to the sky that would be an indication that you probably do not want to try to fly that day. I can just see the TV Public Service messages now filled with characters asking people like Sully, John Travolta and Harrison Ford questions before they agree to take them flying:-) We can presume that the Part 121 and maybe even the Part 135 PICs would be exempt, but all others would be fair game and even the 121 and 135 PICs would probably not mind being asked a few questions from the cards. I have also suggested that the pilots who get a question on a card should be given National recognition and have little stars attached to their Certificates like the Gold Seal on my CFII plastic card:-)

I suspect I will not get an answer back from the FAA, but at least I tried. I will be going to a safety day at KASH this coming Saturday, before I fly back to PAO, so I will bring up my suggestions there.

This could be a lot of fun.

Keep suggesting,

Stan








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