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Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 14, 2011

News Digest

Head coach wins Athena Award

Tara VanDerveer, Stanford University's head women's basketball coach, is this year's Athena Award winner.

Selected by the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, the award goes to an "exceptional woman who demonstrates excellence, creativity and initiative in her business or profession; contributes time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community; and actively assists women in realizing their full leadership potential," according to a news release.

"Tara has had a positive and lasting influence on the hundreds of young women who have benefited from not only the basketball skills she has taught them, but from the life skills upon which she places equal influence. She ... serves as a wonderful role model," Lanie Wheeler, former Palo Alto mayor, wrote in a recommendation letter.

VanDerveer will receive her award at a Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto on Nov. 16; tickets are available by calling 650-324-3121 or www.paloaltochamber.com.

AT&T's antenna plan met with some skepticism

AT&T's plan to install 20 antennae in three Palo Alto neighborhoods is cheering some residents who are looking forward to improved cell-phone reception. But the proposal has left others with grave concerns.

Minh Nguyen, AT&T area manager in charge of the engineering and construction of the development known as a "distributed antenna system," met with residents at an open house Tuesday (Oct. 11) and explained that the trees in and around Palo Alto pose a challenge for the company to deliver consistently strong signals, which causes phone calls to drop and weak connections in some areas.

"In order for us to stay competitive in the business," Nguyen said, "this technology is the ideal solution to the problem, and it can also meet the growing demand for data in this area."

Unlike a single, large cell-phone tower, the distributed system is "a network of smaller, spatially separated antenna nodes that splits the transmitted signal among themselves to provide wireless coverage for areas with difficult topography," Nguyen said.

Twenty antennae would be placed on top of existing utility poles throughout three neighborhoods: Old Palo Alto, Professorville and part of Midtown.

Several Palo Altans turned out to object to the plan.

Lyala Kent brought her 12-year-old daughter to Tuesday's meeting. She said she is concerned about the unknown consequences of longtime exposure to radiation as well as the potential devaluation of her house.

Broadcast and wireless specialist Lynn Bruno, a consulting engineer from Hammett & Edison, Inc., told residents that there's no health risk identified in 60 years of relevant research. She said they have tested the antenna and monitored the highest level of radiation emission anywhere within its radius.

"The radiation level is comparable to that from a TV and other wireless devices. It's weaker than what a microwave could generate and much weaker than ultra-violet rays," she said.

Investigation: No engine or propeller problems before crash

Both the left and right engines and the propeller of the Cessna 310R that took off from the Palo Alto Airport on Feb. 17, 2010, and quickly crashed into an East Palo Alto neighborhood appeared to be working at the time of impact, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report released on Friday, Oct. 7.

The cause of the accident, which claimed the lives of three Tesla Motors employees — the pilot Douglas Bourn, a senior electrical engineer and Santa Clara resident; and passengers Andrew Ingram of Palo Alto, an engineer, and Brian Finn of East Palo Alto, a senior manager — is not outlined in the document, known as a "factual report."

But the report confirms eyewitness accounts of the incident and reveals the findings of inspections of the wreckage by the Federal Aviation Administration and makers of the aircraft parts — Cessna Aircraft Company, Teledyne Continental Motors and McCauley Propellers Inc.

Speculation spread after the crash that a mechanical failure might have caused the plane to veer suddenly and strike an electrical tower next to the Bay in East Palo Alto. Examination of the Cessna's left and right engines, however, showed "no pre-impact mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation," the report states.

The report confirms that visibility at the airport was 1/8 of a mile due to fog, with wind at 5 knots, at 7:49 a.m., less than five minutes before Bourn took off for the Hawthorne, Calif., airport. Because the runway was not visible, he was instructed to take off at his own risk by the air traffic controller.

The investigation is expected to be completed in mid-November.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

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