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June airplane overturn caused by unknown engine failure

Original post made on Mar 22, 2012

A Cessna 172S that crashed into the Palo Alto Baylands mud flats and flipped onto its roof last June totally lost engine power, a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) probable-cause report released Tuesday, March 20, has determined.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, March 22, 2012, 5:10 PM

Comments (21)

Posted by Pilot, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 22, 2012 at 8:53 pm

This is one of the only media reports I've seen of an aircraft engine failure that didn't use the word "stall" (which would have been incorrect in this context). Good job in using correct terminology Palo Alto Weekly!


Posted by Why-No-Identities?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2012 at 10:29 am

After all of this time, and still no identities of the pilot, the plane's owner, and the individual responsible for maintaining the engine. Last year's article didn't have a lot of information, but there was a lot about this airplane available on the web--

Web Link

This pilot was lucky, since he came down in the marshland. He might have come down in the middle of the bay, and he could have come down in East Palo Alto, or Menlo Park, or Palo Alto--killing who knows how many people.

There still seems to be no awareness on the part of the Weekly that these planes don't carry enough insurance to deal with a $20M-$50M claim. It's difficult to believe that this young pilot carried any liability insurance to compensate those on the ground that he might have harmed. Perhaps the pilot is not at fault, but it's difficult to live under this airport knowing that an "unknown engine failure" can bring an airplane down on our homes at any time, and that there will likely be insufficient liability insurance carried by the aircraft's owner, and none by the pilot, to compensate those that have been harmed by these crashes.


Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 23, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Of course those pilots don't carry nearly enough liability insurance to cover catastrophic crashes. It's one of numerous reasons not to have a largely hobbyists general aviation airport so near a densely populated area. I truly find it astonishing that this airport is still in open.


Posted by Anna, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 24, 2012 at 10:47 am

daniel is absolutely correct. The East PA/Tesla exec crash and the numerous "close calls" since should be a wake-up call to the city, which soon will control the airport. It is only a matter of time before we see real tragedy emanating from the airport. Inadequate liability insurance will be the least of the story.

The ridiculousness of the situation is compounded by the fact that the airport, which is implicitly subsidized by the taxpayers of Palo Alto, is used predominately by out-of-towners. For most Palo Altans, the airport is a source of nuisance noise and potential lethal danger.

Sadly, the local pilots' lobby dominates the discussion, and wealthy Atherton and Los Altos Hills plane owners seem to have more sway with the city council than the citizens whose lives are endangered by these dilettantes and hobbyists. We should close the airport, but we won't

Someone will pay for this government misfeasance with their lives.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Mar 24, 2012 at 10:58 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

All aircraft based at Palo Alto airport are required to have at least the following insurance (and most have far more):

A LICENSEE shall procure and maintain for the duration of the LICENSE, insurance against claims for injuries to persons, or damages to property, which may arise from or in connection with LICENSEE's operation or use of the Assigned Space or AIRPORT. The cost of such insurance shall be borne by LICENSEE.
A. MINIMUM INSURANCE COVERAGE AND LIMITS
Aircraft Liability Insurance providing coverage for bodily injury and property damage with a combined single limit of not less than $1,000,000 per occurrence, including not less than $100,000 per passenger limit.


Posted by PatrickD, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2012 at 12:34 am

I'm uncertain if 222MF was still based out of West Valley Flying Club, however I have flown it in the past and it was covered to the amounts Peter mentioned above. Pilots typically also carry supplementary insurance.

I'm not certain what causes people in this forum to froth at the mouth whenever the Palo Alto Airport is mentioned. General Aviation generally has a reasonably safe track record. There are clearly far more traffic fatalities every year in Palo Alto than aircraft arriving or departing from PAO.


Posted by Why-Should-We-Be-Begging?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2012 at 11:51 am

> A LICENSEE shall procure and maintain for the duration of the
> LICENSE, insurance against claims for injuries to persons, or
> damages to property, which may arise from or in connection
> with LICENSEE's operation or use of the Assigned Space or
> AIRPORT. The cost of such insurance shall be borne by LICENSEE.

The amount of insurance that a pilot/plane owner should carry varies wildly, from airport to airport.
There is no actual minimum dollar amount specified by the FAA.

>Aircraft Liability Insurance providing coverage for bodily injury
> and property damage with a combined single limit of not less than
> $1,000,000 per occurrence, including not less than $100,000 per
> passenger limit.

This $1M number is specified by most airports for people who want to locate their plane at the facility. The $1M is arbitrary, and does not seem to be based on any actual analysis of accidents at each airport, or nationally.
From reading the FAA accident reports, there is no evidence that the NTSB/FAA actually validate the existence of insurance during the period of investigation of each accident. Local police do not have jurisdiction, or don't seem to collect that information--if they even investigate plane crashes on/around airports.

Most airplane crashes end up in some sort of legal action. Even though about 85% of all airplane accidents are pilot error, it's amazing to see the number of law suits against other parties, as pilots try to blame someone/anyone else for their problems. Since these legal efforts take months, if not years, to resolve, and usually disappear behind a wall of secrecy--the public at large almost never learns about how these cases/crashes were resolved. So, there is generally no public awareness of just what the dollar cost associated with each General Aviation crash might be. And there is little evidence that the FAA, or the local airports, are actually enforcing their own regulations about insurance, but bring charges against any pilot/plane owner, who causes damage to people/businesses, etc. that exceed the required level of insurance.

Around the Palo Alto Airport, homes routinely sell for $1M-$5M. Over in Los Altos Hills, some homes are selling for upwards of $30M. East Palo Alto is slowly gentrifying, so homes are now listing for $1M, or more, in that city. When people are killed as a result of an airplane crash, it's not hard to believe that claims against the responsible parties will be in the $3M-$20+M range (per person). Certainly $1M/$100K insurance policies don't go very far, particularly if injured parties end up in an intensive care unit for weeks, at $15K+/day hospital care charges (and most likely more).

In the case of the Tesla crash, the power was cut off for all of Palo Alto, and homes were damaged in East Palo Alto. The loss of productivity for a whole town for eight hours (and more) certainly would be in the tens of millions of dollars, not to mention the perishable goods that some stores were forced to discard. Who is responsible for this loss of time? Well, this pilot is dead, and it's doubtful that he carried more than the insurance required (if he in fact had insurance). His estate might be worth $1M-$2M. He no doubt had shares in the Tesla Company; however, if he did not vest, then it's unlikely that the Company is going to contribute those shares to his estate so that the families of the people who died in this accident will be properly compensated for their loss.

And what about this 23-year old pilot, who is the focus of this crash? At his young age, it is unlikely his young man even owns his own car—much less a sizeable estate that might be used to compensate people he might harm from crashing a plane supposedly under his control. And we are left with the unsettling NTSB crash analysis that the engine failure was "unknown". If the reason is "unknown"—who is responsible? And don't forget, this plane was owned at the time by a corporation on the East Coast.

It's extremely unlikely that anyone at 23 knows how to properly check out an engine, or has enough experience under his belt to properly deal with every emergency that might occur during cross-country flights. This young man was lucky. We, who live under the flight operations path of the Palo Alto Airport, are not.

Pilots/plane owners are not required to reveal any specific information about their insurance policies, so there is no one that anyone can know what the typical policy limits might be. It is simply conjecture as to how much more the average pilot carries in terms of liability coverage.

This airport is a constant danger to the people living within a five mile distance of the site, and should be moved to
someplace else as soon as possible.


Posted by some guy, a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2012 at 11:52 am

The problem with the airport is that occasionally there is an airplane going overhead, and that is too much for some people to be able to handle. They try to make it into a safety issue because just being annoyed isn't all that compelling.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Mar 25, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"It's extremely unlikely that anyone at 23 knows how to properly check out an engine, or has enough experience under his belt to properly deal with every emergency that might occur during cross-country flights. "

This crash was fully investigated by the NTSB. The NTSB report confirmed that the pilot was properly licensed. Therefore, the pilot, in order to receive his FAA license, had had to absolutely demonstrate that he could both properly check his engine in a pre-flight inspection and that he could perform the necessary emergency procedures - as was also demonstrated by the fact that he executed those procedures properly after the engine failed.

"Pilots/plane owners are not required to reveal any specific information about their insurance policies," Pilots MUST actually name the airport at which they are based as 'insured' on their policies and those airports therefore receive copies of the actual policy with the policy limits.

It would be helpful it posters would not make unverified allegations - and at least read the NTSB report before spouting off.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Mar 25, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here are the related (pre-flight check and emergency procedures) Practical Test Standards that the pilot had to have met in order to be a licensed pilot:
A. TASK: PREFLIGHT INSPECTION (ASEL and ASES)
REFERENCES: FAA-H-8083-3; POH/AFM.
Objective. To determine that the applicant:
1. Exhibits knowledge of the elements related to preflight inspection.
This shall include which items must be inspected, the reasons for
checking each item, and how to detect possible defects.
2. Inspects the airplane with reference to an appropriate checklist.
3. Verifies the airplane is in condition for safe flight.

B. TASK: SYSTEMS AND EQUIPMENT MALFUNCTIONS
(ASEL and ASES)
REFERENCES: FAA-H-8083-3; POH/AFM.
Objective. To determine that the applicant:
1. Exhibits knowledge of the elements related to system and equipment
malfunctions appropriate to the airplane provided for the practical
test.
2. Analyzes the situation and takes appropriate action for simulated
emergencies appropriate to the airplane provided for the practical
test for at least three (3) of the following—
a. partial or complete power loss.
b. engine roughness or overheat.
c. carburetor or induction icing.
d. loss of oil pressure.
e. fuel starvation.
f. electrical malfunction.
g. vacuum/pressure, and associated flight instruments malfunction.
h. pitot/static.
i. landing gear or flap malfunction.
j. inoperative trim.
k. inadvertent door or window opening.
l. structural icing.
m. smoke/fire/engine compartment fire.
n. any other emergency appropriate to the airplane.
3. Follows the appropriate checklist or procedure.
*******
Clearly earning a pilot license is significantly more demanded than getting an automobile driver's license.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Mar 25, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The pilot in this incident held a FAA Commercial license which also required the following:


Sec. 61.129 - Aeronautical experience.
(a) For an airplane single-engine rating. Except as provided in paragraph (i) of this section, a person who applies for a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane category and single-engine class rating must log at least 250 hours of flight time as a pilot that consists of at least:

(1) 100 hours in powered aircraft, of which 50 hours must be in airplanes.

(2) 100 hours of pilot-in-command flight time, which includes at least--

(i) 50 hours in airplanes; and

(ii) 50 hours in cross-country flight of which at least 10 hours must be in airplanes.

(3) 20 hours of training on the areas of operation listed in Sec. 61.127(b)(1) of this part that includes at least--

(i) Ten hours of instrument training using a view-limiting device including attitude instrument flying, partial panel skills, recovery from unusual flight attitudes, and intercepting and tracking navigational systems. Five hours of the 10 hours required on instrument training must be in a single engine airplane;

(ii) 10 hours of training in an airplane that has a retractable landing gear, flaps, and a controllable pitch propeller, or is turbine-powered, or for an applicant seeking a single-engine seaplane rating, 10 hours of training in a seaplane that has flaps and a controllable pitch propeller;

(iii) One 2-hour cross country flight in a single engine airplane in daytime conditions that consists of a total straight-line distance of more than 100 nautical miles from the original point of departure;

(iv) One 2-hour cross country flight in a single engine airplane in nighttime conditions that consists of a total straight-line distance of more than 100 nautical miles from the original point of departure; and

(v) Three hours in a single-engine airplane with an authorized instructor in preparation for the practical test within the preceding 2 calendar months from the month of the test.

(4) Ten hours of solo flight time in a single engine airplane or 10 hours of flight time performing the duties of pilot in command in a single engine airplane with an authorized instructor on board (either of which may be credited towards the flight time requirement under paragraph (a)(2) of this section), on the areas of operation listed under Sec. 61.127(b)(1) that include--

(i) One cross-country flight of not less than 300 nautical miles total distance, with landings at a minimum of three points, one of which is a straight-line distance of at least 250 nautical miles from the original departure point. However, if this requirement is being met in Hawaii, the longest segment need only have a straight-line distance of at least 150 nautical miles; and

(ii) 5 hours in night VFR conditions with 10 takeoffs and 10 landings (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport with an operating control tower.

********
Given these requirements its is irresponsible and ignorant to suggest that "It's extremely unlikely that anyone at 23 knows how to ....".


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 25, 2012 at 2:31 pm

As a former pilot out of PAO, I also support keeping our airport. It is one of those things that provide an element of enjoyment to our region. It also provides a possible destination hotel, along with major city tax gains, in the future. Think destinaiton airport, hotel, improved golf course, conference center, etc.

I only wish that Peter Carpenter would tone down his criticism of Palo Alto, especially including my neighborhood, College Terrace. After all, what does Atherton do for Palo Alto? It seems to be a one-way street: Palo Alto does for Atherton.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Mar 25, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"wish that Peter Carpenter would tone down his criticism of Palo Alto"

Where exactly in the above postings have I made any criticism of Palo Alto?

Craig - thou doth protest too much.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Peter,

You are a big complainer about various things, Palo Alto. Especially including College Terrace. Now, if somebody else is using your name, let me know. Otherwise, guility as charged. All you have to do is go back to the last time you smeared CT...and I was right back attcha.

If you want support for Atherton perks, like the airport, then you need to buck up and provide some from Atherton. What are they, Peter? How about opening up your park for outside sports teams?

The bottom line is: What does Atherton provide for Palo Alto, as well as the larger region? As far as I can tell, nothing. Yet you insist on flying out of PAO. Get real, Peter.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Mar 25, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Craig - you are, as usual, off topic. If you just want to complain about something then start a new topic.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 25, 2012 at 3:00 pm

No, Peter, the issue is the use of a major Palo Alto element, the airport, for the use of the larger region, especially including elite communities like Atherton. You can run but you cannot hide (as Joe Louis said).

What does Atherton have to offer to the larger region?

If you want political support for PAO, then you need to provide something major from Atherton. What is it, Peter?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Mar 25, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Craig - This topic has nothing to do with me, or where I fly from, or Atherton. If you want to start a topic on the PA airport feel free to do so - this topic is the NTSB's report on a 2011 accident.

And, as usual your facts are wrong. I haven't flown out of PAO in the last 5 years.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 25, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Wrong, Peter.

Every time there is a crash at PAO, it becomes a political issue...just check out this thread. You want to isolate on the details of an incident, but the issue is a much larger one, namely the continued existence of PAO.

Until Atherton agrees to contribute to the larger region, it, as well other eltite communities, will find that PAO will get shut down. Take it to the bank, Peter. What is Atherton willing to contribute, Peter? You may not have flown out of PAO in the last five years, but assuming that you still fly, have you landed there in the last five years? General aviation requires a lot of political support, and you are not providing it, Peter.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Mar 25, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"You may not have flown out of PAO in the last five years, but assuming that you still fly, have you landed there in the last five years" No - but why is that any of your business and how does it relate to the NTSB report?

Craig - you are boringly off topic. The incident in question occurred a year ago. The topic is the issuance of the NTSB report.

Goodbye Craig.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 25, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Wrong agin, Peter.

The NTSB report generated a political response, re:

"The ridiculousness of the situation is compounded by the fact that the airport, which is implicitly subsidized by the taxpayers of Palo Alto, is used predominately by out-of-towners. For most Palo Altans, the airport is a source of nuisance noise and potential lethal danger."

The major issue, Peter, is the continued existence of PAO. PAO will be closed, unless there is political support to keep it open. The primary users of PAO are from places like Atherton. You decided to punt. Doesn't look good, Peter.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Mar 25, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Craig - you are boringly off topic. The incident in question occurred a year ago. The topic is the issuance of the NTSB report.

Goodbye Craig.


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