Post a New Topic
Is one airplane crash enough or do we need to wait for another one?
Original post made
by petercarp, Atherton,
on Feb 28, 2010
The tragic airplane crash in East Palo Alto has generated a lot of discussion on the Town Square Forum spread over a number of different topics/threads. I thought it would be useful to start a new thread to consolidate and hopefully to focus these discussions.
To date the posted comments fall into three classes - close the airport, make significant changes in the way that the airport operates and do nothing. To make my position clear, I favor the second position and have sent this request to the airport operator:
Director of Airports
Santa Clara County
This is a request that the County of Santa Clara, as the operator of the Palo Alto Airport, take the necessary steps to prohibit low altitude pattern operations on the west side of runway 13/31 and to prohibit IFR departures from runway 31 whenever those departures could be safely made from runway 13.
Please let me know if you require additional information or a different form/format in order to act on this request.
As for my credentials:
- an IFR rated private pilot who flew for many years out of KPAO, but who no longer flies
- a member of the PAO Joint Community Relations Committee for 18 years and Chair for 8? years
- a Palo Alto Planning Commissioner for 4 1/2 years
- an elected Director of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District for 8 1/2 years
Here is some background on this tragedy:
1 - What happened - a Cessna 310R taking off in a northwesterly direction on runway 31 in very low visibility instrument conditions departed from the standard instrument flight path and instead made a sharp left turn just after takeoff. The plane hit electrical power lines and an electrical power line tower and the debris caused significant property damage to the Beech St neighborhood in East Palo Alto. The pilot and his two passengers were killed.
2 - How did this happen - At this time we simply do not know what caused the deviation from a standard instrument flight path. Alternative explanations include mechanical failure, pilot error or pilot incapacitation. The National Transportation Safety Board has begun its investigation and will issue its report probably in about 12 months.
3 - Why did this happen - Here I am expressing my personal opinion - this accident happened because the aircraft/pilot failed to operate properly in/over a densely populated residential area.
4 - What can be done to prevent this from happening again - In my opinion all low level pattern operations on the west side of the runway at the Palo Alto Airport should be prohibited - just as they are at San Carlos Airport. In addition IFR departures should be made to the southeast when winds permit - most severe IFR weather at Palo Alto Airport is caused by fog and when there is fog there is generally no wind.
5 - What has the airport community done in terms of outreach to the effected neighborhood
a - Palo Alto Airport Association: "As we all know, a terrible tragedy occurred this week with the crash of the Cessna 310 onto Beech St. in East Palo Alto. Our thoughts and sympathy go out to the family of those that died in the accident.
Since the accident, the Board of the Airport Association and the airport community have been been researching best way for us to help those affected on the ground. After visiting with the families on Beech St, specific actions have been identified. We will be trying to arrange use of a truck for one family so they can continue their business, provide cash for a family so they can make rent and buy food, provide money as needed to help rebuild the day care, etc.
A fund has been set up by the Association to help these families. Donations are being accepted through the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation:
CLICK TO DONATE NOW <Web Link;
(Please Note that this if for the Beech St Fund in the designation field.)"
b - Here is the Google Group that has been set up:
The plane crash on 17 February in East Palo Alto took the lives of the three people in the plane, all employees of Tesla, and destroyed a number of homes and vehicles on the ground. The purpose of this Google Group is to facilitate concerned members of the community coming together to provide support for all of those impacted by this tragic event. The group is open to anyone, posts are not moderated and it is up to each individual group member to decide how they can make a difference.
Many posters have called for closing the Palo Alto Airport and they make persuasive arguments for doing so. Sadly of the few members of the aviation community who have posted on this tragedy most have voted for a wait and see approach - even though the NTSB evaluation of this crash will take 10-12 months - and some have demonstrated a profound disregard for the public's safety and a degree of arrogance for which I am ashamed. My view is that we can and should act now to protect the citizens living near the airport from another tragedy.
This topic is intended to stimulate a fact based discussion on this issue - Is one airplane crash enough or do we need to wait for another one?
Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2010 at 6:38 pm
From the Close Reid HillView Site above is the beginnings of a pro-con list that might apply to Palo Alto and a basis to think about this problem:
* The airport is conveniently located so that recreational pilots do not have far to drive to engage in their hobby.
* The airport puts approximately $10 million a year into the economy, and generates about $1 million in state and local taxes. 
* The airport provides jobs for approximately 100 county residents. 
* The airport's convenient location puts it in the middle of a residential neighborhood, which is very inconvenient for the 40,000 immediate residents. 
* Compared to other possible uses of this land, the airport's contribution ($10 million) to the overall economy is paltry, and its contribution to the local economy is even less. In other words, RHV is depressing the local economy by a minimum of $1 billion to $2 billion dollars a year. 
* Compared to other possible uses of this land, the airport provides very few jobs overall (100), and few, if any, for local residents. 
* The airport is on 180 acres of county land. Yet it only benefits a very small percentage of county residents, and few, if any, local residents. 
* The existence of the airport drives residents out of the neighborhood.
* The existence of the airport prevents many people from considering moving into the neighborhood.
* The existence of the airport depresses property values of local homes when compared to homes in similar (except for a recreational airport) adjacent neighborhoods. 
* The majority of low income homeowners net worth is in their home equity. RHV is, in effect, stealing this money from the people who can least afford this theft. 
* The reduced property values mean less tax revenue for East San Jose schools.
* The paltry economic contribution of Reid-Hillview results in substantially reduced tax revenue for San Jose compared to other economic uses of the land.
* Undeveloped land around Eastridge Mall can not be efficiently used since it is in an airport safety buffer zone. Essentially, this valuable land is now useless.
* The Hillview library on Ocala Avenue, across from the airport and next to Hillview Park, could not be expanded due to opposition by airport supporters. Instead, it was moved to a nearby school yard, which is a less desirable location. Additionally, the relocation onto the school yard resulted in the loss of open space for neighborhood children, and adults, to use for recreational purposes.
* The Hank Lopez Community Center on Ocala Avenue, across from the airport and next to Hillview Park, had to return a $1.5 million dollar grant for expansion due to opposition by airport supporters. A side-effect of this loss is that the community center has been downsized, and youth services moved to other, harder to reach, community centers.
* The 2005 RHV Master Plan calls for the relocation of the Eastridge Little League, pending FAA and environmental approval, to the opposite side of the airport, adjacent to runway 31L-13R. This location exposes the children to even more lead exhaust from aircraft, and adds the potential for an aircraft to veer from the runway onto the ball field. If this new site is not approved the Little League, after over 25 years of serving the community, will be without a home. The purpose of the move is so that the current ball field land can be developed to generate revenue for airport improvements over the 20 year period of the Master Plan. Interestingly, over the same 20 year period, airport users are not being asked to provide even one penny for airport improvements, even though the improvements only benefit the airport users. East San Jose residents are expected to provide the revenue for airport improvements over the 20 year period by patronizing the businesses built on airport land.
* San Jose has declared the neighborhoods to the north, north-west, and north-east of Reid-Hillview as blighted. These are the neighborhoods most directly impacted by pilots flying in circles practicing takeoffs and landings. 
* Since the presence of Reid-Hillview drags down the surrounding neighborhood, the ripple effect drags down the entire eastside.
* Reid-Hillview provides no significant benefit to the neighborhood, the city, and the county while providing a number of significant drawbacks to the neighborhood, the city, and the county.
* The airport, simply by its existence, is a significant contributing factor to the depression, blight, and, by extension, crime in the area. 
* Even though this is a county airport located in the middle of a residential neighborhood, the county has no control over the airport. The same rules regulating an airport located in the middle of a desert apply to Reid-Hillview. This means that student pilots fly around in circles, over and over and over and over, practicing takeoffs and landings at any time of the day and night, and nothing can be done to prevent it or even regulate it.
* At least 60% of all flight hours are from student pilots and very possibly 80% or more of all operations (takeoff and landing equal 2 operations) are the result of student pilots. 
* The flight schools generate the majority of the afternoon, evening and night operations. These operations are from student pilots flying in circles practicing takeoffs and landings. The same pilot goes overhead every 5 to 7 minutes for an hour while doing this. Often, two or more pilots are doing this at the same time. Then one finishes and another starts, so you have non-stop air traffic for hours at a time, day and night, simply from aircraft flying in circles.
* The vast majority of RHV pilots are recreational pilots. This is their hobby. Although it is nice to have a hobby, no one has the right to engage in a hobby that annoys, terrorizes, threatens lives, spews leaded exhaust fumes (general aviation continues to use leaded fuel), lowers the standard of living, reduces property values, inhibits people from moving into the neighborhood, and drives current residents out of the neighborhood. Yet this is what happens every time a pilot flies at Reid-Hillview. 
* The FAA recorded 230,000 operations (takeoff/landing = 2 operations) between 7 AM and 10 PM in year 2000. This averages to an operation every 86 seconds between 7 AM and 10 PM 365 days a year. 154,100 (67%) of these operations were from pilots simply flying in circles practicing takeoffs and landings. This averages to an operation every 127 seconds between 7 AM and 10 PM 365 days a year just from pilots flying in circles, over and over and over and over. There are 8 schools, thousands of homes, and tens of thousands of residents in this practice area. 
* Every day, East San Jose residents (pregnant women, children, and adults) are being slowly poisoned by lead particles from the exhaust of private planes continually flying in circles, fuel spills at the airport, and gas fumes escaping during re-fueling. Additionally, there are 9 schools located within the flight pattern used by pilots while flying in circles. According to the EPA, Santa Clara county is in the "Highest in the US" category in regard to lead air pollution and 88% of the lead is from general aviation airplanes.
* East San Jose children, and adults, are being physically and mentally harmed on a daily basis by the incessant noise from RHV planes. 
* While not a daily drawback, eventually, a plane will crash into a school, apartment, Eastridge, or a house, and kill a number of innocent people.
Again, these statements are from the Close Reid Hillview website located here: