Is one airplane crash enough or do we need to wait for another one? Issues Beyond Palo Alto, posted by petercarp, a resident of Atherton, on Feb 28, 2010 at 9:14 pm petercarp is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
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?
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 1, 2010 at 1:02 am
Even with "significant" changes, or whatever is deemed a significant change, we have no idea if that is going to prevent a repeat of the crash of the other day, true?
Especially if there is a human judgement failure element of that crash, but even so, it seems that every time a decision like this is made the risk is ignored or dismissed because any potential "victims" are unknown, random and in the future.
What is the need for the airport? Is it a recreational facility for people who fly for a hobby, or is there a public need for it? I have heard about medical victims being flown here, that is a statewide or country wide service. I'm thinking that function could be met by helicopter flights direct to Stanford for emergencies.
Having read so many of the posts over the last number of days I find a lot of good information, such as petercarp has submitted, but also alot of what can only be called propaganda from both sides.
I still think that the bay front land is very valuable for wildlife and recreation and should be used. The airport really impinges on the enjoyment of people out at the bay, and there are more and more people going out there, and probably many more that would go out there if there were services and place to go. It is a fantastic area with a lot of potential, especially when the dump is going to close.
I'd like to know what does the airport bring to us, service-wise and tax-wise?
I much agree with the poster's point about the supporters of the airport and their sometimes blatant pro-airport position, and absurd arguments, such as shutting down 101. This is a serious issue and it may well be that the airport gives us something important. Whatever the discussion should be measured and intelligent.
The supporters of the airport have time on their side I think. The longer people wait their natural tendency is to let it go. That is really not fair to the residents of East Palo Alto, or anyone else in the area.
Then there are related questions like why are their so many planes (relatively and subjectively) planes that fly over the city? Under what situations are planes allowed to fly over residential areas and is this a sort of abuse of the freedom and lack of regulation in flight plans or is it just thought not to be an issue?
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 1, 2010 at 1:16 am
>>>> 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. <<<<<
Thank you for that brutal honesty ... as a pilot I'm sure that is not easy or pleasant.
I think my point is that "ergonomically" if that is the right word, probably not, the placement of the Palo Alto airport is not optimal for any kind of regulation like that. San Carlos is much better placed being farther from residential and other infrastucture.
Historically I think we can say that the Palo Alto Airport was at least somewhat negligent in NOT BEING PROACTIVE to restrict airplanes from operating over East Palo Alto. Why that is would be interesting to know.
I have to think that this is a sort of systemic and class type of problem, where pilots, often rich, educated and major contributors to society maintain a certain arrogance and superiority and confidence in their judgement, even when they are wrong.
Having read many books which touch on cockpit dynamics you can see this in the past tragedies of major airline disasters, and in the trend in regulations in the operation of commercial jetliners. The modern attempt to remove the ability of the pilot to intimidate or run roughshod over his technical subordinates.
I think we see this on a lot of areas, particularly as pointed out by Atul Gawande as regards operating room protocol and procedures in his new book "Checklist Manifesto".
But as to your question, I think we will always be waiting for the next crash, and we can never know where it will come from or why. So the best policy it seems to me would be to look clearly at the needs of the city/region for a local airport, and at the risk. The handwaving that everything has a risk arguments or authority are clearly not enough, and this erroneous way of intimidating opponents to whatever project has no served us well in the past years in any branch of the economy or politics and we are in a real fix because of it.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 1, 2010 at 8:30 am
There have been a lot more than "one crash since the beginning of the airport's life". Crashes occur regularly at the Palo Alto airport. If you search this newspaper's archives, you will find photos of many of them. Perhaps this is the first crash into a residential area. Most of the planes crash into the Baylands marsh area.
Personally, I am willing to wait for the crash investigation report before making a final decision about changes to the airport.
Posted by Phil, a resident of another community, on Mar 1, 2010 at 10:36 am
Here's my question relative to the issue. Was the airport there first, and developers did what they do and started the communities around the airport? Or, conversely, were the homes already there and someone decided it would be a good place to build an airport? If people bought or built homes in line with an existing airport departure/arrival runway, or anywhere near it, I don't believe they have a horse in the race....they should have known better. Takeoffs and landings are the most dangerous part of a flight, as they always have been....it would only be a matter of time until an accident like this would occur...and yes...in time it will happen again. It never ceases to amaze me that people will build or buy a house very near an airport, and then petition to have the airport shut down because of the noise or potential risk of an accident like this.
Posted by Janelle, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 1, 2010 at 11:07 am
I see no reason not to keep the Palo Alto Airport, however, I do believe that some changes are needed.
First of all, while this accident was probably caused by mechanical failure and, I am aware that the pilot was trained in flying in extreme weather situations, the airport should have some limitations for anyone taking off in such extreme fog-related situations.
Second, I would like to see the airport have a no-fly zone after 11:00PM seven days a week. I believe this used to be the rule and should again be implemented.
Posted by Paul, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Mar 1, 2010 at 11:41 am
"It never ceases to amaze me that people will build or buy a house very near an airport, and then petition to have the airport shut down because of the noise or potential risk of an accident like this."
This supremely arrogant posting aptly illustrates the huge indirect subsidies airports need - in this case, a substantial buffer zone around the airport. Phil's position is that this subsidy should be provided gratis by whoever owns that land. I've heard that from many other pleasure flyers too.
Flyboys, if you want that real estate dedicated for your use then buy it, if you can afford to. Else, take up fishing or chess.
PAO would instantly go bankrupt if it had to pay its full actual costs. I hope the city takes this into account when it decides to close this costly exclusive playground and to use the land for the benefit of all Palo Alto citizens.
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 1, 2010 at 11:45 am
I cannot believe the thoughtless, arrogant and illogical posts, and this is what passes for discussion on issues these days, or at least that is the strategy for some to ruin the discussion.
1. Because airplane noise was never a problem for one person who claims they lived in this area years ago means nothing today for other people. The one person who said this has posted their picture and seems old enough to have had hearing problems for a long time, and attitude problems as well.
2. Because some people want to have a reasonable logical fact-based discussion about the airport does not mean that they want to shut down 101, or forbid cars anyway. Setting up that straw man to attack is just to easy for some people I guess. Being anti-airport does not mean anything else except being against the risk the airport puts on people who are stuck with it politically. This is a similar argument to second-hand smoke, blind defenders of the airport are just claiming others should assume the risk because either they are not subject to it, or they do accept the risk.
3. I'd like to know how many crashes there have been at the airport, and I would also like an answer to what is are the rules for flying over the city? Does anyone know the answer to this? I do not think we need to know what caused this crash, since whatever it is there is virtually the same chance of it happening again as there was for it to happen this time. One poster is totally correct in one statement ... it will happen again. This is the event we need to discuss.
4. Quality of life in East Palo Alto is not about either accepting crime or airport flyovers, and though I do not live in EPA I am extremely offended by the unintelligent argument that East Palo Altan's should not worry about the airport and focus on crime. Maybe the poster does not understand just how pathetic that argument is?
5. It is also not a good argument to say that people who purchase or rent houses in East Palo Alto assumed the risk of an airplane crashing into their houses as long as the airport was there first - which the poster of that one does not even know. It also does take into account the chance that a plane will crash into someone's house in Palo Alto. It is like the airshows the USAF does over populated areas, every so often a plane crashes into a house. After that the citizens, and this also includes civilians in Europe who live by US air bases rebel and ban the planes or try the best they can. Why do people buy houses right on the train tracks? The house is there thanks for whoever approved the development, and that is usually done for political reasons that people have NO control over.
6. We do not know the accident was caused by mechanical failure. Even if we did, we do not know what can be done to prevent the same mechanical failure from happening again, nor do we know what else can happen to cause a crash. There are unforeseen mechanical and judgement. The one thing we do know is that there is a non-zero risk of another crash in the future. Before we go forward and willingly condemn someone and possible a greater number of people due to the probably greater housing density in EPA in the future, we need to grapple with the reality we are trying to discuss, and not make up a bunch of irrelevant comments to inflame, dismiss or kick people out of the discussion.
As I said, what does the airport give us? What is the cost, and what is the risk to others. If there is a risk of death, which there seems to be, that needs to tackled head on and not with various tactics of denial and bad comedy.
What could be done with that area if the airport were gone? What has been done at Mountain View is probably a good example, recreation and businesses, nice ... relatively quiet green space for all.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Mar 1, 2010 at 1:02 pm
Anon states:"6. We do not know the accident was caused by mechanical failure. Even if we did, we do not know what can be done to prevent the same mechanical failure from happening again, nor do we know what else can happen to cause a crash. There are unforeseen mechanical and judgement. The one thing we do know is that there is a non-zero risk of another crash in the future. Before we go forward and willingly condemn someone and possible a greater number of people due to the probably greater housing density in EPA in the future, we need to grapple with the reality we are trying to discuss,"
This IS the essence of our challenge. There will be aircraft accidents whenever there are aircraft in operation. The key is to do everything we can to make sure that the airplanes are not operated at low altitudes over residential areas (at higher altitudes the planes can safely glide some distance to a safer landing area).
San Carlos airport prohibits low level flight patterns on the 101 side of its runway for exactly this reason. Palo Alto airport should do the same and that is what I have proposed in my letter to the County (which currently operates the airport). Low level operations over marshland, the dump, Byxbe Park and the bay place no residences at risk in the event of an accident - and accidents will happen. Also requiring pilots to take off to the south on runway 13 in heavy fog conditions when there is not a wind requiring a northerly takeoff places the flight path, and even deviations like that of the 17 Feb crash, away from residential areas.
To me this is a no-brainer decision and simply means acknowledging the the current procedures do not properly protect the non-flying citizens on the ground. I believe that the airport is an important community asset but it most be operated in such a manner that it does not place the citizens in the surrounding community in avoidable risk.
Posted by just thinkin', a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 1, 2010 at 1:26 pm
Some folks question the placement of the airport. I submit it was/is the faulty of the genius who bulit homes near the airport. Why punish the pilots for the silly behavior of a builder and anyone willing to live near an airport. What next - tear out the track because of the noise?
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Mar 1, 2010 at 1:37 pm
The Palo Alto airport is not an example of an airport that was built in the middle of nowhere and then was surrounded by new residential areas.
The Palo Alto airport began on Stanford lands and then was moved towards Middlefield and then to where the golf course is and finally to its current location. At the time of its move to the current location the surrounding land areas to the north and west were already established residential communities. Some of the land in what is now East Palo Alto was agicultural but on some parcels which usually included residences.
Posted by Former pilot, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 1, 2010 at 1:48 pm
The Palo Alto Airport has been in its current location since 1935.
When I was flying regularly, there was a procedure that prohibited flights over the West side of 101 below 1500'. After takeoff on Runway 31 (the one that heads northwesterly) we are instructed to fly straight ahead and not make a left turn (towards EPA/PA/foothills) until we are at least at 1000'.
Palo Alto Airport is in a tricky spot because of all the Class B and Class C airspace around the Bay. San Francisco Airport is in Class B airspace, which is the most restricted. San Jose and Oakland airports are Class C, which also require special permissions to enter.
There are a couple of narrow windows around the Palo Alto Airport where one can fly before having to contact either SFO or Bay Departure.
My flight instructor, Mary Ellen Carlin, always emphasized the need for us to be good neighbors. When I'm monitoring the tower frequency, it seems to me that the people who are not following our "good neighbor" policies are not locals, and are not familiar with the airport's noise abatement policies.
San Carlos Airport is MUCH stricter in enforcing their noise abatement policies, but then the usual takeoff route there takes you right over one of Larry Ellison's buildings, and I heard that he was a major complainer about aircraft noise. Kind of ironic.
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Mar 1, 2010 at 2:55 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Who cares how long the airport has been there? Something being there prior to something else doesn't mean it should come first unless it's something like a natural habitat that we as humans have to protect. The issue is how PAO effects quality of life and safety NOW, not 70 years ago, 30 years ago, 10 years ago. EPA is growing faster than other towns in the county. People need affordable housing, housing of various sizes, ages, locations and housing that can be rented or purchased. PAO is not a major airport so it's not as if everyone in town here has much awareness of PAO. As well, I know many people who have moved into Palo Alto, Mountain View and Menlo Park who have no idea there is a small, local airport. I have a hard time figuring out what real loss to the area there would be if it shut down. But if it remains open, stricter rules need to be in place to ensure that safety and quality of life issues for all locals are adequately addressed.
Posted by Jason, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 1, 2010 at 3:07 pm
PAO did change its procedures to require pilots to make a 10 degree turn to the right, after takeoff, in order to reduce noise in EPA. This recent crash could have been non-threatening to EPA, if ALL IFR flights are required to take off on 13 (southeast, over the bay), unless the wind is prohibitive to safe take-offs.
There are a number of things about this crash that do not make any sense. Even a mechinical failure should have taken the flight to right, not the left (over EPA). Multi-engine pilots are trained to make quick adjustments and "fly the plane". There remains the issue of a health issue.
EPA should not need to fear PAO. If stronger precedures are required, then I, as a former pilot at PAO, support rational changes. However, I do not support those who want to shut down PAO.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 1, 2010 at 3:37 pm
How about take a regional approach to the issue?
I'm too young to recall specifics, but since I started reading newspapers back when I was a kid, I vaguely recall a big argument over the busy small plane airport in east San Jose/Eastridge Mall area. Don't know the name of the airport. There was some bad crash back there once in the residential area...? And the densely populated residential region was unhappy about the airport. Does that airport still exist? Does Eastridge Mall still exist? - I admit I have no idea.
I also recall more recently (sorry, still don't know time frame) that Moffett Field was eyed for general aviation because of the east San Jose situation. It's also true that hobby pilots fly small planes out of SJC, right?
Could Palo Alto general aviation be consolidated at Moffett or SJC or San Carlos? They're all close. Moffett must be well under-utilized nowasays and certainly must have major runways with a huge margin of safety.
After all, I read in the Mountain View Voice that the Google guys get to station their "toy" fighter jet there.
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Mar 1, 2010 at 4:35 pm
Jason, I, too, am very puzzled as to why the plane ended up over EPA as opposed to the bay. The pilot was local, his passengers were local, and even in dense fog people know EPA and PA are to the left, the bay is to the right. Those power towers are not that high and of course there are houses and other structures that make flying in this area hazardous. I hope the investigation's results clarify matters. Is it likely we'll never know?
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Mar 1, 2010 at 4:44 pm
Hmmm states:"I, too, am very puzzled as to why the plane ended up over EPA as opposed to the bay."
The NTSB report that the plane was in a level or slight climb at low altitude until it struck high-tension power lines and a transmission tower and that the wreckage debris path was measured on a southwesterly heading suggest, but does NOT prove, that the pilot was still in control, i.e. not incapacitated, and that the plane was on a heading approximately 180 degrees from the 060 heading required within one mile of takeoff by his IFR departure clearance. The very fortunate capture of the aircraft sounds by the ShotSpotter system SUGGEST, by does NOT prove, that both engines were operating.
If the left engine in a twin engine airplane such as the one involved in the crash, had had a left engine failure at takeoff power that would, if not immediately corrected for, cause the plane to make a sharp left turn.
The final NTSB report will hopefully provide some answers as to why the pilot turned 180 degrees from his intended course.
Posted by Jason, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 1, 2010 at 5:44 pm
As you know, IFR clerances at PAO require that one get to the specific intersection in the sky, which requires a specific heading. It makes no sense to head 310 on takeoff to get to that intersection...it can just as easily be achieved from a 130 takeoff heading.
This thing is slightly crazy, and it can be corrected. The aviation community needs to fix it. The take home message is that pilots should be required to land/crash in the bay, not in a populated area, if there is an emergency. Prohibiting takeoffs on 31 in IFR conditions is a good start.
Posted by narnia, a resident of Menlo Park, on Mar 1, 2010 at 6:15 pm
peter is right as to one of the possible explanations for the crash. Another is, of course, that the pilot made a numeric error (transposed numbers or entered wrong operations ,etc, was he in a hurry?) and since he had no visual cues ( not a good idea) because of the fog, he didn't know where he was headed.
We shall know in time.
I think the airport is here to stay. Making it safer is a priority.
It is a wee bit cruel to say that housing shouldn't be built near the airport. One of the victims lived nearby. We all know that housing in this area is far more necessary that THIS airport. The yacht club was closed though it posed no danger, consumed little and it was areal asset to Palo Altans who wanted to learn a very "green" and enjoyable sport. Shouldn't we apply the same closing criteria to the airport?
Posted by Sky King, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 1, 2010 at 6:19 pm
I think it is best for all to wait until the NTSB report is published. Then definitive issues can be addressed if necessary and appropriate.
There have been other accidents either originating or ending in this area that may provide informative reading. These final reports are technical and do provide insight for those with sufficient aviation knowledge to understand. All three have different reasons for the accident.
The report on these three events all with different.
1) December 13, 1988 - NTSB Identification: LAX89DVM03 BEARD VARIEZE
2) July 17, 1987 - NTSB Identification: SEA87FA141 BEECH B200
3) December 27, 1986 - NTSB Identification: LAX87FA069 BEECH E-55
The point here is obvious not all accidents have the same origin.
One more point for all those claiming the airport does not pay. Go ask the Santa Clara County Tax Collector how much is collected on the Aircraft Property Statement from owners that keep airplanes and other business assets at PAO.
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 1, 2010 at 6:27 pm
Petercarp ... I think your request to the County of Santa Clara is certainly sensible, but I feel I am looking at the big picture. In light of all the problems with noise, risk, crashes, here and at other faciltiies, WHY WAS YOUR SUGGESTION NOT DONE BEFORE?
As I mentioned, if we cannot see responsible proactive judgement from the managers of the airport after all of this time, what is a real NO-BRAINER is that we will not see it in the future. Look at what the weak new regulation of the banks is setting us up for. This national pattern of the attitude of let power and money do whatever they want and put the costs and risks on the back of the regular people is the thing that really bothers me.
How many "crashes" in different areas do we see before we start to see the problem with self-regulation in public or private areas.
It is fine to say let's do something after the crash. For example, the NTSB will surely do that. They are charged with that and will take whatever they learn and apply is systemically to help everyone avoid problems for the future.
What I hear from supporters here of the airport is insulting condescending replies that show a really arrogant superiority that because the risk to them personally seems reasonable then anyone who disagrees with them is an idiot. This is a mindset that is not focused on preventing existing problems or looking specifically for how to improve - unless they are forced to. Who wants to live next to a bad neighbor like that, who is associated with a risk they are not actively and positively managed - THIS IS THE BASIC QUESTION AND PROBLEM WITH THE PALO ALTO AIRPORT- AND IT IS WHY I BELIEVE IT SHOULD BE SHUT DOWN, UNLESS THERE IS SERIOUS PROOF OF SOME KIND OF DRASTIC SERIOUS POSITIVE CHANGE IN THEIR MODE OF OPERATION AND HOW THEY LOOK AT THEIR JOB .. AND HOW CAN WE KNOW THAT WHATEVER THEY DO SUBSEQUENTLY TO THIS CRASH IS JUST WINDOW DRESSING?
I have to say, San Carlos, with less of an exposure to residential areas has been far more responsible, and active in mitigating the risk of local air travel than Palo Alto. What is with Palo Alto? Why is the Palo Alto Airport so insulated from reality, so uninvolved with process improvement. Why do they not regularly report to the city or Palo Alto Online about what is happening ... why is there no local contact that or webpage that tells us the answer to all of our questions. To be fair, I don't know that there isn't, but again, I'm making the assumption that if there was it would have appeared in some of these messages.
On a gut level what I perceive from the Palo Alto airport is aloofness, arrogance, disinterest - except in how to do the minimum to keep running, and very little public concern, except in a PR damage control way.
** By the way, to the earlier power about San Jose, there was a crash or emergency landing at a mall I think from the Reid-Hillview airport in San Jose. I cannot recall the specifics, but I believe the airport is still open, though this link seems to indicate there is public pressure to close it;
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, 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:
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Mar 1, 2010 at 8:33 pm
Anon states:"Petercarp ... I think your request to the County of Santa Clara is certainly sensible, but I feel I am looking at the big picture. In light of all the problems with noise, risk, crashes, here and at other faciltiies, WHY WAS YOUR SUGGESTION NOT DONE BEFORE?"
We cannot change the past but we can shape the future. Let's build a community wide consensus on what changes need to be made in the way that the Palo Alto airport operates so that it both serves the community and does not place the community at avoidable risk.
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 1, 2010 at 9:17 pm
The Palo Alto Airport has shown it is not proactive, engaged or competent to remain in operation by this crash. It may have taken a long time to come out, but what is the overriding concern that the airport should remain open, given the lack of responsibility the airport has shown, and its precarious location.
It is unreasonable to expect the airport to change, to suddenly after many years start to look for ways to protect the public and reduce the risk of accident. They have shown that they are not competent and do not have the initiative to do this without an accident to motivate them.
I don't think anyone in Palo Alto would say publicly that they support a crash-fix, or crash-hopefully-fix repeating cycle, especially if the airport is not necessary in terms of being able to offer something that demands us to accept this level of risk.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Mar 1, 2010 at 9:38 pm
Sky King states:"I think it is best for all to wait until the NTSB report is published. Then definitive issues can be addressed if necessary and appropriate. "
Perhaps Sky King would like to offer his/her credentials and explanation for what happened and how such a tragedy might be averted in the future. Perhaps Sky King can explain why San Carlos Airport prohibits west of runway pattern operations and Palo Alto does not.
Perhaps Sky King can explain why it make sense to permit low altitude operations over dense residential areas when the unpopulated area over the bay is readily available.
Perhaps Sky King wants to wait for another accident to happen and perhaps even greater loss of life before we do the obvious of separating plane and homes whenever possible.
Posted by litebug, a resident of another community, on Mar 1, 2010 at 9:52 pm
I lived for 34 years in the area bordered by 101, Embarcadero, St. Francis and the Oregon Expressway, not all that far from the airport. When I first moved there, noise from the airport was inconsequential. By the time I left, in 2008, it had become a constant nuisance. The noise from aircraft often drowned out the noise from 101, which was itself pretty loud as it was right behind us. Low flying aircraft were so common they seemed the rule rather than the exception.
That certainly included the medic helicopter from Stanford which refueled at the airport, usually more than once a day. Often it sounded like it, or one of the other helicopters, was landing on our roof. Everything in the house shook. It was not unusual for us to run out of the house to see what was going on. Helicopters were the worst offenders. I realize that not all of them were coming from or going to the Palo Alto Airport but the red and white Stanford one was unmistakable.
We often remarked that we were afraid one of these low flyers would someday crash into or near us. When we heard about the crash in EPA we were only surprised it hadn't happened earlier.
Posted by Retired Staffer, a resident of another community, on Mar 1, 2010 at 11:27 pm
I have no aviation knowledge or expertise other than service as ground crew in the Marine Corps. So I have a question for the experts: Could either the pilot or aircraft have suffered a disabling event at takeoff and could the pilot have been trying to "come about" and make an emergency landing on the golf course instead of the bay? In my opinion the electrical service should be placed underground. Any elevated structure that close to any flight pattern is hazardous.
Posted by Another 2 cents worth here.., a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Mar 1, 2010 at 11:55 pm
WOWEEEE. A lot of crazy talk about closing the PA airport...
If all the hoopla that has been written from people that really don't know what is going on here, there would be just a minimal story.
The deaths, of course, were a terrible thing to happen. Does anyone take into consideration that EVERYDAY there are ACCIDENTS on our roadways that KILL people in their cars? Do they then call for a closure of the hiway because of this??? NO... how many cars crash~ daily~ as opposed to airplanes?????????? THink about the satistics on that one.
People that fly their airplanes out there have every right to do so, they also are considered part of the public. Yes, once the dumps close, Palo Alto should be combined with Mt. View in preserving the bay surrounding areas. I can't fanthom tall apartments or business'being built there. I would like to see it being used and preserved for future generations a la natural instead of being filled in with cement.
Having access to Palo Alto Airport may become vital at some point in an emergency situation. Don't really like to dwell on that one but let's not give up what we may be sorry for in the future. Once it was gone, there would be no turning back.
The small airport that was out by Eastridge did not have the bay to fly over taking off or landing..just smack in the populated area. Was called Reid~Hillview. Gone many years now.
Posted by narnia, a resident of Menlo Park, on Mar 2, 2010 at 2:44 am
another 2 cents worth,
On the road I control my car.
Cars cannot inflict as widespread a damage as even a small airplane can. Cars are part of our infrastructure, as are houses and we do maintain them apart.
I have absolutely no control over what's flying. Recreational flying is a choice. Cars are a necessity.
If you don't understand the difference, then I can't help you.
I think that the airport and pilots have to come up with a plan to make the airport safer. Definitely forbid flying with low visibility. Any pilot error of any kind, any mechanical failure combined with low visibility can spell disaster precisely because the airport is too close to buildings. Surely, the airport advocates are not suggesting that we leave them
such a wide berth as a mile and destroy all infrastructure so that they can be free to come and go as they please. Just come up with a sensible plan and we should all be safer. When the airport was first built the Bay Area was very different. It has already moved at least once to accommodate the new developments. Small, mainly recreational airports have to make adjustments accordingly, not the rest of us...The sense of entitlement of some of the posts is not smart. It's counterproductive.
Posted by Daniel, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Mar 2, 2010 at 7:34 am
The problems of lead poisoning, noise and danger to nearby residents existed before the latest crash. This is not the first crash either, it's the first to crash into a residential neighborhood. Airports like PAO should be judged like radiation-unless it's absolutely necessary, don't have it. This airport certainly doesn't meet the absolutely necessary requirement.
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 2, 2010 at 9:45 am
I've got to remark again that comparing the risk from the airport to the risk from driving or stray bullets in East Palo Alto is a fool's argument and in my opinion does not even deserve an answer.
Some of the answers have been good, but even engaging in this silly logic gives it some kind of dignity that it does not deserve.
I agree with the commenter earlier who talked about noise. Little by little the use and noise and risk has increased from the airport, while the managers have not been keeping up with it or doing anything about it. The status quo behavior has been to wait out crashes or criticisms of the airport while it seems doing nothing.
Petercarps good suggestion of prohibiting flying over EPA and the west side of the runway is a good one ... but many years too late. It should have been a no brainer, especially after whenever it was that San Carlos implemented that rule.
When San Carlos made that rule, what was the Palo Alto Airport's reaction? Did they follow the local incidents and changes? Did they ignore it purposefully as an unnecessary restriction on flyers?
I think this question as to why the Palo Alto Airport cannot think ahead and look for risks and ways to improve them ... the lack of this proactive competence demonstrates that the Palo Alto Airport will always be reactive, waiting for the next crash and trying toi survive it.
Why is there not a public spokesman who can put this crash into perpective for local residents? Who is in charge of the Palo Alto Airport and why do they have nothing to say? Should they at least have a website so that people can comment as they are doing here about their concerns or go for the latest information?
This is why I think anything they do at this point is just going to be what someone else forces them to do, and unwelcome, and the mindset of proactive responsible management of risk to the public will not be institutionalized the way it would need to be to handle a critical need, such a traffic in the city.
The question, what does the airport give us, and what are the risks is not even being asked, except for here, thanks to Petercarp, but this forum recedes further from the top of the Town Square Forums everyday.
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Mar 2, 2010 at 12:15 pm
Sharon - you need a get a grip - a grip on reality. While gang problems exist in EPA, your perspective is skewed because the media has skewed it. Clearly, the small planes ARE a hazard to EPA. Multiple homes and vehicles damaged, people dead, people traumatized, a huge amount of money spent in emergency response and livelihoods lost. Just because plane crashes don't happen often doesn't mean their isn't danger from them.
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Mar 2, 2010 at 1:16 pm
Sharon, the facts stand. Violence and plane crashes are both risks here. While the former happens more than the latter, obviously, this thread is about the latter, so refrain from acting as if plane crashes aren't a threat to the community. Recent history demonstrates that they are.
Posted by Daniel, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Mar 2, 2010 at 1:28 pm
The argument that since gang violence exists in EPA PAO should be left alone is highly disingenuous and smacks of racism. Does the fact that murder is more serious than white color crime mean that we should allow and tolerate white color crime? EPA residents are fighting gang violence to the best of their and their local law enforcement abilities. They are victims of violence, they shouldn't be also the victims of very serious noise pollution, lead poisoning and the potential for a catastrophic crash, something that only miraculously didn't happen two weeks ago. PAO is not vital and is hardly necessary, it's mostly a facility for a leisure activity, heavily subsidized by the tax payers. In balance, the removal of the airport will be infinitesimally more beneficial to PA and EPA residents than keeping it.
Posted by Jason, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 2, 2010 at 1:38 pm
EPA is, obviously, much more at risk from gangs and guns and cars. However, PAO can and should do its part. In truth, noise is a much bigger issue than safety on the ground, although the safety issue is real, as recently demonstrated.
In another thread, I suggested that EPA, as well as PA, can get some real benefits from PAO, especially if PAO is properly structured towards significant development and outreach.
I understand that many people hate aviation, especially if they see it as a rich boy's game, which it isn't. PAO can and should be a great resource for our area. It has been strangled by enviromental groups, but it has a bright future, given that it is finally starting to occur to many citizens that we need economic development.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Mar 2, 2010 at 1:38 pm
Gang violence and airplane crashes in EPA are both worthy of debate and both deserve attention. Reducing the avoidable risk of gang violence is both difficult and the day to day target of the EPA Police Department and will not be easily eliminated. The avoidable risk of airplane crashes involving flights to or from the Palo Alto airport can be reduced almost to zero simply by prohibiting low altitude aircraft operations over residential area such as EPA.
I am unaware of a single public statement about the crash and what will be done to reduce this avoidable risk from any of the appointed or elected officials responsible for this airport. And sadly there is no public outrage at this silence.
Posted by narnia, a resident of Menlo Park, on Mar 2, 2010 at 2:06 pm
let's not confuse the arguments. This is NOT a forum about EPA. It is about the airport.
Sharon, you are wrong about statistical matters concerning airports, even small ones.
The statistics you mention measure the frequency of crashes, not the effects of the crashes.
For example, there are very few big plane crashes, so the risk of a crash is very small,smallerthan a car crash, but when it happens it can and does produce hundreds of casualties. It is the risk of these crash effects that we are talking about not how many instances (which "sharon" stats measure),but the results (life and property). Distinguishing between risk costs in human and assets, and frequency is essential for a proper and rational perspective.
The airport has been at the baylands for a long time. Let's make it safer, not abolish it. Maybe let's make it a tad more expensive, not eliminate it.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Mar 2, 2010 at 3:48 pm
Sharon states:"The PA Airport is, in fact, a completely insignificant cause of death, injury and property damage in EPA over the last 60 years."
How many deaths from an AVOIDABLE airplane crash into a residential area in EPA or PA will be necessary before you support the stroke-of-a-pen change to prohibit low altitude flights over these residential areas? Such a simple change would dramatically reduce the risk of such an accident and it would be essentially cost free.
Many of the other risks which you cite are much more difficult to manage and cannot be eliminated nearly so easily.
Posted by Daniel, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Mar 2, 2010 at 5:19 pm
Claiming that the risk to EPA, and P.A is insignificant because in over 60 years only one plane crashed into a residential neighborhood is utterly absurd. It's like saying that because we never had a Chernobyl type of nuclear catastrophe in 60 years we shouldn't worry about nuclear reactors and even build them right next to residential areas. In fact, a number airplanes crashed in the marsh area near that airport over the years. The latest crash took out a child-care center and could've just as easily killed everybody inside. The danger is permanent and ominous as long as the airport exists so close to a residential area and based on the law of average, it's only a mater of time before a major catastrophe occurs. Many pilots will fight vigorously any prohibition on low flights over residential areas because to them that is where most of the fun and thrill is. It's the reason the airport management never prohibited them. I have written in the past a number of very polite letters inquiring about this very matter (low flying over residential areas) to both the S.C. County director of airports and the P.A. airport director and never received a reply, and I am very much aware why. Tying the airport issue with the crime rate in EPA is a non-sequitor and reeks of malice and racism teabagger style.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Mar 2, 2010 at 5:20 pm
Sharon states:"All objective analysis of risk/benefit, tradeoffs is lacking."
WRONG. Repeatedly we have discussed how to reduce the avoidable risk of airplane crashes into residential areas by simply prohibiting low altitude flights over those areas. The risk is reduced almost to zero, the benefit is the prevention of another crash into the residential areas plus increased peace of mind and reduced noise levels and at virtually no cost. What are we missing in this simple objective analysis?
Or would you rather keep pushing the all or nothing option of closing the airport and ignore a much simpler solution?
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Mar 2, 2010 at 5:45 pm
The history and geographical migration of the Palo Alto airport are noteworthy. In the early 1900’s the Palo Alto City Council, under the leadership of Mayor Cooley, endorsed Palo Alto becoming a “Red Dot on the aviation maps” by having its own airport. In 1923 the first Palo Alto airfield was situated near Newell Road and Embarcadero. In 1929 Stanford University was designated by the Aeronautics Branch of the Department of Commerce as Aviation Ground School Number 1 and the airport then moved to a location near El Camino on Stanford land (the current site of the football stadium parking lot). In 1934 Palo Alto residents filed a lawsuit to force the airport to move off Stanford land because of the noise level. In 1935 the airport moved to the Baylands in what was then San Mateo County. This airport had two intersecting runways and accommodated aircraft as large as DC-3s. In 1954 the airport was moved further into the Baylands to its present location in order to make way for the new Palo Alto golf course and was down sized to one shorter runway. In 1963 the county boundaries changed and the airport was now back in Santa Clara County and Palo Alto. In 1967 the airport was leased to Santa Clara County which currently operates the Palo Alto, Reid Hillview and South County airports. A proposal to restore the airport to a two runway configuration was precluded by the adoption of the Palo Alto Baylands Master Plan which specified that, while the airport would remain as an essential component of the Baylands, only one runway would be allowed. The pad for the second runway was planted with native grass and left as open space. That second runway area has long ago reverted to a natural habitat that is heavily populated with Baylands wildlife.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Mar 2, 2010 at 6:33 pm
"The risk is reduced almost to zero..."
"Almost zero" is substantially different from "Zero".
The real question is why we should accept any non-zero risk when the benefit to the vast majority of residents of Palo Alto is zero and in fact continued operation of the airport imposes substantial costs - financial and otherwise.
Peter Carpenter seems like a well informed and (compared to many other airport supporters here) reasonable person. But he, like most of those who were activated by the Palo Alto Airport Association to
defend the airport ISN't EVEN FROM PALO ALTO.
The airport currently is subsidized by the residents of Palo Alto in the form of a $1 annual lease, consumption of staff time, and etc. When the county gives up control of the airport in a few years - because it is a financial loser - it will become even more of a potential liability to our already cash-strapped city.
Peter Carpenter and his flying buddies may discern some "benefit" to them that offsets the "almost zero risk" and financial burden born by the rest of us here in Palo Alto...but that accounting is as phony as most special interest recipients of government largess make to justify having others subsidize them.
There simply is no justification for keeping the airport government subsidized for the relatively well-off of other towns - with or without the operational changes Peter Carpenter suggests. If Mr. Carpenter wants to get together with his neighbors and buy and operate the airport wiht their own money, and follow stricter safety and noise abatement standards than his opening gambit here, maybe we can talk...but barring that: CLOSE THE AIRPORT, the sooner the better.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Mar 2, 2010 at 6:41 pm
Anna states:"Peter Carpenter and his flying buddies "
I gave up flying in 2007 when I felt that I was no longer flying enough to be a safe pilot. My wife and I donated our beautiful Cessna 185 to Lighthawk (www.lighthawk.org) which is using it throughout North America for environmental protection surveys.
So my motivation is good public policy not to pursue a hobby.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Mar 2, 2010 at 7:40 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Anna, please be so kind to note that I started this thread and that I have contributed most of the factual information herein. My 'business' is that of a good citizen and I have a long background of involvement with local issues:
- 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 - note that it was the MPFPD which cleaned up the mess from this crash, NOT Palo Alto
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Mar 2, 2010 at 10:23 pm
After considerable discussion it seems that there remain three options:
1 - do nothing, which I find morally unacceptable but which is a great strategy for those who appreciate that the Palo Alto 'process' is biased towards maintaining the status quo,
2 - enact low altitude flight path prohibitions which will substantially reduce the risk (no sane person would ever suggest that a risk can be reduced to zero) of another crash into a residential area at literally no cost,
3 - close the airport - which would cost millions of dollars in refunds to the FAA for airport improvements, buying out the leases of current airport tenants and physically removing the pavement and other improvements, and which would remove an important transportation infrastructure and recreational element.
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 2, 2010 at 10:56 pm
> Buying out the leases of current airport tenents ...
I think you are counting expenses that may not be so. The airport would not have to leave immediately if it was shut down. It could be phased out with the understanding that after the current leases run out, or the majority of the cost of those leases expires they would not be renewed. As for improvements ... I don't know ... is the Palo Alto Airport sitting on a pile of cash that they would refund to the FAA?
Closing the airport would ultimately in the long run would create more and better use of this land. An airport is noisy, dangerous, and a single use type of installation, which precludes other uses and other businesses in that area. This is a huge wonderful recreation area for Palo Alto that could be a big plus for the city and the economy - far more than the airport - especially at a time when the dump is scheduled to stop operation.
Now all we would need to do is to upgrade the stinky sewage treatment plant and we have a nice nature area that more people could use.
This is the continuation of the same pattern you wrote about in your history of the airport, moving around as the density of the population grows and the negative effects of the airport affect more and more people.
The airport should be shutdown in an orderly way that does not harm the economy, and development should occur out in the Palo Alto Baylands. Why couldn't Palo Alto have some condo or townhouse developments out there, maybe in conjunction with an updated harbor, but even with no harbor it is a fantastic area for running, hiking, biking, birdwatching, and it would be much much better without the noise and negatives from the airport. For example, the helicopter school that is out there and helicopters rise up and hover for 1/2 at a time filling the whole area with a huge amount of noise. Who wants to go to or run a business out there?
The place for this is San Carlos, which is on the other side of the freeway, relatively isolated and away from residential areas.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Mar 3, 2010 at 3:52 am
Anon. states the case for closing the airport well.
It's instructive to recognize that virtually all of the proponents are Palo Alto residents while the "keep the airport open" advocates include a very hefty percentage of people from other towns where a lot of residents have the financial wherewithal to keep airplanes berthed at the Airport.
The local pilots lobby is rich and well organized. They're also affiliated in a loose mutual support pact with pilots groups from places completely out of the area. (Check some of the commentary on other airport threads, where people from as far away as Fresno rail against having their "rights" taken away by those who want the airport closed.)
Soon the airport will be turned over to Palo Alto from the County which considers it a money loser. Why should we allow these special interests from out of town to meddle in policies that should be wholly decided by Palo Altans?
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 3, 2010 at 2:34 pm
Peter ... of course I want it my way, I would like to see a more people and nature friendly baylands. Sorry if that opposes your hopes for the airport, but is this not a place to state one's opinion?
I also agree with your "simple solution" ... the largest most obvious problem with which is that it is the MINIMUM of what should have been done by the airport managers and years ago, if not when the airport was built. The fact that no reasonable safety measures and restrictions have been taken and no link to the community exists - PROVES (to me) that the airport cannot be responsible enough to exist within Palo Alto City limits as a good citizen - it just wants what it wants and it may have the money and poliical pull to do just that. This is how many of our systems are failing in this country, it is an epidemic of negligence to the regular local people by money interests. Yes, that irks me! Safety and good sense should prevail against politics ... and it is amazing that they are rarely aligned.
To me that seems obvious when all factors are weighed ... and weighed without trying to put the thumb of silliness on the scales as some have continually done with every post. I am not against wealth, I am against irresponsible use of it to avoid responsibility, particularly for no good reason.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Mar 3, 2010 at 4:31 pm
Anon, thank you for your honesty "of course I want it my way".
Sharon, thank you for your honesty "The airport is here to stay--- get used to it."
The problem is that when, in Palo Alto, there are two opposing views we then default to the Palo Alto Process which was nicely described last year by a fellow poster:
"Palo Alto process
Palo Alto Issues, posted by palo altan, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Jul 10, 2009 at 9:04 am
I'm generally a lurker in these forums, and I've noticed a lot of complaints (which I usually agree with) about the Palo Alto process: the fact that if any kind of change is proposed, some group of residents will disagree, and the City Council will decide that interminable meetings are necessary until a consensus is reached. Since consensus is never reached, no changes can occur, until finally the proposers of whatever change throw up their hands and walk away. I'm not saying that NOTHING ever gets done, but it seems that things take WAY longer here than in other communities, and as a result we have empty shopping centers, derelict stores, etc. "
So what happens now regarding the airport is endless discussions, meetings etc and, as the above poster notes, NOTHING gets done.
In the meantime, who suffers? The people living in residential areas near the airport continue to be at higher risk than they would be if we IMMEDIATELY changed the low altitude flight patterns.
You seem to want to punish somebody for not making this change long ago - I say we cannot change the past and why punish the people at risk by postponing necessary changes to some far off and uncertain date?
The people at risk will only be better protected if everybody comes together and accepts a 'compromise' solution. That solution does not prejudge what might/should happen to the airport at some later date.
Having been intimately involved with helping to orchestrate the pending transfer of the airport from the County to the City I can assure you that it would take at least ten years, and cost probably $5-10 million dollars, to close the airport from the date such a decision were made. I doubt that such a decision could be made in less than 3-4 years. So, in that case, the people at risk would remain at risk for another 13-14 years. To me that is simply unacceptable and bad public policy.
I hope that you, Anna, Sharon and the people who share your respective views realize that the immediate reduction of risk to the nearby residential areas should take absolute priority. If you push your respective agendas those people will be the ones who suffer.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Mar 3, 2010 at 5:54 pm
People should realize that Peter Carpenter has been intimately involved in the Palo Alto Airport Association - a group which exists to lobby for the airport and its special interests - for close to two decades, and judge his "assurances" about how much it would cost and how long it would take to close the airport accordingly.
Whatever the intricacies involved in closing the airport (and I expect a lot of the difficulties will lie in overcoming the misdirection and recalcitrance of the airport lobby), as Anon points out, there is nothing to prevent the airport operators from making the changes in operations suggested by Mr. Carpenter now. ANd if the safety issue is as dire as Mr. Carpenter says, why don't they just do it now without mixing up the issue with the airport closure issue. Safer operation has no relationship to the decision on whether to close the airport as long as the airport remains open - unless as seems to be the case, Mr. Carpenter is holding this "safety" issue up as a bargaining chip against closure of the airport.
If what he's saying is that "We'll make the changes that would make airport operations safer for people on the ground if you promise to keep the airport open," then it's pretty despicable.
If he's not saying that, then he should push his airport buddies to make those changes now without preconditions. And we can debate the closure issue separately - and hopefully come to a decision to close the thing Immediately.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Mar 3, 2010 at 6:05 pm
Anna states:"People should realize that Peter Carpenter has been intimately involved in the Palo Alto Airport Association"
WRONG - as noted above when I started this topic I have been a member of the PAO Joint Community Relations Committee for 18 years and Chair for 8? years. I was appointed to this position for 6 consecutive terms by 6 different Palo Alto City Councils.
Anna state:'If what he's saying is that "We'll make the changes that would make airport operations safer for people on the ground if you promise to keep the airport open," then it's pretty despicable."
I never made such a statement; in fact I stated "The people at risk will only be better protected if everybody comes together and accepts a 'compromise' solution. That solution does not prejudge what might/should happen to the airport at some later date."
Anna states:"he should push his airport buddies to make those changes now without preconditions." Evidently Anna failed to read, or conveniently chose to ignore, my email of 27 Feb quoted at the beginning of this topic which stated:
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.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Mar 3, 2010 at 6:21 pm
As I said, nothing prevents the county at the behest of Airport lobbyists from making all the safety changes Peter Carpenter wants irrespective of any discussions about closing the airport. The two issues have absolutely nothing to do with each other.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Mar 3, 2010 at 6:26 pm
Anna states:"One must ask why airport supporters keep conflating the issues: is it merely to muddy the waters in hopes of forestalling the closure discussion?"
Anna you are the ONLY one who has conflated these issues. I VERY CLEARLY stated:""The people at risk will only be better protected if everybody comes together and accepts a 'compromise' solution. That solution does not prejudge what might/should happen to the airport at some later date."
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 3, 2010 at 9:48 pm
Whether you like or dislike Anna's mode of expression, she is correct is she not in saying that the airport could immediately implement safety procedures .. ie. the safety procedure that Peter Carpenter recommends.
So ... my questions is ... why did the airport not think of this by itself, and surely someone at the airport has thought of it, or has gotten wind of Peter Carpenter's suggestion by now ... why is there no reaction?
As I said, this organization has proven by not being proactive ... and not even being reactive that it does not have the ability to manage the risk associated with its operation, or to inform or respond to Palo Alto. Either that or I have just not been reading or watching the right places.
Has there been any response from the airport at all after this crash?
Has there been any action or suggested action to increase safety from the airport?
These are questions, I am willing to listen or hear if I am missing something.
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Certainly it seems obvious that whatever happens the airport will not be closed down immdiately, and it makes good sense to prohibit planes from flying over the city at least right after takeoff.
So ... why is there any questions about it. Why is your policy no in force already, or being implemented now? Is the public so clueless as not understand the complexities of flying that they do not deserve to hear what is on the minds of the airport managers? Why all the quiet?
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Part of my reason for being here is to gather information. Your history of the airport, and details of your suggestion are very helpful. As you mentioned the Palo Alto airport being moved several times as the city developed, it really seems clear to me that Palo Alto, and the way the airport is oriented, and particularly the way it is managed that this is not a really good place for an airport. San Carlos or Moffet Field makes much better sense and both are not far away.
Also just to reiterate the land use in the Palo Alto Baylands would be much better served and developed without an airport there. I just think this is obvious to anyone without their heart set on demanding the public accept this airport which is already there after being moved multiple times.
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 4, 2010 at 12:23 am
This is absolutely ridiculous the "editing" that is being done on a mostly civil discussion here. These posts are looking like swiss cheese, and the discussion though provoking some tempers obviously was pretty good.
Why you editors feel the need to come in and remove posts and little snippets that you disagree with is really beyond me and does not contribute a bit to the discussion is beyond me. You are not adding anything here.
Posted by CessnaTwinPilot, a resident of another community, on Mar 4, 2010 at 3:12 am
The approach and departure changes that Mr. Carpenter suggests make eminent sense. Nobody disputes that here. The instrument departure procedure that takes traffic away from the residential areas and over the water has been in place for many years and simply needs to be followed for IFR flights. The thing that those of us who require the use of the airport object to is the "all or nothing" attitude on the part of some people that only they are important and that the airport users have no say in the matter. One crash in 30 years of this kind pales in comparison to all the threats to one's property and life that exist on a daily basis. The airport and flying haters should simply abandon this tack of theirs that it is those "big bad 'rich'" folks endangering their lives. Every pilot with whom I have spoken has absolutely no problem in following common-sense flight paths that place most of the traffic away from residences and all of the other safety procedures that are part and parcel of flying.
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 4, 2010 at 3:51 am
> One crash in 30 years of this kind pales in comparison to all the
> threats to one's property and life that exist on a daily basis.
That is not your decision to make.
All or nothing is not the question, trying to make one side or the other look evil, bad, inflexible, whatever is not the issue. The issue is that in all likelihood this crash could have been avoided, and it is almost a miracle that no one on the ground was killed. But what about destroying a house and knocking power out to the city for a day. Maybe that seems like nothing to you if it happens once in 30 years, as I say that is your opinion, I do not share it.
Apparently not every pilot follows the rules. Apparently the rules that Mr. Carpenter is suggesting and that you say makes eminent sense were not thought of, were not suggested, and still have not been put in place or even acknowledged by the airport managers yet that I can see. I asked Mr. Carpenter has he had a response yet. The fumbling and lack of initiative and effort shows that this airport is acting like it is existing back 30 years ago. That kind of management is not good enough for today, and will most likely be more lacking in the future.
I'm not airport or technology hater, I don't hate money, or the rich, whatever else you guys are going to dream up next, I do not like thing that are possible disasters being mismanaged by people who do not take their responsibilities seriously.
The arguments you are bringing to bear to support the airport are really illogical and silly. In the long term the Palo Alto airport has moved as it has been enclosed by people, and there is nowhere else for it to go now. It has proved there is a substantial danger and risk associated with it that its managers have not taken serious enough to study and act - proactively. What else is there to know, except what else might go out in that limited bay front land that Palo Alto owns and cold be developed for private or commerical purposes, and would be much nicer without the noise and risk associated with a small redundant airport in a suboptimal location.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Mar 4, 2010 at 6:59 am
Since there appear to be only 3 or 4 people who remain interested in this topic i will restate my personal opinion and rest my case:
While there is much debate about the future of the Palo Alto airport the immediate reduction of risk to the nearby residential areas should take absolute priority. The risk of another airplane crash to people living in the residential areas near the airport can and should be substantially reduced by immediately prohibiting low altitude flight operations west of the airport and by prohibiting IFR departures to the northwest except when wind conditions requires IFR departures to the northwest. This solution does not prejudge what might/should happen to the airport at some later date."
I rest my case and hope that others have the good sense to support the immediate actions which I have requested of the airport management.
If you are concerned about the editing of the comments on this topic I suggest that you reread the rules, to wit - "Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion."
If you want to debate the future of the airport, then I suggest that you start a new topic on THAT subject.