Pilot error blamed for June 8 plane crash

Plane veered off runway during landing and struck a protruding pipe

A June 8 plane crash at the Palo Alto Municipal Airport was due to pilot error, National Transportation Safety Board investigators found.

The 26-year-old pilot of the single-engine Cessna 172P failed to maintain directional control during a landing roll, according to an Aug. 22 probable-cause report.

The pilot said he was descending toward the runway at Palo Alto Airport at 2:10 p.m. after a flight from Madera, Calif., when the accident occurred in clear weather. He had adjusted for a crosswind while the plane was 35 to 40 feet above the runway, then reduced power to idle. When he was just two feet off the ground preparing to land the plane's stall-warning horn sounded and the nose of the plane began to veer to the left, according to the report.

After the plane touched down, the pilot applied his right rudder and the plane veered off to the right. The airplane exited the right side of the runway and struck a pipe that was protruding from the ground, substantially damaging the nose gear and firewall. The pilot was not injured.

The June 8 accident was the first of three that have occurred at Palo Alto Airport this year, according to NTSB reports. A small Cessna lost power on June 23, nose-dived and flipped over as it approached the airport. Three people escaped largely unharmed.

On Tuesday (Aug. 23), a single-engine Beechcraft Musketeer lost power. The student pilot was forced to make an emergency landing in the Ravenswood Open Space Preserve in East Palo Alto. He attempted to land the plane on a gravel trail but the plane's left wing clipped a nearby tree and was partially sheared off. The aircraft veered into drained marshland and sustained damage to the wing and tail section. The pilot, 30, and his instructor were not injured.

The June 23 and Aug. 23 cases are still under investigation. Three accidents also occurred in 2010 on Feb. 17, May 3 and May 28. In the May incidents, the pilots were deemed responsible for the accidents but no one was injured, according to the NTSB.

The NTSB is still investigating the Feb. 17 crash. Three people on board the aircraft were killed when the plane hit a high-voltage tower in the baylands and crashed into an East Palo Alto neighborhood in dense fog.

Since 1982, 67 accidents have occurred at or near the Palo Alto Airport. There have been 20 incidents since 2000 with the only fatalities in the Feb. 17, 2010, crash, according to the NTSB. In the 1990s there were 15 accidents. The 1980s had 32 accidents starting in 1982. Seven people died in two separate crashes during that decade.

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Like this comment
Posted by GAA-Is-Dangerous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2011 at 3:30 pm

The FAA/NTSB accident records go back to 1964 for the Palo Alto Airport.

Why not provide all of the data available? Since 1964, including this accident, there have been 152 accidents--7 of which were fatal. In total, 14 people have been killed since 1964 at this airport.

Like this comment
Posted by Pauline
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 25, 2011 at 11:35 am

Palo Alto Airport has been the base for training thousands of pilots and at least one astronaut. It is one of the busiest general aviation airports in the nation with 200,000+ take-offs and landings each year.

A valued community asset.

Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 25, 2011 at 12:35 pm

I was out hiking in the Baylands the other day ... and when I looped around where the sailboarding dock is there was a plane stuck out in the weeds that had crashed.

There things are crashing all over on a regular basis.

Pilots and astronauts can be trained in any location. Because some of them were trained here does not equate to the Palo Alto airport being a valuable community asset.

What people ought to think about a little is how we have about quadrupled the land by the bay now that the dump is gone ... so far it is just a park. A park that is not very pleasant to be in the way it is now ... in the heart of Silicon Valley on the peninsula we have a huge recreational area for biking, walking, hiking, taking your dogs for a walk, for birds and sailboarding ... and the constant roar of airplanes makes it useless.


We need to get rid of this airport and start realizing a city is people living their lives, not just a place for airplane pilots to impose their noise on everyone else.

We had the warning with the crash in EPA and the days long power outage ... whatever does it take for the "elite" to do the right thing when it might require them to drive a little longer to another airport to fly? So what, it is many multiples of drives shorter for people who want to go someplace to get some fresh and and take a walk or have a picnic.


Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 25, 2011 at 1:41 pm

> It is one of the busiest general aviation airports in the nation
> with 200,000+ take-offs and landings each year

That's no longer true, according to the FAA. Although PAO did have that many operations earlier in the decade, the number has dropped significantly in the last few years. The FAA data on their web site says there were approximately 160,000 operations in 2009 and 2010. That ranks it somewhere in the middle of the top 100 general aviation airports.

> A valued community asset.

I don't think so, but apparently some do. It's a waste of money and valuable space for Palo Alto in my opinion. If the City is forced to keep the airport because of FAA grant restrictions, it should run by the County rather the City because, as you say, it's a shared "community asset".

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Now the libraries - there's a REAL waste of money. And the tennis courts. And the swimming pools. And Foothill Park; now there's a REAL waste of money that returns nothing for its expense. As for the noise, nothing can compare with those fog horns and the trains.
I have never flown out of or into the airport, but dozens of times I have greeted others who have. We allowed our harbor to be taken away on spurious reasoning and flimsy logic. I will not let our community be further diminished by an equivalent in pecksniffery. Let those who cannot abide an airport abide elsewhere.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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