News


Pilot error caused East Palo Alto plane crash

Federal investigators blame failure to follow departure instructions, fog for Feb. 17, 2010, accident

A plane crash into an East Palo Alto neighborhood on Feb. 17, 2010, was most probably caused by the pilot's failure to follow departure instructions and failure to attain sufficient altitude to avoid striking power lines during takeoff in foggy conditions, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has determined.

Pilot Douglas Bourn and two fellow Tesla Motors employees, Brian Finn and Andrew Ingram, were killed after the Cessna 310 R they were traveling in crashed into high-power lines in the baylands and smashed into homes on Beech Street in East Palo Alto. The accident blacked out power to Palo Alto for hours.

Bourn was warned by the Palo Alto Airport traffic controller that morning that he would be flying at his own risk if he took off in heavy fog. The three men were traveling to Hawthorne Airport in southern California for a work assignment.

Fog was a contributing factor in the crash, according to the NTSB report, which was released on Tuesday (Nov. 22).

Investigators identified a series of errors by the pilot that were considered causes:

• "Task performance: Use of equipment/info; use of equipment/system

• "Personnel issues: Action/decision -- Action - Incorrect action sequence

• "Aircraft, Aircraft operation/performance/capability: Performance/control parameters -- Altitude - Not attained/maintained

• "Environmental issues: Conditions/weather/phenomena -- ceiling/visibility/precipitation. Low visibility contributed to the outcome."

The accident was probably caused by "the pilot's failure to follow the standard instrument departure as instructed, and his failure to attain a sufficient altitude to maintain clearance from power lines during takeoff in instrument meteorological conditions," the investigators concluded.

According to the report, Bourn departed the airport in near-zero visibility "instrument meteorological conditions," meaning that he would have to rely on instrumentation to guide him through the heavy fog.

Shortly after takeoff, the plane struck a power tower and power lines before impacting with homes and the ground.

Review of recorded air-traffic control tower transmissions revealed the pilot was initially given his instrument-flight-rules clearance to turn right to a heading of 60 degrees and climb to 3,000 feet.

Shortly after verifying his flight rule clearance, Bourn received a release from the air-traffic controller, but he was told the runway was not visible to the controller, according to the report.

The controller further informed Bourn that takeoff was at his own risk.

Bourn told the controller that he did not hear a "cleared for takeoff" instruction from the tower. The controller said he could not clear the pilot for takeoff because the runway was not in sight.

"The release is all yours, and it's at your own risk, sir," the controller could be heard telling Bourn in a recording.

Bourn acknowledged the transmission and took off. A witness who was adjacent to the accident site reported seeing the airplane "suddenly appear from the fog" to the left of her position. The witness said the airplane continued to fly in a level or slightly nose-up attitude until it hit the power lines.

Evidence indicated the plane struck the power tower at about 50 feet above ground level and at a high rate of speed, according to the report.

Examination of the airframe, engines and propellers disclosed no evidence of any mechanical anomaly, according to the report.

But weather conditions reported five minutes prior to the accident noted wind was variable at 5 knots and visibility was 1/8th mile. There was fog and vertical visibility of 100 feet at ground level. Weather conditions recorded by the control tower 11 minutes after the time of the accident showed worsening conditions: a visibility of 1/16th mile, fog, and a vertical visibility of 100 feet at ground level.

Recordings from East Palo Alto Police Department's ShotSpotter system, which captured the accident sequence, were coupled with airport surveillance radar readings that indicated that rather than making a right turn to a heading of 60 degrees, Bourn made an approximately 45-degree left turn shortly after departure to the area of initial impact with the power pole and lines. A sound-spectrum study determined both engines were operating near full power, according to the report.

Bourn's family could not immediately be contacted for comment. Four lawsuits have been filed against his estate by the victims' families and by East Palo Alto residents whose homes and property were severely damaged in the accident. A home day care center was destroyed by the crash and fire and has not been habitable since.

Related stories:

Fatal plane crash knocks out power (Feb. 19, 2010)

What's happened since the accident (Feb. 11, 2011)

East Palo Alto plane crash: one year later (Feb. 12, 2011)

VIDEO: Residents reflect on anniversary of crash (Feb. 17, 2011)

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 24, 2011 at 10:01 am

No surprise. What a complete waste of life & destruction of property that also terrified dozens of people.

Wonder what they'll find w/the recent crash in AZ?


Like this comment
Posted by what's the real story
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2011 at 10:33 am

I wonder what the real story on why compensation hasn't been settled yet is. It usually comes down to insurance company machinations like this:

Person at fault has insurance, insurance won't pay per the contract even though everyone is willing to settle for less to settle early.

The more vulnerable those who suffered damage are, the harder insurance tries to avoid responsibility or set an example with the claims.

Third party insurer (insurance for the person at fault) has no legal responsibility to those who suffered damages, so everyone has to sue the person at fault or the estate because they have no legal recourse to sue the insurer directly.

IF person at fault loses and it hurts him/estate economically, AND he/his family are not ground into the dirt by all the delay and overwhelm tactics of the insurer and the legal process, if those who suffered damages eventually get settlements, THEN the guy/estate at fault who should have had insurance coverage pay those claims initially can sue the insurer for bad faith to get the coverage they should have had in the beginning and not end up homeless and destitute.

Either those people will end up giving up the rest of their lives to be one of the rare cases that prevails (in which case we'll hear about it in the news ten or fifteen years from now when the case goes to the next level of appeal until the insurance company wins), or they will become insurance road kill and at some point go away with some partial pathetic settlement, give most of the money to the lawyers for legal costs, and sign a non-disclosure agreement so we'll never know about it.

Lawyers love love love it, they will make more money than the amount of damages at issue, especially if it all drags out.

Insurance company drags it all out to wear down plaintiffs. News stories will be written that never mention the insurance company at all (it's actually illegal to mention the insurer running the whole show in court, should things get that far), but they'll portray those who suffered damages as greedy for filing a lawsuit, even though they will never in a million years be able to be made whole financially because of the time lost and legal fees, but they proceeded on the myths about getting justice in our system and because they didn't want to end up with, say, a mortgage and no home or business/livelihood.

At some point, the insurance company will be sure to spread propaganda about greedy plaintiffs and lawsuits, so that public opinion will turn against them. Still no stories will include any mention of the insurance companies and how all the decisions really come down to the way they are controlling everything.

Maybe, just maybe, this will be that one-in-a-million case where people prevail after years and years, and the large settlement will be paraded in the newspaper as if the plaintiffs got rich, even the the lawyers will take most of it and the insurer will get the rest back after the win the next round of appeal. Or when they countersue based on State Farm vs. Campbell, which they interpret as no matter how egregious their behavior, they can't be sued for big punitive damages anymore.


Like this comment
Posted by narnia
a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2011 at 9:27 am


In February 2010 I said:

"let's all come back to the forum when the FAA issues its conclusions.

Most crashes are caused by human error and none of us is immune to that. Also, in most crashes a series of combined or sequential events, not just one, contribute to the outcome. In many instances weather is a contributory fact.

I don't know what caused this crash, but I know visibility was poor (and that's statistically a contributory cause)"

Human error has to do with how experienced someone is in an inverse proportion, that is the more experienced someone is the more they take risks and therefore more errors because they think their experience will protect them. Those errors are not intentional, of course, but neglecting to cross all t's and dot all i's will result inevitably in an accident, no matter how nice and ethically responsible the human is. Failure to understand this human behavior is what leaves many people with the impression that such nice and experienced person could never be at fault. They are wrong. it could have happened to any of us.


Like this comment
Posted by Pilot-Error
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2011 at 11:26 am

> it could have happened to any of us

Accidents happen to all of us. This accident could have only happened to a pilot who has determined he knows better than the FAA tower operators. This accident could have been avoided by not taking off, and waiting for the fog to lift, allowing clear visibility for the runway, and the surrounding area.


Like this comment
Posted by SP
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 25, 2011 at 11:28 am

This report says the pilot deliberately ignored not only safety warnings from the tower, but directions from the tower to turn to the right and follow normal instrument procedures. Those procedures are in place because there is a residential neighborhood nearby, and for both the safety of the neighborhood, and to mitigate the noise created by the planes, pilots are instructed to turn to the right. I lived in that neighborhood for 15 years. Pilots frequently ignore instructions to stay away from that neighborhood, both on takeoff and landing. They are cavalier and obnoxious. Complaints to the airport are ignored.

This incident was particularly obnoxious because according to the report, the pilot intended to buzz the neighborhood at low altitude early in the morning. Perhaps he intended to use the fog to cover identification from the ground? Its interesting that his flight path would have taken him directly over the house of one of his passengers, too. Very sad that it ended this way.

Ignoring the normal flight plan, barring an emergency, should be a crime, and the tower should have the power to enforce it. Its not a crime, and this kind of behavior will continue until it is.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 25, 2011 at 11:42 am

Well, pilot error is exactly what this looked like and all the evidence pointed to right from the start. Now it is over a year later and I wonder if people have just forgotten the shock and dismay over the crash and the accompanying multi-day power outage that everyone had to endure from this.

Pilot error. I cannot agree with narnia who seems to be trying to say, that the more experienced one is the more dangerous they are, mostly because I am a much safer and conservative driver now than I was as a young man. Risk taking and arrogance is one thing when it is one's own decision, but it is quite another when other lives and a city hangs in the balance.

Even though this was so obvious it is clear that the management of the Palo Alto airport has seen this before, and this latest event was one last rather lucky warning, and they still do not bother to review or change any operating procedures from the airport and there have been several crashes since this one, though I don't think any have been fatal.

My point is that since the airport will not act responsibly or pro-actively to protect our safety that that is a symptom of the same kind of arrogance and lack of answerability that has infected the highest levels of decision making in our society, in the banking industry or the home loan industry, the idea that they can regulate themselves and everyone should keep their noses out of other people's business, even if their lives are depending on them.

There are so many better uses for the Palo Alto Airport and for the Baylands that is not expanding due to the closing of the Palo Alto dump, The airport and its attendeant noise and danger is a real detraction from the way this city could be. Palo Alto could have a nice quiet Baylands for people and wildlife to enjoy and use. People who go out to the Baylands to enjoy themselves, like people do all the time at Shoreline Park, but in Palo Alto you cannot hear each other talking and barely hear yourself thinking when you are out there because of the noise.

Palo Altans need to think about this clearly and if they did the one clear and rational thing to do would be to let the Palo Alto airport close and begin a new era or restoration and renewal for the facilities and space in the Baylands. Why should an airport that has displayed zero concern, besides talk, for residents' safety or enjoyment of their property continue to exist, especially when there is the danger that at any time another pilot who wants to take a joyride for fun over the rooftops of East Palo Alto, or anywhere else for that matter?

The Palo Alto airport serves no real important purpose for Palo Alto and it is clearly only pressure from plane owners to avoid having to drive a little farther to house their planes somewhere else balanced against the lives and safety of Palo Altans and East Palo Altans and even others. No one's leisure activity should put peoples' lives and safety at risk especially based on disproportionate political influence - the story of our country lately as well.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 25, 2011 at 11:59 am

To "Pilot-Error": I think this is more than pilot error, it borders on negligence or incompetence, and at anyt time this can happen again, in the same or a different way.

We can see the regulation in driving has gone way down over the last decades, what do we know about the certification of pilots, and how could they possibly take any action against that with the current level of regulation and pro-airport people who are in place? There are forceful objections from pilots when this happened that the tower's instructions were only suggestions, that is, there is no sanction of punishment they can enforce on people who take inappropriate risks such as this. What is the measure of discipline of policing over there? I'd almost bet that if the people who run the tower over there were asked and were honest they would have a few names of people they have opinions on in terms of bad practices and ignoring safety regulations. They could probably predict who is going to have the next "problem".

The incentives are all mixed up here with this airport, and the right thing is not being done, in fact is it being actively derided and ignored in an arrogant manner. This kind of doubling-down of defensiveness can only make another such incident more likely.


Like this comment
Posted by Cid Young
a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Arrogance.


Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Close the airport. It's part of the toy box of the powerful and effluent. A drain on the city's resources.


Like this comment
Posted by Citizen&TaxPayer1
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 25, 2011 at 3:02 pm

I'd like to address several of the comments, some of which appear to be based upon something other than facts.

With regard to the airport and the community, the airport began operations in April of 1940. Any residents having moved into the area since made a conscious choice to be near an airport as the airport certainly isn't trying to hide itself.

The departure procedures out of Palo Alto are all designed to route traffic away from the housing that has encroached on the field. Pilots live in the area too, and we strive to be as respectful as possible, keeping noise as low as practical.

Aircraft routinely take off in the conditions of that unfortunate day. It is not considered dangerous by the FAA. There was no "warning" issued to the pilot to tell him not to take off. The issued advisory of "at your own risk" was because the controller in the tower was unable to see the entire runway, and thus could not assure he pilot that the runwasy was clear. Thus it becomes incumbent upon the pilot to ensure the ground path is clear.

What the NTSB said is that they could find no evidence of a mechanical failure that contributed to the accident. Therefore, they are only left with the conclusion that the person in the cockpit failed to manipulate the controls in the right way. This pilot had nearly 3,000 hours of logged flight time, had flown that departure dozens of times before, and had recently passed a periodic proficiency examination by the FAA -- he clearly knew how to operate the plane.

What we are left to speculate, is why the plane went the direction it did? Did the pilot have a stroke? Did one of the passengers aggressively grab the controls away from the pilot? Was there a mechanical malfunction that was not found in the melted wreckage? We can only guess. What we do not have to guess is about the pilot's experience and credentials, and the overall safety record of flights in and out of the Palo Alto airport.

To some of the less credible or less researched arguments written here:
- If a pilot fails to follow the instructions of a controller, his/her license can be subject to revocation.
- If a pilot drives drunk in a car, his/her pilot's license is suspended.
- I've never seen a pilot "buzz East Palo Alto" as one writer suggests, and that wouldn't make much sense in the fog.
- The lawsuits have been waiting to for the NTSB report before progressing.
- The reporter mentions that the day care center is still not repaired. Had that owner maintained normal property insurance, there is no reason why it would not be repaired now, independent of any suit against the pilot's estate.
- The foggy conditions did not cause the accident, but may have made an in-flight problem more difficult to resolve.
- No one on the ground was physically injured, but today a person was shot in San Leandro while shopping at WalMart. By the reasoning of some, we should now most certainly close that WalMart because it poses a risk to the community.
- And about the safety of pilots and their level of risk-taking? Pilots make very safe drivers: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 25, 2011 at 4:38 pm

I'm tired of the lame, arrogant attitude that since the airport's been there for 70 years, everyone who has moved into the area has made a conscious decision to do so in factoring in the airport. How do you know that? Plenty of people move into the area w/out knowing there's an airport out there - they move here for jobs, college, to be w/family. Many might consider the flight path of SFO before they would PAO or San Carlos. Regardless of PAO being there for 40 years doesn't make the airport A PRIORITY OR A NECESSITY. The priority should be pilots not endangering the lives of others, regardless of what airport is used. This guy didn't do that.


Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 25, 2011 at 6:15 pm

If you moved next to a sewage plant, but didn't notice it until the wind shifted after you moved, would it be okay to demand that the sewage plant be relocated because you didn't take it into consideration when you bought your house?


Like this comment
Posted by Jim
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 25, 2011 at 6:42 pm

It's apparent to me that the pilot disregarded the instructions of the tower to bear right at 60 degrees during the takeoff. Also, with 1/8 mile visibility in the fog, and the runway approx. 1/2 mile long, that meant that the pilot could only see 1/4 of the way down the runway! To take off in a small private craft under such conditions was a danger to the pilot, his passengers and the nearby community. It's like drivers you see on the highways and freeways in heavy fog or snow, who keep driving at the same high speeds regardless of how far ahead they can see.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 25, 2011 at 7:38 pm

It's NOT a sewage plant.


Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 26, 2011 at 12:22 am

the_punnisher is a registered user.

As someone who lived on Garden Street in EPA as a kid, I will make several comments. I also learned how to fly.

EPA HAS HAD MANY INSTANCES OF PILOTS " BUZZING " AND JUST MISSING THE TOWERS! That often happens on sunny windless days; that is why the FBO and PA gets the noise complaints.

The proper flight pattern when taking off and gaining altitude is OVER THE BAY, especially when visibility is limited and you cannot see the powerline towers near the dike.

What happened here is the pilots ego got in the way of all that training about WHEN NOT TO FLY.

His ARROGANCE killed himself and all on board the aircraft AND endangered many people on the ground.

EPA is dangerous enough without another EGO adding to the problems.

When the air is foggy and damp, even the birds are smart enough to stay put..

On the insurance screed, our government is no better.

When the workers who built our atom bombs got cancer at Rocky Flats, the government just denied all claims until the worker died...and our govrnment left the survivors with nothing.








Like this comment
Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 26, 2011 at 6:24 am

This was pilot arrogance, not pilot error. Reading pilot comments here over the years, and speaking with a few myself, I am struck by how arrogant some of them are. Neighbors of the airport claim that buzzing over houses is pretty common. I live about a mile and a half from the airport and can hear the buzzing. This airport is nothing but a toy=box for mostly rich boys. A pilot who had flown out of this airports for years admitted on this forum in the aftermath of the Feb. 2010 crash that some pilots don't take safety and noise abetting regulations very seriously, probably an understatement. My guess is that the airport administration acts as an enabler to those pilots. Palo Alto needs to have a serious discussion, triggered by a ballot measure about the future of this airport.


Like this comment
Posted by April
a resident of another community
on Nov 26, 2011 at 8:02 am

Driving to work that day, I thought it was the worse day for fog in my 26 years of commuting. We were all moving no faster then 15-20 mph on hwy 25 at 6am when the speed is around 50- 60mph at this time.
To take off in a plane with zero visiblty and being warned that you are on your own was just dumb.


Like this comment
Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 26, 2011 at 11:47 am

There are other pilots flying out of that airport with the same kind of arrogance, defiance and jock attitude who ignore safety procedures and are enabled by the airport administration which tends to ignore complaints against reckless flying and has been tolerating reckless flying for years. The airport administration/pilots have been nothing more than a good-old-boys club, very much reminiscent of the Penn State University scandal in which a pedophile and criminal and anti-social behavior by players have been ignored and gone unpunished for many years as a result of a collusion between the head coach and the school administration.


Like this comment
Posted by Pilot-Error
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2011 at 12:07 pm

> Posted by Citizen & TaxPayer1, a resident of Menlo Park,

But not a resident or taxpayer of Santa Clara County, where the Palo Alto Airport is located.

> With regard to the airport and the community, the airport
> began operations in April of 1940.

Actually, it began operations in 1935, after operating on the grounds of Stanford University prior to 1934. The pilots had behaved so badly, that the residents of College Terrace were in the process of instituting a law suit against the people operating the air strip—presumably to shut them down. Various parties helped to relocate the airstrip to the Baylands in late 1934-35, rather than perhaps suffer a court order to shut it down completely. By 1957, the airport was in serve financial trouble, and has always operated only because of subsidies from the public treasury.

> Any residents having moved into the area since made a
> conscious choice to be near an airport as the airport
> certainly isn't trying to hide itself.

What a nonsensical thing to say. This tiny, little, insignificant airport, produces virtually nothing in terms of revenue, and even less in terms of taxes to support it. The total investment in homes and businesses within a five-mile distance of this air strip would be easily in excess of $500B, if anyone took the time to accumulate the accesses/market values of the private (and public) property, by parcel. The idea that somehow the length of time this airport has been in the baylands somehow trumps the accumulated value of all the property, and the safety of possibly 300,000 residents and workers nearby, is beyond belief.

> Aircraft routinely take off in the conditions of that
> unfortunate day.

Really? How many days a year is this airport fogged in? How many departures are under “IFR” (Instrument Flight Rules)? If the number is small, then it would not be accurate, or prudent, to say that “IFR” departures are “routine”. Can you actually provide this data?

> It is not considered dangerous by the FAA.

No, but some small airports have sufficient problems with “IFR” operations that they have terminated “IFR” them, and now only operate under “VFR” (Visual Flight Rules).

> There was no "warning" issued to the pilot to tell him not to
> take off.

Not in so many words.

> The issued advisory of "at your own risk" was because the
> controller in the tower was unable to see the entire runway,
> and thus could not assure he pilot that the run wasy was clear.
> Thus it becomes incumbent upon the pilot to ensure the ground
> path is clear.

And how is a pilot supposed to do that? Unless the plane is outfitted with radar, or the pilot actually walks the runway, there is simply no way for him to see what the tower can not see.

> What we are left to speculate, is why the plane went the
> direction it did?

> Did the pilot have a stroke? Did one of the passengers
> aggressively grab the controls away from the pilot?

> Mechanical problem not found in the melted wreckage?
> We can only guess.

Typical pilot crap! If there had been a struggle in the cockpit, then there is every reason to believe that that noise would have been transmitted over the plane’s radio and recorded by the tower, There is no evidence of such a struggle, as the recording demonstrates--

Cessna 310R, N5225J/Palo Alto, CA/February 17, 2010:
Web Link

But if the pilot had showed some prudence and waited for the fog to clear, we would not have to guess, nor would we have had to spend a whole day in the dark, as this pilot destroyed the only power feed into the City of Palo Alto Utility’s redistribution grid.

> What we do not have to guess is about the pilot's experience
> and credentials,

Well .. his “experience and credentials” resulted in the deaths of four people, the loss of productivity and other costs that could run upwards of $80M for the people, and businesses of Palo Alto, and lawsuits that will require tens of millions to settle--which will be paid ultimately by people other than this dead pilot.

> and the overall safety record of flights in and out of the Palo
> Alto airport.

There have been about 150 accidents at this airport, since 1965—with about 16 fatalities. There have been over 100 incidents that were reported to the FAA, but not to the NTSB. And there have been any number of bird strikes, some of which have been reported to the FAA, and some of which have not. Claims that this is a “safe” airport need to be reviewed against the lack of safety demonstrated by the pilots flying out of this facility.

> If a pilot fails to follow the instructions of a controller,
> his/her license can be subject to revocation.

Or, he/she can end up killing himself/herself, and any number of passengers, and people on the ground.

> If a pilot drives drunk in a car, his/her pilot's license
> is suspended.

True, but if a pilot crashes his/her plane at the Palo Alto Airport, the Palo Alto police do not routinely conduct a field sobriety test of the pilot, or search the plane for any evidence of drugs. This procedure is more often than not executed for vehicular accidents in Palo Alto.

> I've never seen a pilot "buzz East Palo Alto" as one
> writer suggests,

And how many hours a day/week/month/year do you spend at the Palo Alto Airport? Just because you haven’t seen it happen, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. What a really foolish thing to say at this point in your argument.

> The reporter mentions that the day care center is still not
> repaired. Had that owner maintained normal property insurance,
> there is no reason why it would not be repaired now, independent
> of any suit against the pilot's estate.

What arrogance—Blame the Victim! NOT!!! Just how much insurance should people living anywhere near a General Aviation Airport have to carry? What is clear is that most pilots do not have to carry (by law) insurance to compensate accident victims on the ground. Most airports require policies in the 1M per incident range if pilots are going to store their aircraft on the airport—but there does not seem to be any requirement to carry $30M to $100M general liability insurance to cover damage off the airport property.

In places like the Silicon Valley, it would not be hard to find houses costing $1M-$20M. A plane crashing into a cul de sac of such homes could easily cause $20M to $30M in damages, and who knows how much in claims of wrongful death. There is just no evidence that most pilots have considered these possibilities—when they can blame the victims for not carrying adequate coverage to handle “pilot error”.

It would be interesting to know just how much homeowner's insurance this poster carries to insure himself against small plane crashes?

> No one on the ground was physically injured,

And so you are claiming that no one on the ground has ever been injured by general aviation aircraft falling out of the sky, beyond the control of their pilots? Once the pilot loses control, who can predict what the plane will hit, and how many people will be killed?

> but today a person was shot in San Leandro while shopping at
> WalMart. By the reasoning of some, we should now most certainly
> close that WalMart because it poses a risk to the community.

What tortured logic. If most pilots demonstrate only this level of critical thinking ability, no one on the ground is safe!
Just this week alone, 10 people have been killed in small plane crashes in the US--

Four Dead In IL Small Plane Crash:
Web Link

Six Killed in AZ Small Plane Crash:
Web Link

Small planes pose a great risk to those flying in them, and to property owners on the ground. There is no way that Walmarts pose the same level of danger to people shopping in them, or to property owners in the same communities where the stores are located in the same way these small planes pose danger to anyone under their flight paths.

No one is safe under the flight operations area of the Palo Alto Airport. No one!


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm

One also has to wonder what part Tesla (the employers of the three in the plane) has to play in all this. Were these employees told to get to their destination for their business meeting whatever? Were they in such a hurry that foggy morning that possibly they were later leaving and needed to make up lost time which is why he turned left instead of right?

I know the pilot is ultimately responsible for the decisions made, but perhaps his decisions were influenced by business criteria rather than anything else.


Like this comment
Posted by Geek
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 26, 2011 at 3:25 pm

If people feel that a plane has "buzzed" their neighborhood, they should go to Web Link where you can see the flight tracks of all aircraft in the area along with their respective altitudes. Pilots are required (by FAA regulations) to maintain at least 1,000ft clearance above any persons or things below them in congested areas such as EPA would be.
Web Link

If you confirm that an aircraft is below minimums and was not engaged in taking off or landing (obviously you need to be lower for those things), then please contact the FAA and report them. The FAA takes these type of infractions seriously. The Palo Alto Airport tower monitors all traffic in the area, and they will be able to identify the exact aircraft involved, including those not captured by radar.


Like this comment
Posted by Agree
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 26, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Resident - you bring up some valid considerations. While it is all speculation, it is quite common for people to put their jobs, their business, their drive to succeed above all else, even safety. Indeed the pilot does and should have the final say in whether or not to fly, but this pilot was most likely trying to accommodate these very high profile clients and meet their demands for quick travel. Why do any if these executives opt out of commercial air travel in favor of private/charter flights - mostly they want to get their destinations faster. Time is money, money is king.


Like this comment
Posted by whats the real story
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2011 at 1:02 am

@citizen&taxpayer
you said:" The reporter mentions that the day care center is still not repaired. Had that owner maintained normal property insurance, there is no reason why it would not be repaired now, independent of any suit against the pilot's estate."

Sure there are. There are lots of reasons. Your willful ignorance of what insurance companies do in the real world (as with most policyholders) is why they continue to get away with selling us all very expensive coverages and so often failing to honor their contracts.

First of all, the Mercury News reports that the daycare owner DID have homeowners insurance. Web Link

Unusual catastrophic events like acts of terror, hurricanes, or perhaps a plane landing on your home-based business, often aren't covered under normal property insurance. Often insurance contracts have so many exclusions and fine print, it's not possible to get a home rebuilt without pitching in money the owner clearly doesn't have, especially where there is structural damage. There are typically strict time limits on coverage, too, and additional living expenses when the repairs (and insurance wars) take time.

The insurance for the party at fault, though, is generally broader. However, your ability to get a relatively small claim covered when a storm knocks over your fence is no indication of what your insurer might do if you suffer a major catastrophe, are out of house and home, and perhaps aren't the most sympathetic person in a news story.

You have car insurance, but if someone hits you, THEIR insurer is the one dealing with the claim, and you have no right to sue their insurer if they do a bad job. Guess what usually happens?

Everyone knows that, at least before the financial crisis, more than half of all bankruptcies were from medical costs and most of those people had insurance. Casualty insurance has one or two better players, but overall, isn't must better than health. It's just that far fewer people have those kinds of losses, and insurers know how to "deal" with them, so it's not recognized as problematic the way health is.


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Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 27, 2011 at 6:25 am

Citizen&TaxPayer1, your comments are so misleading and often downright contradictory of the facts that it would be pointless to even begin to refute them, and "what's the real story" has done a marvelous job doing just that anyway. I'd like though to response to one of your comments:"Pilots live in the area too, and we strive to be as respectful as possible, keeping noise as low as practical". Daily experience has taught us this is just plain untrue, and a local pilot commented right here on TownSquare in the aftermath of the Feb. 2010 crash that "some" pilots don't take safety and noise abetting procedures very seriously and that the airport administration doesn't do much to change that.


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm

The absurd argument that people choose to live under the airport that keeps getting repeated really makes me mad. This is just rhetoric and I doubt the people who say it even believe it. It's like saying people who choose not to live in mansions .... people who live in this area find houses based on many things.

This oft repeated idea or the ideas about how if we close down the airport we have to close down 101 or we would be hypocrites are just deflections.

The regular American people are dismissed and deflected routinely about anything, like ants or insects are these days. There is a whole philosophy about how the small group of people who have lots of money or power are so superior to the rest of us that the rest of us do not even matter. Ignore, dismiss, slowly disempowered and driven into poverty by virture of controlling the laws and access to wealth and power.

It is time to de-occupy the skies over Palo Alto, and get rid of the airport. Just talking and using reason apparently does nothing but bring out stupid arguments that other pilots or their supporters chime in in agreement about, even though if given a lie detector test they would probably fail - these are people without morals or conscience who do not consider other people important enough to have an honest discussion with.

If we want to get rid of the airport, Palo Altans and East Palo Altans and anyone else have to move on to some tactic that is more effective and less dismissable. If we do not and we just remain complacent - things will only get worse because there is no, none, nada, zero, zilch check on the arrogance and psychopathology of these people when they are in their manic superiority mode.

The goal should be to move the airport to some other facility. That way pilots can still use their planes. The trade off is that local residents will not have the threat of accident and death flying over their heads and pilots will have to go just a little more out of their way to use their planes ... presumably safer and better regulated. The Baylands benefits because it will become a place where people can go and hear themselves think ... now that we have an expanded park setting out in the Baylands ... let's take advantage of it.

Does anyone have any ideas about what to do or how to do it to bring political pressure to bear on a city, country and state that does not seem to give a damn about rules or safety anymore when it comes to inconveniencing the .01% ?????????????


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Posted by win
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Nov 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm

i believe it is 2%.


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Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 28, 2011 at 3:08 pm

The pilots and airport administration would never change their behavior, and even if some of them decided to treat the neighboring residents, and the airport foes, with anything but the contempt and arrogance they have treated them for so long, this airport should still be shut down, as it shouldn't exist virtually in the backyard of helpless people. The only solution, in my opinion, is for Palo Altans to put the issue on the ballot. The overwhelming majority of Palo Altans are unaware of how disruptive, polluting and dangerous the airport is, and have no idea that it has been an abysmal financial failure, despite the fact that the land had been given to the airport free of charge by the Palo Alto tax payers.


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Posted by narnia
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2011 at 9:12 am

Whats the real story" is right on what insurance companies do but it needs further explanation (independently of the very real difficulty in dealing with insurance). The insurance industry bases their prices and insurability on the probability of occurrences, that is in the frequency of certain events. We know that car crashes occur at a certain rate and therefore the premium and insurability can be determined. It is not true of willful events like wars, or murder or events so infrequent that they cannot be statistically determined .Therefore when you have home owners hazard insurance it only covers what is predictable.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis

on Sep 26, 2017 at 4:03 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


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

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