News

Plane crashes while trying to return to Palo Alto Airport, strikes power lines before going down in Baylands

Fire Department: Pilot reportedly experienced mechanical failure

Power lines that were struck by a plane hang in the air and off other lines in the Palo Alto Baylands on Sept. 13, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

The pilot of a plane that reportedly experienced mechanical failure after taking off from the Palo Alto Airport Monday at 1:47 p.m. tried to return to the facility, only to crash into the marshland near the airport at 1:50 p.m., according to local officials and a flight-data website.

After takeoff, the twin-engine Beechcraft Baron 58P made a U-turn near Fremont's Dumbarton Point, then struck Palo Alto power lines and crashed landed, flight-tracking data shows. The impact sheared off a part of the plane's wing, which landed a couple hundred feet away from the aircraft.

"The plane landed on its belly," Palo Alto fire Battalion Chief Shane Yarbrough told this news organization.

The pilot didn't have significant injuries, according to the Fire Department.

The pilot was able to safely exit the aircraft and paramedics administered medical aid. He was taken to a hospital as a precautionary measure, Yarbrough said.

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The plane carried 166 gallons of fuel, leading to fears of a fuel spill in the Baylands on Monday afternoon, according to emergency dispatch reports.

California Fish and Wildlife inspectors were called to assess any potential fuel spill and its effect on the wetlands, Yarbrough said.

City of Palo Alto spokesperson Meghan Horrigan Taylor said on Tuesday that some fuel spilled. City personnel, along with a cleanup contractor, were on-site yesterday containing and cleaning up the spill.

The small plane was visible, upright and resting on marshland just east of the Baylands Nature Interpretive Center. A hazardous waste team was called to the scene, as well as a helicopter crew from the California Highway Patrol.

The incident will be investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, with NTSB in charge, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson said.

The plane is registered to Faford Aviation Leasing Company in Atherton, according to Federal Aviation Administration registry records. It was built in 1982 and is currently registered with the agency.

The plane took off from the airport, located at 1925 Embarcadero Road, 19 minutes ahead of schedule, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.com. It ascended to an altitude of 450 feet. The trip covered 8 miles and lasted three minutes.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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Plane crashes while trying to return to Palo Alto Airport, strikes power lines before going down in Baylands

Fire Department: Pilot reportedly experienced mechanical failure

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Mon, Sep 13, 2021, 2:41 pm
Updated: Tue, Sep 14, 2021, 12:50 pm

The pilot of a plane that reportedly experienced mechanical failure after taking off from the Palo Alto Airport Monday at 1:47 p.m. tried to return to the facility, only to crash into the marshland near the airport at 1:50 p.m., according to local officials and a flight-data website.

After takeoff, the twin-engine Beechcraft Baron 58P made a U-turn near Fremont's Dumbarton Point, then struck Palo Alto power lines and crashed landed, flight-tracking data shows. The impact sheared off a part of the plane's wing, which landed a couple hundred feet away from the aircraft.

"The plane landed on its belly," Palo Alto fire Battalion Chief Shane Yarbrough told this news organization.

The pilot didn't have significant injuries, according to the Fire Department.

The pilot was able to safely exit the aircraft and paramedics administered medical aid. He was taken to a hospital as a precautionary measure, Yarbrough said.

The plane carried 166 gallons of fuel, leading to fears of a fuel spill in the Baylands on Monday afternoon, according to emergency dispatch reports.

California Fish and Wildlife inspectors were called to assess any potential fuel spill and its effect on the wetlands, Yarbrough said.

City of Palo Alto spokesperson Meghan Horrigan Taylor said on Tuesday that some fuel spilled. City personnel, along with a cleanup contractor, were on-site yesterday containing and cleaning up the spill.

The small plane was visible, upright and resting on marshland just east of the Baylands Nature Interpretive Center. A hazardous waste team was called to the scene, as well as a helicopter crew from the California Highway Patrol.

The incident will be investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, with NTSB in charge, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson said.

The plane is registered to Faford Aviation Leasing Company in Atherton, according to Federal Aviation Administration registry records. It was built in 1982 and is currently registered with the agency.

The plane took off from the airport, located at 1925 Embarcadero Road, 19 minutes ahead of schedule, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.com. It ascended to an altitude of 450 feet. The trip covered 8 miles and lasted three minutes.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Comments

Rhodoreae
Registered user
Ventura
on Sep 13, 2021 at 5:09 pm
Rhodoreae, Ventura
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2021 at 5:09 pm

Shut the PA Airport down!
The lead fuel is poisoning neighbors and the natural environment, the electric transmission lines are vulnerable to crashes, and the fuel consumption contributes to climate change. It would help reduce noise pollution as well.

Santa Clara County Supervisors just voted to close Reid-Hillview because the local children have lead in their blood. Will Palo Alto have the courage to close our airport?


Pat Groves
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Sep 13, 2021 at 5:13 pm
Pat Groves, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2021 at 5:13 pm

The fuel capacity of the airplane is 166 gallons, but the fact that the wing fuel tank was cut in two raises a question about the amount of fuel on board because there was no post crash fire - especially as the aircraft hit a power line. Although it might be possible, the article provides no corroboration that there was a fuel spill.


Eeyore (formerly StarSpring)
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 13, 2021 at 5:43 pm
Eeyore (formerly StarSpring), Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2021 at 5:43 pm

Seems like poor reporting.

PAO is an important part of our community. We have taken a lot of Federal dollars to keep that airport running. Shutting it down is not an easy nor quick option.

Perhaps this will spur the city to actually do their job and put some redundancy in place for our electrical power system. This is especially true since the PACC is all hot and bothered about making Palo Alto a national example of an all electric community.


Ken
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2021 at 5:55 pm
Ken, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2021 at 5:55 pm

Sad that we are still in the "close it down" mode. One could say much of the same about cars (ex-utility lines). The Palo Alto Airport is an important community asset. Where do we think future airline pilots come from?
Transportation creates 29% of greenhouse gas production according to the EPA and only 3% of that is aviation -- that's ALL aviation, including commercial flights. After hundreds of millions of dollars of industry investment, viable non-leaded fuel was just approved by the FAA. Look for cleaner planes in the very near future and hopefully a culture where we don't want to cancel anything we don't do individually. I hope no one was injured!


Sam
Registered user
East Palo Alto
on Sep 13, 2021 at 6:00 pm
Sam, East Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2021 at 6:00 pm

Relax Pat. It's hard to get accurate details an hour after a plane does down in a marsh. CBS reports "A hazmat team has been called out for a large fuel spill, authorities said." So much for the knee-jerk rush to judgement about the reporting and your no fire theory.


Eeyore (formerly StarSpring)
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 13, 2021 at 6:11 pm
Eeyore (formerly StarSpring), Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2021 at 6:11 pm

166 gallons is not a large fuel spill, not to say it isn’t bad for that specific part of the baylands. The article only states the capacity of the fuel tanks. We don’t know it they were full. There is half that amount in each wing. The article further states the plane flew for eight miles at 450 ft. which seems very unlikely.

Wait for the full report…


JR
Registered user
Palo Verde
on Sep 13, 2021 at 6:25 pm
JR, Palo Verde
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2021 at 6:25 pm

First of all, I'm glad the pilot is doing okay and wish them a quick recovery.

It seems every few years there is a crash at PAO and this latest crash which has dumped dozens of gallons of fuel into pristine wetlands should be the last straw. The community is not getting benefit from PAO for the environmental destruction and noise it is causing. I propose making a plan to close PAO and returning the lands to nature as part of Baylands Park. Enough is enough, Palo Alto is fed up.


Mark Dinan
Registered user
East Palo Alto
on Sep 13, 2021 at 7:15 pm
Mark Dinan, East Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2021 at 7:15 pm

I'm not a fan of the Palo Alto Airport, but can we all agree that burying the power lines around the airport should be a priority for the community? This is the second plane crash in which power lines have been involved since I moved to East Palo Alto in 2009, the first which had multiple fatalities.


JR
Registered user
Palo Verde
on Sep 13, 2021 at 7:29 pm
JR, Palo Verde
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2021 at 7:29 pm

Burying power lines around the airport cannot be done without irreparable damage to the wetlands. The water table is extremely low in the area (hence the name "wetlands") so burying anything would be an extremely invasive industrial project. It's basically off the table.

Now routing the power lines through other areas away from the wetlands may be possible, but it's probably very expensive. Why not tax takeoffs / landings at PAO to pay for it? It's for their own safety, after all.


Ken
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2021 at 9:40 pm
Ken, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2021 at 9:40 pm

I like the real discussion. My best guess is that burying those power line is super low priority and very expensive versus burying the power lines in many of our backyards (ha ha, we have those in *our* back lawn and burying them isn't happening any time soon if you look at the City's plan -- that's OK, that's what we bought, fine).

JR's comment on taxing to absorb any costs is spot on. I think we should all pay for our enjoyment of so many of the awesome things we enjoy in Palo Alto.

The airport is self sustaining financially (net surplus to the community), and there are a *a lot* of taxes to support the the airport . . . more tax and fees than cost, just to educate. To inform, there is a big tax (much larger than for car fuel) on aircraft fuel -- every gallon, much more than for cars -- and, though, it is rented space, there are property taxes on the tie downs *and* all of the planes (imagine if you had a property tax on your car). That's all fine -- it is expensive -- but understand that most of the aircraft owners aren't the super rich that people seem to want to tear down. The airport more than pays for itself. Palo Alto aircraft owners, mostly, aren't the super rich, that people want to slam. Good people and a friendly community, which is sadly uncommon now in Silicon Valley.

No rah, rah, here. I love that we have the airport and understand that others don't. It is pretty cool to see kids at the airport and general aviation does do a heck of a lot to encourage kids to get involved and see true joy in aviation and STEM.

Nice if we don't tear down all around us who do something different than what we do individually . . . stop by an airport day; see all the pilots who take up underpriveleged kids and insprice; see a friendly community. *Please*, let's not tear at something that is generally positive.

Best to all, loving the airport or not, but let's people be and please don't hate what you don't know.


Alice Schaffer Smith
Registered user
Downtown North
on Sep 13, 2021 at 11:35 pm
Alice Schaffer Smith, Downtown North
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2021 at 11:35 pm

I went bird-watching at 5 and was denied access. The ranger said: there is a very big bird on the marsh over there but the smell from the petrol is very strong! I went over to Byxbee Park and walked up to opposite the flight and took a picture : Web Link

I personally have opposed this airport because it is on some of the most precious baylands needed to protect the rare and varied shorebirds which inhabit these precious areas. With the loss of so much fuel, who can measure the long term damage.

Let's act now and stop making Palo Alto the destination site for rich entrepreneurs etc.

Time is of the essence.

Let's act now before it is too late. There was a crash a few years ago in EPA where housing has already encroached onto the wetlands.

And with rising sea levels how much tax payer money will be spent to protect this airport. I can only imagine.


Neighbor
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Sep 13, 2021 at 11:45 pm
Neighbor, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2021 at 11:45 pm

I had to chuckle , Ken. We do pay sales and use taxes on our cars, the largest at time of purchase and then each year in Dmv registration and use fees. Just bought a new car and the final price includes various taxes and fees that added $5-6k to the final date rice.


anon
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2021 at 4:19 am
anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2021 at 4:19 am

Reported right engine problem two minutes after take-off and made u-turn back to Palo Alto. A minute later losing power and what little altitude he had, declared an emergency and was cleared to land. Doubt he would have reached the runway even without the electric wires. Unlike our police department radio, we can still listen to air traffic frequencies.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2021 at 8:45 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2021 at 8:45 am

According to my memory, the previous crash was someone bringing patients to Stanford hospital. Prior to that, the infamous crash where all on board were killed, Tesla employees, and we lost power for a day.

I support the airport but I do wonder if there should be tighter regulation on planes that use it. Weather was good yesterday, can't remember about the one with Stanford patients, but the one with Tesla people was taking off in fog. Obviously no connection on the weather front.


Mark Dinan
Registered user
East Palo Alto
on Sep 14, 2021 at 8:48 am
Mark Dinan, East Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2021 at 8:48 am

East Palo Alto is going to be building a levee to replace a dirt berm which currently runs approximately from Friendship Bridge to the Dumbarton Bridge. It would not be an impossible task to include an electrical conduit inside the new levee and underground the wires. This would include the stretch of wires that were hit in the Tesla plane crash in 2010, killing 3 people and severely damaging houses in EPA. PG&E is about to underground thousands of miles of power lines in the Sierras, it is a no brainer to do the same in densely populated places like Palo Alto and East Palo Alto.


ALB
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 14, 2021 at 9:47 am
ALB, College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2021 at 9:47 am

The statement that the PAO is an asset to the community is false. Try going for a walk at the Baylands. All you hear is engines. This airport is nothing but a playground for millionaires with toys. The tragic death caused by the boss who ignored the caution to not fly because of weather is shameful. Hubris. I believe three people from Tesla died. Now there are children without fathers. This crash could have killed people in EPA but thankfully did not. The airport does not belong in these wetlands.


marinushaInfada
Registered user
Palo Alto Orchards
on Sep 14, 2021 at 12:53 pm
marinushaInfada, Palo Alto Orchards
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2021 at 12:53 pm

All pre flight planning should consider the possibility of engine loss during take off. A return to airport at low altitude is seldom possible. The pre flight will identify terrain (post runway)_for best possible place to land.


Banes
Registered user
Greater Miranda
on Sep 14, 2021 at 2:56 pm
Banes , Greater Miranda
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2021 at 2:56 pm

Once an airport is shut, it won’t ever return.
If Reid-Hillview is closed, I doubt it will become a park. I thought it was provisionally granted to the city as long as it remained an airport through the Family. RHV is only 2.5 miles off of SanJose International, and not in a marshland. City Council Members no doubt want their votes from the neighborhoods surrounding the airport. Its a very well paid & cushy job to be a city council member.


JR
Registered user
Palo Verde
on Sep 14, 2021 at 5:03 pm
JR, Palo Verde
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2021 at 5:03 pm

Ken, you need to delete your post because you are mis-stating my position completely. PAO is not an asset, it is a liability, not only to East Palo Alto and Palo Alto, but also to the Baylands and the environment. If the airport cannot operate safely then it needs to be shutdown. It is not acceptable to dump dozens of gallons of fuel into the Baylands every few years. Fix it or get out. Palo Alto's patience with out-of-town private jet owners is wearing thin.


We Are The People
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Sep 14, 2021 at 8:08 pm
We Are The People, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2021 at 8:08 pm

Am Old enough to remember when there was a Nice Smelly Friendly Garbage Dump near by?
I also remember the very comfortable Marina, with a very nice restaurant and meagering Duck Pond that is still there near by. For a few more years, Palo Alto kept up with the Fireworks. But killed that Community tradition?
I remember knowing that it was Saturday, because the "Well-off" would be up in the Air flying their planes.
Well they closed the wonderful Marina, but kept the noisy Airport?
Bug-huggers fought against an Exit from the Dumbarton Bridge to Hwy 101? Why?
Because They can! So they kept the Noisy Airport for their Well off friends (a hand full) But they are against an Exit for the Greater good? smh.
I say revisited cutting an Exit from the Dumbarton Bridge right through that darn dumb Airport.


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