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?