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Pilot alerted of dangers before plane crash

Original post made on Apr 21, 2010

Pilot Doug Bourn was warned by the air traffic controller at Palo Alto Airport just before his Feb. 17 takeoff that there was no visibility in the heavy fog and he was flying at his own risk, a recording released by the Federal Aviation Administration reveals.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 21, 2010, 9:58 AM

Comments (38)

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Posted by Cheryl Erber
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 21, 2010 at 10:28 am

What is the difference between a clearance and a release? It seems to me that if the fog was so heavy that there was "no visibility" the pilot should not have been allowed to take off. Saying, essentially, well if you want to risk your life, that of your passengers and anyone on the ground you might fall on... go right ahead... is not acceptable.


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Posted by Steve C.
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 21, 2010 at 10:47 am

My father-in-law, who was an experienced pilot, and never had an accident, had a saying I heard many times: "There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots". He usually repeated this saying after hearing about another weather-related crash or incident. He and his son's were absolute sticklers about the weather and flying conditions. They would not fly even if it was fine where they were taking off from, but the weather was questionable at their intended destination.
What's puzzling here is why the air traffic controller didn't simply refuse to clear the aircraft for takeoff. If they won't allow an aircraft to land in dangerous weather conditions, except perhaps in an emergency, why let them fly into dangerous conditions? I agree with the previous poster. This action is unacceptable, and the air traffic controller should be held accountable here.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 21, 2010 at 11:02 am

I completely agree with Cheryl. What kind of system is this that allows the pilot to trump the controller's denial of clearance and fly "at their own risk?" It's not just about who gets the blame if anything goes wrong - it's about the safety of everyone. "No clearance" ought to mean NO TAKEOFF, period.


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Posted by John F.
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2010 at 11:13 am

If you understand air traffic control (ATC) language and procedures, this exchange makes more sense and is not particularly alarming.

The clearance gives instructions on the route the pilot should fly once he takes off and enters controlled airspace on an instrument flight plan. The release is the message from ATC that the pilot's time window for takeoff is open. He then has a set amount of time before the window closes.

The phraseology "at your own risk" is regularly used by a controller to let the pilot know that he is responsible for his decision. It doesn't imply danger, simply that the risk belongs to the pilot, not the controller.

In the reported exchange, the pilot receives a release for the clearance had already received. The tower then clarified that due to the visibility, the pilot would take off at his own risk. Again, that doesn't mean the tower was saying there was a risk, just that the conditions prevented the tower from performing their normal procedure.

Mr. Bourn's decision-making has been extensively re-hashed already. Some pilots feel that taking off under those conditions was an unnecessary risk. Others feel that for a competent pilot with recent experience it was an acceptable decision. Nothing in this new information really changes that.

I hope that when the NTSB report is released, we will learn whether the weather was a factor in this tragedy. Whatever the conclusion, it will provide insights that help pilots fly as safely as possible.


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Posted by George K.
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 21, 2010 at 11:19 am

I have a strong suspicion that the controller followed procedure and didn't just make up this "at your own risk" on the spur of the moment. Perhaps a pilot can weigh in, rather than relatives of pilots?


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Posted by Neal
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 21, 2010 at 11:43 am

Whether you like it or not, the law allows the Pilot-In-Command to have the final say in a situation like this.


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Posted by REM
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 21, 2010 at 11:45 am

My question is WHY didn't he just climb straight out????

Why was there a Left turn?????


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Posted by Don Mackenzie
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2010 at 11:52 am

I'm a pilot who regularly flies instrument procedures in and out of Palo Alto.

There are two uses of the word 'clearance' involved here. From the recording, it's clear the pilot has an 'Instrument Flight Rules Clearance' which are the instructions for the direction(s) and height to fly to get to his destination airport. The pilot has an "IFR Clearance", given to him earlier by a Palo Alto controller earlier than the tape the paper has published.

On the recording, one can hear the Palo Alto tower controller asking the TRACON for 'release'. The TRACON ensures the plane can takeoff without hitting planes from Moffett or San Jose or Oakland or San Carlos or San Francisco. TRACON has a bigger picture. TRACON tells Palo Alto the plane is released.

Normally, the Palo Alto controller would then verify the runway is clear and safe (there are no airplanes or maintenance trucks or animals on it) and tell the pilot "Cleared for Takeoff". That is a "Takeoff Clearance", different from an "IFR Clearance". Because that morning the controller can't see the runway, he can't say "Cleared for Takeoff" like he usually would. The recording shows an exchange where the tower controller explains this to the pilot and that "released" means the airspace is clear. We don't know how much the pilot could see, but he's a lot closer to the runway than the controller so he may have seen that the runway was clear. In any case, "released" means the airspace is clear of other aircraft.

I hope this helps readers understand the story. We still don't know what caused the crash.


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Posted by Michael Malcolm
a resident of Los Altos
on Apr 21, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Whenever I land or takeoff at Palo Alto in my helicopter, the controller tells me it will be "at your own risk," even when the weather is clear and beautiful and I am using the designated helicopter landing "spot." This is standard controller speak which means they cannot see the landing/takeoff area well enough to guarantee separation from other aircraft during the operation. It does not mean that the controller thinks it is a bad idea. I always thought this standard terminology was odd because the pilot is always at risk during a landing or takeoff, not the controller. An instrument takeoff in fog and zero visibility is a common procedure -- something that a pilot trains for when he gets an instrument rating. The go/no-go decision is and should be the pilot's. At this point we can only speculate about what may have caused this tragic accident.


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 21, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Air Traffic CONTROLLER ! !

It is supposed to control things like this.

To me, not a pilot, this seems like a clear case of the tower not asserting itself and doing its job or CONTROLLING Air Traffic.

Not only that, but the pilot who apparently knew the area well decided to turn left over East Palo Alto on top of his now confirmed other bad judgement.

What I am afraid will happen is that since there is probably not going to be one big thing to blame this on, all the little lapses of judgement and incompetences that appear to have made up this disaster will be glossed over and business as usual will move right on, even if we have another of these incidents.

The nature of having weak, poor, intimidated, or incompetent REGULATION is one that plagues our country now in all areas, and this in my opinion is the same thing. That entity which was supposed to regulate air traffic did not do its job, or if it did do technically what was its responsibility to fullfill it's job was not clear or definite enough.

There is a very interesting book out new about the medical profession, called "Checklist Manifesto" by Atul Gawande MD, who also wrote "Complications" and "Better" both excellent books in their own right. What the medical profession has found, and mostly wants to ignore, even as far back as hundreds or years is that authority wants to do whatever it wants to do. Doctors used to deliver babies and failing to wash their hands would carry deadly germs from woman to woman causing the large number of baby and mother deaths. When suggested or asked to mind their hygiene, authority would often ignore or refuse.

Gawande's book talks about how to INSTITUTIONALIZE improvements and to break the barrier from authority, be it, doctors, pilots, or government regulators by implementing lessons alreadty painfully learned in a checklist. As good as this book is about medicine, the lessons here, mostly gleaned from aviation, are hugely applicable to all the ills of our country.


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 21, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Two commenters here have made or implied the following statement:
>> The go/no-go decision is and should be the pilot's.

Can someone explain why that is or the thinking behind that.

It seems to me that the pilot depending on their state of mind is concerned about the pilot, his priorities and under certain circumstances is going to make bad decisions if under some stress, duress or just needing to get somewhere important.

The traffic controller on the other hand should be concerned for the airport, the pilot, the neighborhood, all major factors and dangers. So, why is the last say the pilots, especially given the reviews of crashes like Tenariff(sp?) or others where impatient pilots took off under bad conditions and crashed?


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Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Anyone know the exact takeoff/clearance/release/etc. procedure used for commercial airliners? Is the phrase "at your own risk" ever used?


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Posted by Bing
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2010 at 1:09 pm

It seems to me that one of the first comments really rings true -- there are few old, bold pilots. It's like when there's heavy fog on the freeway, and people used to driving 75 continue driving 75, because they've never had a fog accident in the past.


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Posted by AM
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 21, 2010 at 1:24 pm

HUMM, Perhaps we should look at it from another perspective. The departure aircraft was intending to operate in a 100 percent cloud environment from beginning to end. The purpose of the ATC system is to prevent collisions. The tower controllers job is to ensure the runway surface is free of objects, prior to giving his ok for landing or departure. here the controller could not ensure the runways war clear due to weather conditions. not having any other system than a visual check of the runway. A controller could not stop someone who wishes to operate in clouds, who has a valid certificate to do so, is current in training, who has an aircraft equipped for such a flight and has stated his intent to operate that at that time. being bound by law the controller was obliged to provide service. not doing so increases danger to other pilots and aircraft already operating in the system. It is likely that whatever the weather conditions were this would have happened as it appears that an engine failure during the initial climb cause the aircraft to yaw during this critical phase of flight. the aircraft became un-recoverable and struck the utility pole on the way down. this point of view is in contrast to the he didn't see the wire and poles and struck them which caused the aircraft to crash.


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Posted by Don Mackenzie
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Midtowner,

"Anyone know the exact takeoff/clearance/release/etc. procedure used for commercial airliners? Is the phrase "at your own risk" ever used?"

Yes, commercial airliners and small 'general aviation' aircraft are treated the same by controllers. (Commercial carriers do have internal procedures that vary.) I have heard a commercial airliner get an "at your own risk" release. It happens in the same circumstance, where the tower controller does not have a clear view of the runway for any of many reasons, including bad weather like rain or fog.

To other commenters, kindly remember the controller sits in a comfortable chair in a solid building on the ground. The pilot is usually the first to the scene of an accident because he sits in front. The pilot has a lot more on the line than the controller. Controllers work hard at important jobs, but it takes a team of controllers and pilots, each doing their respective jobs, to make flying as safe as it is.


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Posted by Hook
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 21, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Aviation law is based on maritime law. It seems like a few people here know little about either.


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Posted by Harry
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm

My intention with this post is to provide information and perspective, not to judge or defend. The fact is there is nothing alarming about the phrase "... at your own risk..." in the aviation environment. It was used appropriately by the controller and, though everyone would be better off if he'd have decided differently, it was appropriate for the pilot to make his own decision about whether or not to proceed. Here's more about why...

Anon from Crescent Park implies that controllers are there to keep pilots from making bad decisions. Though they sometimes do help pilots avoid mistakes, that's not their primary purpose. There are plenty of examples of where the reverse happens and pilots help controllers avoid mistakes (clearing a plane to take off when another is about to land, for example). Mistakes and bad judgment are human frailties that can be displayed by either the pilot or the controller. My point is that the aviation transportation system is not one of checks and balances, it's one of a team of players with defined roles functioning toward a common goal -- safe operation of aircraft. Tragically, as in this case, the goal is not always achieved.

Everybody in the aviation system is concerned about safety and different players (pilots and controllers) have different roles based on the information available to them. The assumption has to be that both parties want to be safe. Nobody loads passengers into their plane intending to operate recklessly or crash just as nobody puts their kids into their minivan and drives to the store thinking they'll be reckless and crash. Yet people find themselves driving too fast for road conditions, coasting through stop signs, misjudging yellow lights, etc.). It happens because we're human. Most of the time there are no consequences, and sometimes the consequences are terrible, yet drivers and pilots don't feel that they are "gambling" or taking excessive risks at the time.

Controllers have better situational awareness for the big picture due to radar coverage, vantage point (like sitting high in a control tower) and other sources of information. Pilots have better situational awareness for operating the airplane and the environment around it. They work as a team and rely on each other most when conditions are demanding (such as inclement weather, night, dense traffic, and/or mechanical failure).

The phrase "Proceed with ... at your own risk due to ..." is commonly used by controllers. Its use is not clearly defined in the Aeronautical Information Manual. In general pilots interpret the phrase to mean that the controller is going on record as not being able to help them with some aspect that they normally would, in this case verifying that the runway is clear of obstructions.

In a ham and egg breakfast, the pilot is the pig and the controller is the chicken with respect to physical consequences. Ultimately the pilot in command is responsible for all aspects of the flight. Even when controllers make the mistake pilots are responsible for recognizing and countering it, like the takeoff clearance example above.

None of this makes the crash any less tragic. What it does mean is that there is nothing sensational about the radio exchange reported in the media.



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Posted by Greg
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 21, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Seems like all the armchair pilot/ATCs here seem to think planes should, in NO uncertain terms, EVER be allowed to take off in the fog. Nevermind that they do several times a day without incident.

Ironically, I bet they would be the first people to scream if they encountered a flight delay at SFO for weather.


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Posted by Neal
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Harry,
Well said. Thanks


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Posted by Daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 21, 2010 at 7:08 pm

I completely agree with the poster who wrote that one of the worst g plagues of this country is the lack of regulations in many areas and weak regulations that aren't even being enforced in others. We kept hearing the ridiculous nonsense of "markets will regulate themselves" and "markets know best" on the very same day our economy nearly melted down precisely because of lack of regulations and the inability to enforce the few that exist. We hear the same nonsense about small aircraft pilots, how they know what's best and how we should just trust their decision making. It's outrageous that the Palo Alto air traffic controller didn't have the authority to prohibit the pilot from taking off. The decision to take off should never be the pilot's. Too many pilots are gung-ho jocks who would take off in any condition and put everybody's life at risk. If you want to get a glimpse into the mentality of some small aircraft pilots, read the post of a Palo Alto pilot who admitted right here a few weeks ago, following calls for the closure of the airport that many pilots using the PA airport never took noise abatement procedures seriously and would probably not change that attitude. I doubt that their attitude toward safety procedures is dramatically different.


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Posted by PCT controller
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Anon from Crescent Park misunderstands the role of the air traffic controller. Ultimately, the pilot-in-command is responsible for the safe operation of his or her aircraft. The air traffic controller's job is to ensure separation of aircraft, but they can't fly the plane for the pilot, nor can they make the decision about whether a departure is acceptable or not. In this case, the controller did exactly what he was supposed to do: he advised the pilot that he was released for departure, and that because the weather conditions prevented him from making visual contact with the runway and ensuring that it was free from obstructions, that the departure would be at his own risk. The procedure for releasing aircraft off of uncontrolled airports (that is, airports with no control tower) is exactly the same, since controllers have no way of knowing what conditions on the ground are like there. There's nothing in the ATC manual (FAA Order 7110.65) that permits a control to withhold a departure release due to inclement weather. I've had pilots request to make approaches to airports that were completely socked in with really nasty thunderstorms, and I can do my best to convince them that I don't think it's a good idea to go in there, but if they elect to do so I am obligated to provide them with that service.


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 21, 2010 at 7:35 pm

PCT ... apparently I am more correct than you want to admit since you have to qualify what you are saying with the word "ultimately".

>>> Ultimately, the pilot-in-command is responsible for the safe operation of his or her aircraft.

Of course air traffic control cannot fly the plane, take off and especially land the plane. I've read what people said here, and they are all saying the departure would be at the pilot's own risk, but apparently you disconnect air traffic control from the risk to the city of accidents or incompetence.

There may be nothing that forbids a takeoff in inclement weather now, maybe that is pat of the problem.

People seem so smug about flaunting their knowledge of air traffic rules, and blind to admit that something went very wrong that day.

My point is that I think it was human error. The kind of error that cannot be guarded against of regulated because of the lack of rules or enforcement. That pilot had no business taking off in that weather, and he had absolutely no business being where he was in the sky when he had problems and crashed.

Web Link

Take a look at this picture/map and you can see he had to make quite a deliberate VEER into East Palo Alto to get where he was, and coincidentally it was almost directly over the house of one of his passengers.

If you want to continue to pretend you are in some kind of elite that is responsible and superior, then explain this please.


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 21, 2010 at 7:41 pm

AM ... what is the source of your claim about engine failure? According to what has been published so far witnesses on the ground saw the plane operating with both engines and flying level before the crash?


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2010 at 8:36 pm


there are two issues
1/ the human tragedy of the loss of 3 lives

2/ the litigation and drive to extract as much money as possible from who ever has the deepest pockets, the evidence from the tapes will exonerate Palo Alto airport in the eyes and ears of any jury, the audio tapes from EPA seem to rule out mechanical engine failure.
Hungry litigants will still go after the deep pockets, this may impact Tesla as a going concern if the pilot and others were on company time and company business.

Some will seek to profit from this sad event and it will drag on for years of billable hours.


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Posted by Questions, Questions
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2010 at 9:14 pm

@ Sharon
I say let's find out what happened, where are the answers to the following:

1) Where were these three going after they landed at their destination?
2) Who was paying for the operation of the aircraft?
3) Was the pilot expected to perform an additional job (beyond the scope at Tesla) for his employer?
4) Did the pilot fly other trips in the same manner as this one for Tesla?
5) Did the insurer of the aircraft know of this relationship between the pilot and Tesla?
6) Who paid for the fixed costs of the aircraft? Did the pilot bill and Tesla pay for those expenses?
7) Who paid for the variable costs of the aircraft? Did the pilot bill and Tesla pay for those expenses?
8) What was the pilots real total seat time in flying in IMC? Or actual IFR time in a twin aircraft?
9) Did the pilot exhibit judgment errors in aircraft handling and training or proficiency examination?
10) Seriously, taking off in that weather, what was the plan for a post take-off emergency?

Oh, Sharon you are so right this will take a long long time to resolve. Thank goodness that Tesla has that 1/2 a BILLION in taxpayer funds to help all those needy lawyers find out what happened.

Goodness this might take a while.....


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 21, 2010 at 9:26 pm

While I will be excoriated by some as an "armchair pilot," I live close to the airport and DID look out the window that AM and noticed unusually thick fog. This leads me to believe better judgement could have been exercised by the pilot (like, delay the flight) especially since we understand SFO and SJC commercial flights were being delayed.
Second, it is fortunate that the crash was not a heckuva lot worse; more people could easily have been injured or killed on the ground in EPA.
If you fly United you can listen to air traffic control and you DO learn something about operations.
Don't minimize this awful crash.


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Posted by Finger of Fate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2010 at 10:04 pm

As noted on another thread -
Web Link
- Posted by Student of Risk, a resident of another community, on Feb 25, 2010 at 11:27 pm

The public policy, public health, or public safety impact of accidental aviation fatalities is minimal. And of those deaths or injuries, nearly all are of occupants of the airplanes. THAT's the argument that not much PUBLIC effort NEEDS to be put into regulating the edge cases.

The reason why the pilot-in-command is given the authority is because of the responsibility assigned and the personal risk assumed. It's not because of some elitist theory, but recognition that the highest risk is TO the PILOT and the occupants, NOT to people on the ground. Compare that to the risk to pedestrians by a reckless driver. It's also recognition that once the wheels are up, the pilot walks away ONLY with a "safe" landing. There's no pulling over to the side, no coasting to a stop, no roadside assistance, no walking to get a can of gas. Without such a landing, the pilot will not walk away. [Referring back to "Harry"'s post - The pilot becomes the ham.] Authority is granted along with the assignment of the responsibility and the risk.

Again, given the statistics, ANYONE interested in the overall safety of the GNERAL POPULATION would be more effective by choosing nearly ANY OTHER hazard to work on reducing rather than aviation fatalities.

Sometimes accidents happen. People die from falls. More people die from accidental falls than are killed in aviation accidents. Given the number of accidental falls ( no doubt some due to people climbing where they shouldn't ), how about regulating climbing up on roofs? That has a better chance of making a measurable change in the statistics.

Safety is improved more by good assessment of risks than by running after the most recent sensational accident.




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Posted by Anoma Lee
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 21, 2010 at 10:16 pm

"According to what has been published so far witnesses on the ground saw the plane operating with both engines and flying level before the crash?"

Two running engines are also plainly audible on the shot spotter audio clip. I've listened to it many times while comparing it with the concurrent noise from visible singles and twins, which come over my neighborhood very frequently.

On the other hand, the airplane was way off its assigned course but headed directly toward a passenger's home. Connect the dots.


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 21, 2010 at 11:23 pm

People above, almost all blanket supporters of the pilot and airport are using every foolish excuse to justify doing nothing, but talking about looking close and talking about public safety.

I feel this attitude ... not the attitude of all flyers though ... is really despicable.

Accidents do not just happen like this or an airport would not be allowed to operate right beside a city.

Accidents sometimes do happen, but had this been just an accident the plane should not have been where it was.

I don't care how many people die from whatever other cause, it is irrelevant and I really wish people would stop using that NON-argument.

The pilot obviously should be the authority when the plane is in the air and away from airport location and not under any other direct control, but unless this statement is just a formality I have still not heard any good logic behind giving the pilot the authorithy to take off is the tower does not think it is safe. The whole subject the way it is expressed seems to be about obfuscation to break people's arguments against the airport into fragments that do not lead to the obvious conclusion that this airport is in an inherently unsafe location.

IF THE PILOT IS IN CHARGE OF THE PLANE AND MAKES ALL DECISIONS, THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO PREVENT THE HUMAN ERROR OF ANOTHER PILOT EITHER HAVING BAD JUDGEMENT IN TAKEOFF, OR BAD JUDGEMENT IN FLYING OVER A RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD IN THE FOG AGAIN BECAUSE HE PERSONALLY THINKS THE RISKS ARE MINIMAL FOR HIS SKILL OR WHATEVER REASON.

Looking at the lay of the San Carlos airport you can see it is not at all near any residential area. Palo Alto airport should be shut down, and that valuable land should be used for better purposes that more serve the whole city and population as well as bring in more revenue to the city.


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 21, 2010 at 11:25 pm

Sorry, meant to say "Some people above that are blanket supporters of the pilot and airport ...", not pointing to everyone posting.


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Posted by Jerry Leugers
a resident of Atherton
on Apr 21, 2010 at 11:44 pm

As a former Navy pilot and an airline pilot for 37 years, I advise people to wait for the NTSB report. An accurate assessment cannot be made without the facts. The NTSB conducts thorough investigations that are not subject to politics.


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Posted by Steve C.
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 22, 2010 at 6:41 am

Well, that system worked pretty well this time, didn't it?


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Posted by Daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 22, 2010 at 6:44 am

This airport should be shut down, yesterday.


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Posted by Frank
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 22, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Actually, the situation wasn't much different than if an airplane takes off before the tower opens at 7am. Someone who can't see the runway issues an IFR release from their desk in Sacramento or wherever and the takeoff is at the pilot's own risk. Once the airplane is airborne, ATC is responsible for making sure the airplane doesn't hit anything (as long as the pilot complies with ATC instructions). The pilot here turned left for unknown reasons (deviating from ATC instructions) and paid the ultimate price.

People can argue about whether the pilot made a good decision or a bad decision or whether municipal airports are good or bad. However, "at your own risk" really doesn't mean much in this context and shouldn't be evidence of good/bad decision making here. That phrase is used 100% of the time that the medivac helicopter lands at Stanford simply because the helipad is not visible from the airport tower (not because landing the helicopter on a beautiful summer day is dangerous).


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Frank:
>> The pilot here turned left for unknown reasons (deviating from ATC instructions) and paid the ultimate price. <<


Well we can debate forever about whether it is OK for the pilot to take the risk for himself, but what about his passengers, what price did they pay and what "benefit" did they get.

Your phraseology just seemed odd to me as any pilot in the area over houses or whatever can take whatever risk, and because it is infrequent and not always in the same place, somehow to the human computer ... at least of the person reading about this in the paper, it is dismissable, or unimportant because they correctly perceive the risk to them is negligable.

However, if the media stirs things up and concentrates people's focus on the same thing, for example the 911 terrorist incident ... if there is a constituency for action, we mobilize the whole country and go to war against 2 maybe 3 countries and change the whole or world history, on something that probably there is neglible risk will ever happen again.

We should have a better way to discuss this than some fantastical notion of someone taking a personal risk and then paying a price. Dying is not paying a price or buying anything, except in some very abnormal conditions.

The at your own risk seems to be a nonsensicle disclaimer, but the thing is that it was at everyone else's risk who lives at whatever time under an airplane.


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Posted by Resident One
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2010 at 3:46 pm

The Palo Alto Airport and all others involved should get the pants sued off of them. This crap has been going on for too long. We, the folks living in East Palo Alto have for years have been complaining and whining about the larger commercial and local pilots lack of respect and safety flying over EPA. We have for years, complained about the low flying, buzzing our neighborhoods and schools, improper take off and landings, all day Saturday and Sunday flying. No one listens. Especially not Palo Alto Airport or Santa Clara County.

Palo Alto would never allow the airport to affect their neighborhoods the way we in EPA experiences how pilots refuse to follow the rules. We aren't at all surpised about the crash, it was just a matter of time. We are surprised that the crash didn't kill more people on the ground. And, no we weren't surprised that 3 days later pilots from the Palo Alto airport were up to their old tricks flying across the power lines straight into East Palo Alto neighborhoods AGAIN!

Yep! Sue the pants off of them, because it will only be a matter of time before the Palo Alto Airport sues EPA for a development project that is in the vacinity of their airport. Only a matter of time before the Palo Alto Airport is looking the other way when pilots refuse to follow regulations, abuse private flying privledges, buzz the EPA community and of course create another crash.


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Posted by Michael Malcolm
a resident of Los Altos
on Apr 23, 2010 at 1:12 am

After any airplane accident it is easy to blame the dead pilot because he isn't around to defend himself. This pilot may have had a heart attack. There may have been a mechanical failure. The fog may have had nothing to do with it. Hopefully the NTSB will shed some light on what happened. In any case, the pilot paid dearly. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Mel
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 3, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Anon, [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] If you saw 25 planes a day flying extremely close to your house and then one day one crashes down the street you too would want something done. My children go to school pretty much next door to the runway.


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