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Small Plane Overruns SMO Runway:

A small single engine four-seat airplane overran the west end of the runway on landing at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) on Sunday, January 13. The pilot and two adult passengers were uninjured, and there was no property damage except to the aircraft involved. The runway was closed for about 20 minutes.

At approximately 5:50 p.m. on Sunday, Santa Monica Tower personnel notified the Airport Services Officer (ASO) on duty of the overrun, and the ASO responded to the location and found that a piston-powered Jabiru kit aircraft had rolled down the west slope and come to rest on the lower west service road, according to Airport Manager Robert Trimborn. There was no fire; the plane had a bent right wing, and the landing gear and windscreen were heavily damaged, Trimborn added.

The tower personnel are FAA employees. The ASO is a non-sworn civilian SMPD employee assigned to airport security. SMO is one of only about five percent of general aviation airports that have round-the-clock 24/7 security, said Trimborn.

Cpt. Scott Ziegert of the Santa Monica Fire Department, which dispatched a rescue unit to the scene, said that it appeared that the airplane’s brakes failed, but the incident is under official investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The airplane – a Jabiru J400 kit-built aircraft designed and manufactured by an Australian company -– is being “stored in a secure location” at SMO, said Trimborn, pending NTSB investigation.

Runway safety issues at SMO have been the subject of five years of non-productive discussions between the City and the FAA and a recent ordinance banning the larger, faster “Category C and D aircraft” that was adopted by the City Council on first reading November 27, 2007 (Santa Monica Mirror, November 29-December 5, 2007). The airplane involved in Sunday’s incident would not have been banned under the new ordinance, as it is “smaller than a Cessna 172,” said Trimborn.

Zina Josephs, president of Friends of Sunset Park (FOSP) neighborhood association which has long advocated greater runway safety protections, said, “I am very relieved to know that no one was injured.” But she added, “If a Category C or D aircraft went off the runway it would cause much more damage” because of the greater speed and weight, including fuel capacity.

In an effort to find an administrative or legislative solution to the runway safety issues and avoid the litigation expected to result from the new City ordinance, a meeting has been arranged in Washington D.C. among a City delegation, FAA officials, and Congressional representatives. That meeting, originally set for December 5, 2007, has now been rescheduled for January 29, shortly before the City Council takes up its ordinance for “second reading” and final adoption, probably sometime in February.

Sunday’s overrun is the first runway overrun at SMO since a November 2001 pilot-error incident that resulted in two fatalities.

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