In his letter “Tragedy Should Not Be An Opportunity For Political Points” posted Oct. 12, 2013, Bruce Landsberg, President, AOPA Foundation and Air Safety Institute did exactly what he said shouldn’t be done. He made the recent aircraft crash at Santa Monica Airport into his opportunity to score political points with wild speculation.
Someone in his position should be aware of the facts when putting his thoughts into a letter to the press.
He attacks SM Airport Commission Chair David Goddard’s sense of decency. I know David for several years, and he has been exemplary on the Commission when it comes to not only decency, but also courage in the face of adversity. Landsberg calls David the leader of the anti- Santa Monica Airport crowd, when in fact the anti-Santa Monica Airport crowd is multi-faceted with leaders of several established organizations as well as many individuals.
Landsberg goes on to label as speculative and absurd, Goddard’s estimate that the crash site was about 150 feet from residences, and had the plane not hit the hangar, it could have gone up an embankment and gotten over a wall before slamming into homes. I say by using the is-what-it-is axiom, 150 feet from residences is an accurate approximation. Landsberg suggests no alternative figure because to do so would reflect on his grasp of the facts.
Landsberg states, “What is factual is that the Sept. 29 aircraft accident was entirely contained on the airport, causing no harm to those living nearby. The airport is separated from homes by trees, an uphill embankment, a hefty brick wall and a road.” I say that surely Landsberg cannot deny a scenario in which the aircraft is not on the ground, but somewhat airborne; in such a case the residents are unprotected from an out-of-control aircraft by only the air between them and the plane, and does Landsberg suggest that an incident like this cannot have an effect on the emotional state of those (including young children) who were very close to this horrible accident? He insults our intelligence by suggesting the trees and a brick wall are sufficient protection from an out-of-control aircraft.
Landsberg’s arguments really go haywire with this statement, “Contrary to L.A. Councilman Bonin’s claims, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) data shows there have been 38 accidents since 1982, 25 of them contained on the field itself. That’s on par with other comparable airports in the area. And, there has never been an off-airport fatality associated with aviation activities in recorded history.” I will assume Landsberg means Santa Monica Airport aviation activities. My reply to this is, in my Logics class at Ohio State I learned about disproof by counter example. Well. here are two counter examples. 1. I personally saw an accident by my off-airport residence where one of the two occupants in the plane was killed in the ensuing fire. 2.Recently a pilot died in a crash on the off-airport Penmar golf course.
Landsberg goes on to site in his letter that, “The FAA offered to install EMAS at Santa Monica, numerous times. The city has rejected all such offers. If they are truly concerned with safety, why not?”
I don’t need to point out that the EMAS he refers to would not have been a factor in this tragic accident as the plane would not have reached the EMAS area at the end of the runway. There was not enough safety runoff areas to the side of the runway to offer an opportunity for the aircraft to slow and stop. The aircraft would have had a fighting chance at another airport that is better designed for mishaps like this. As a friend of mine pointed out; the people onboard might have walked away from this at another airport. As for accepting FAA funded enhancements at Santa Monica Airport; When jet blast blew down a resident’s fence across Bundy Drive and blew over patio furniture at another home, the City and the FAA put up a blast wall. Although the blast wall did curtail the blast it did not stop the toxic emissions from pervading throughout the residential community of North Westdale. The point is these types of fixes are attempts to put a Band-Aid on a gushing wound. The EMAS proposed would not have been enough to offer residents fair protection, and the community insisted that the City not accept it. The community demanded and still demands at least the minimum safety requirements and no less. Would you drive a car with insufficient brakes? No, it’s not enough protection.
Landsberg closes with, “The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is keenly aware of the concerns that involve airports and communities. We work with airport communities on a daily basis and we understand full well the concerns of those who live near airports.” . The Airport Owners and Pilots Association has never reached out a hand, more like a finger, to the Santa Monica Airport’s surrounding communities, and now they are trying to sell snake oil to the public. The AOPA has a history of refusing to give up anything, and judging from the comments submitted to the press articles, they abhor anyone who even objects to Santa Monica Airport’s extreme impacts
What I find to be really absurd and disturbing is the constant denial by vested aviation interests to the reality of the unique Santa Monica Airport situation. Replacing the airport with a Great Park for all to enjoy is what the community wants now. It makes sense economically and it makes sense environmentally.
Director, Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution