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Opinion, Letters To The Editor, Santa Monica

Tragedy Should Not Be An Opportunity For Political Points: Letter To The Editor

Posted Oct. 12, 2013, 9:00 am

Letter To The Editor

Dear Editor,

While an aircraft accident that results in a loss of life is an obvious tragedy, it should never become an opportunity to score political points with wild speculation. But that quickly became the case in Santa Monica earlier this month.

Led by Airport Commission Chairman David Goddard, the anti-Santa Monica Airport crowd was quick to act, but their tactics raise questions about their motives and sense of decency. Goddard’s first speculative statements came even before the four victims’ bodies were removed from the wreckage.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, “Goddard estimated that the crash site was about 150 feet from residences. Had the plane not hit the hangar, it could have gone up an embankment and gotten over a wall before slamming into homes, he said.”

A key word there is “estimated,” and dealing in hypotheticals of what could have happened is absurd before the NTSB firmly concludes probable cause. Goddard is perhaps the only airport commissioner in the nation intent on closing his own airport with innuendo.

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.

The exaggerations did not stop with Goddard. Los Angeles L.A. City Councilman Mark Bonin was quoted as calling for the airport to close, saying that “There have been more than 80 crashes related to this airport since 1982.”

Records show otherwise. 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.

What is even more disturbing than airport and city officials taking advantage of this accident to further their political agenda, is their refusal of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) offer to install aircraft arresting material.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) called for the FAA to install an engineered material arresting system, or EMAS. It is collapsible material placed at the end of runways that slow or stop aircraft in an emergency. 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?

Incidentally, Rep. Waxman is again calling for more safeguards. We think it’s time the city accepts the FAA’s offer.

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. But other cities and residents have found workable solutions that allow their airports to continue to thrive and contribute to the community’s well-being. So can Santa Monica.

Bruce Landsberg

President, AOPA Foundation and Air Safety Institute

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Comments

Oct. 12, 2013, 10:44:50 am

Petra said...

Seems like you are using the accident to make your political point! It is quite natural that if an accident like this happens people are trying to figure out how it can be prevented to happen again.

Oct. 12, 2013, 1:25:46 pm

Martin Rubin said...

[My comments are within brackets.]Dear Editor, While an aircraft accident that results in a loss of life is an obvious tragedy, it should never become an opportunity to score political points with wild speculation. [But that quickly became the case in Santa Monica earlier this month. But that is exactly what Bruce Landsberg, President, AOPA Foundation and Air Safety Institute intends to do with this letter to the Editor.] Led by Airport Commission Chairman David Goddard, the anti-Santa Monica Airport crowd was quick to act, but their tactics raise questions about their motives and sense of decency. Goddard’s first speculative statements came even before the four victims’ bodies were removed from the wreckage. [The anti-Santa Monica Airport crowd is multi-faceted with several leaders as well as many individuals.] As the Los Angeles Times reported, “Goddard estimated that the crash site was about 150 feet from residences. Had the plane not hit the hangar, it could have gone up an embankment and gotten over a wall before slamming into homes, he said.” [To imply that Goddard's statements are speculative is to deny reality and the possibility of real potential scenarios. Using the is-what-it-is axiom, 150 feet from residences is an accurate approximation. Does Landsberg offer an alternative figure?] A key word there is “estimated,” and dealing in hypotheticals of what could have happened is absurd before the NTSB firmly concludes probable cause. Goddard is perhaps the only airport commissioner in the nation intent on closing his own airport with innuendo. [Really? What's absurd is the constant denial of vested aviation interests to the reality of the unique Santa Monica Airport situation.] 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 immediately want to jump right to 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. However, I must comment on Landsberg's statement as well. Is Landsberg suggesting that an incident like this cannot have an effect on the emotional state of those 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.] The exaggerations did not stop with Goddard. Los Angeles L.A. City Councilman Mark Bonin was quoted as calling for the airport to close, saying that “There have been more than 80 crashes related to this airport since 1982.” Records show otherwise. 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 find it difficult to take Landsberg's figures seriously when I personally saw an accident by my off-airport residence where one of the two in the plane was killed in the ensuing fire.] What is even more disturbing than airport and city officials taking advantage of this accident to further their political agenda, is their refusal of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) offer to install aircraft arresting material. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) called for the FAA to install an engineered material arresting system, or EMAS. It is collapsible material placed at the end of runways that slow or stop aircraft in an emergency. 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? [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 it 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 was not enough to protect residents and the community insisted that the City not go along with it. The community demanded at least the minimum safety requirements and no less.] Incidentally, Rep. Waxman is again calling for more safeguards. We think it’s time the city accepts the FAA’s offer. [The community still demands at least the minimum safety requirements and no less.] 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. But other cities and residents have found workable solutions that allow their airports to continue to thrive and contribute to the community’s well-being. So can Santa Monica. [The Airport Owners and Pilots Association has never reached out a hand to the Santa Monica Airport's surrounding communities. They refuse to give up anything, and judging from the comments submitted to the press articles, they abhor anyone who objects to Santa Monica Airport's extreme impacts. 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 envirionmentally.] Bruce Landsberg President, AOPA Foundation and Air Safety Institute

Oct. 12, 2013, 3:03:45 pm

Jenny P said...

A tragedy indeed. But the tragedy is people living near the airport that are afraid for their lives that a jet will come crash into their homes. In addition to every day noise, toxic pollution, security issues with no check points on who is in the planes and what they might be transporting. Time for change and fingers crossed there won't be another tragedy that takes more lives. This is a wake up call to close this dangerous and outdated airport.

Oct. 12, 2013, 4:11:39 pm

stewart said...

Flying remians the safest form of travel mile for mile.

Oct. 12, 2013, 9:45:14 pm

Donald said...

Mr. Bruce Lansberg needs to check his facts. He says, "there has never been an off-airport fatality associated with aviation activities in recorded history." The truth is here are been many fatal SMO related crashes just starting in 1970, 1982, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1992. 1993, 1994, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and many before 1970. In fact this very newspaper (when reporting on the 2011 crash into a home on 21st and Navy) listed 52 different crashes since 1982. The truth is that the residents who wish to close the airport are doing so because for a variety of solid reasons from the high financial costs to the city, health impacts, lead and ultra-fine pollution, noise, harm to quality of life, lack of sustainability, impact on global warming and not the least of which is the real fear that a plane crashes into one's home. The recent events are tragic, but if Santa Monica Airport remains in a location were homes are located just feet from nearly every side of the airport runway, these crashes will continue. Santa Monica residents don't need to take advantage of this situation as there will be many more situations just like this one and the facts alone will speak for themselves.

Oct. 13, 2013, 11:44:27 am

JeanB said...

There have actually be a total of 92 incidents/accidents associated with SMO since 1982 (see link from page referenced below). As for fatalities (51 since 1982, 36 since 2000!), see the alarming graph at "http://www.casmat.org/2013/09/small-jet-crashes-at-smo-takes-out.html" showing how fatalities have increased rapidly in the last decade. These are official figures take from the NTSB database.

Oct. 15, 2013, 3:59:18 pm

Nick Antonicello said...

Thank you for pointing out the false statements by Mr. Bonin who is indicative of the embedded, unaccountable, downtown mentality that fails to serve or accomplish. Mr. Bonin is just an extension of the failed Rosendahl agenda, he's just more ambitious and smarter than his bombastic former boss.

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