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Quit Bashing General Aviation

by John M. White |

On February 17th, 2010 a Cessna 310R, N5225J, crashed on takeoff from the Palo Alto Airport in East Palo Alto, California. The pilot, who was a Commercial Pilot with multi-engine land and instrument ratings, along with two passengers died in the accident. All 3 were employees of Tesla Motors which brought additional attention to this particular accident. While certainly tragic an article in the Palo Alto Daily News today focuses on issues which are sure to frighten the public about the safety of general aviation and the proximity of airports close to populated areas.
The author, Bill pal, wrote that "It was lucky for local aviation that the two-engine plane didn't kill anyone in the East Palo Alto neighborhood where it fell. The potential was certainly there — people were leaving for work and school, debris hit a home used as a preschool, and, because the plane was laden with fuel, numerous fires were ignited."Palo Alto Crash Tesla Employees Certainly the above statement is meant to frighten and further limit the access of general aviation aircraft to small airports around the country. I don't know about you, but most airports have residential and commercial structures around the perimeter of the airport, and I am not aware of very many that simply sit in the middle of an open area with no structures around them. In the article the author notes that commercial aircraft departures were grounded or delayed due to heavy fog, calling into question the pilot's decision to take off into thick fog. Reportedly, the fog was so thick airplanes were unable to land at the airport. The problem is he is referring to departures of commercial flights from Oakland and San Francisco; the Palo Alto Airport is a small airport with a single 2443 foot runway! He does not tell us what the whether was at that airport. The author further goes on to write "The pilot was experienced, but did he err by taking off in thick fog? Was the accident due to mechanical failure or pilot error, or both? Is it wise to have a busy airport located so close to residential neighborhoods?" "It was lucky for local aviation that the two-engine plane didn't kill anyone in the East Palo Alto neighborhood where it fell. The potential was certainly there — people were leaving for work and school, debris hit a home used as a preschool, and, because the plane was laden with fuel, numerous fires were ignited." While one can argue he is correct, a more important issue is that we need to wait and see what the problem with this flight was before we start speculating as to cause and effect. To paint general aviation operations with such a broad brush does not serve anyone, let alone the non-flying public. After all, it is not possible to protect everyone from everything, and to try to do so is foolishness. Instead, I would hope we would all take a step back, wait for the NTSB to complete their investigation, and then come to reasonable conclusions regarding this tragic accident. Don't bash general aviation and general aviation airports, lets find solutions where they are necessary and promote general aviation as a useful business tool and hobby for thousands of pilots. What do you think? Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 Most accidents originate in actions committed by reasonable, rational individuals who were acting to achieve an assigned task in what they perceived to be a responsible and professional manner. — Peter Harle, Director of Accident Prevention,Transportation Safety Board of Canada and former RCAF pilot

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