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Lawsuit settled, plane-crash victim looks to rebuild

Original post made on Jul 28, 2013

The owner of an East Palo Alto day care center who lost her home and livelihood after a plane slammed into her house in February 2010 has reached a settlement with Tesla Motors and the deceased pilot's estate, according to papers filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, July 28, 2013, 9:20 AM

Comments (57)

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Posted by what it's really about
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 28, 2013 at 10:47 pm

Tesla settled? Really, it probably had little to do with Tesla and a lot more to do with their insurance company's lawyers. I'm sure in the end, it's much like most lawsuits. The lawyers all made out great.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 29, 2013 at 11:48 am

I wish someone like Habitat for Humanity or the local Home Depot would help the residents rebuild.


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Posted by Susan
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 29, 2013 at 2:43 pm

A wonderful woman doing service to children in her community and she is the LAST serious claim to be resolved?!?!? Really. If my business were totaled and my house condemned I would not let it take 3.5 YEARS to settle. Isn't there anyone to advocate for her? This just makes me steaming mad. Color and location have anything to do with it? You think? Phooey on Tesla and the insurance company! They should be ashamed!


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 29, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Susan - respectfully, since it's now settled, there's little more to do. Where were her advocates 3 years ago? I don't know, honestly - for all I know, she may have had some advocacy throughout. IIRC, there was some initial help for many of the residents, & I think some ongoing assistance from local organizations & residents. But I don't know what the breadth & depth of that was.

Also, it took less than 3 years to settle - she filed in 11/10, less than 3 years ago. But I understand & echo your derision & share your suspicions as to why it took so long. OTOH, I'm aware of other similar claims that also took quite awhile to settle, & the people were privileged folks.

I wish Ms. Jones & her family the best of luck, safety & health from here on out!


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Posted by Shut-It-Down!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2013 at 4:59 pm

This plane crash could just as easily have been in Palo Alto--where the housing prices are considerably higher than in East Palo Alto. The people involved would have played the same hardball game of trying to low-ball the settlements to the victims on the ground. The unlucky Palo Alto homeowner could well end up losing hundreds of thousands of dollars--because the pilot is dead, and his estate has no assets to settle up with those that he has harmed.

It makes no sense for Palo Alto to operate this airport. The City has made a terrible mistake, and some future homeowners will be victimized by financially unprepared pilots who have destroyed the homes, and property, of people living near the airport.

Shut it down!


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm

>It makes no sense for Palo Alto to operate this airport

Yes it does, if it can be made revenue neutral, in terms of operations. PAO is a potential huge asset to PA, if it is leveraged correctly.

Keep it open!


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Posted by Monica
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 29, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Shame on Telsa!


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Posted by Here
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 29, 2013 at 9:27 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 29, 2013 at 9:47 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

As a former resident of EPA, a trained pilot and a fellow engineer, I have several comments:

IT WAS PURE ARROGANCE OF THE PILOT THAT CAUSED THIS INCIDENT!

Trying to " buzz " ( a low overflight ) ANY ground based structure IS AGAINST THE LAW and you can lose your pilot's license for that reason.

MINIMUM ALTITUDE from that takeoff point to the residences ( the " inverted wedding cake pattern of the TCA ) is 500' AGL. The towers and transmission lines were the standard height; as a result, the pilot BROKE THE LAW AND GOT KILLED FOR IT!

I watched planes take off from that airport. EVERYONE RESPECTED THE LAW AND NEVER " BUZZED " US RESIDENTS ON GARDEN STREET ( NEXT TO BEECH STREET! )

One of the reasons I trained as a pilot was watching the planes that flew over me on Garden Street. I'd sit on the dike ( under those very same power lines ) and watch them as a kid.

My observation:

The lawyers were the only winners. My former neighborhood and the people in it were the losers. I would have started at $10 Million and accepted no less than $5 Million. Since the law was broken, the $ amounts should have been higher.

The last thing I will say as an important member the Design Team at Cray Research was that IT WAS COMPANY POLICY TO NEVER HAVE ENGINEERS ALL ON THE SAME FLIGHT. I hope Elon Musk learned WHY Cray Research had that policy.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 30, 2013 at 5:11 am

By all accounts of those who flew with him, this multi-engine instrument-rated 2900-hour flight instructor was always meticulous and demonstrated the utmost piloting competency, as well as being an amazing and accomplished engineer. It's disturbing not to understand the cause of this accident, given that no mechanical problems were found with the aircraft. The NTSB report put it down to "The pilot's failure to follow the standard instrument departure..." As to why, I can only surmise some severe distraction or a medical event.

Others are entitled to their own opinions.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 30, 2013 at 8:46 am

This is a sad story for all, but for those who lost their livelihood of caring for children in the neighborhood, it's even more devastating.
I can't imagine the founders of Tesla wanting their insurance company to settle for the least possible knowing this story. The stock price has gone from $34 to $134 in only four months. I hope someone will read this story and donate a couple of shares to bring this lady's daycare center back to the neighborhood. What a great way to celebrate the high performance of Tesla.


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Posted by victim
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 30, 2013 at 9:30 am

asking folks to rethink there tesla purchase is a good way to get tesla's attention. and yes tesla and the pilot's estate paid out more to lawyers and "experts" than to any of the victims. it is and was all so sickening. and the law supports it all. and we as consumers gripe and moan but continue on as soon as the smoke clears. i was taught as a child to be fair and take ownership for actions, good or bad/ right or wrong. unfortunately, that is not the way of the world. so with that, pursuading one person from purchasing a tesla vechile will be a win. so if you can, do it. it is the power we hold as consumers.
thanks


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Posted by victim
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 30, 2013 at 9:35 am

their tesla purchase (sorry)


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2013 at 10:27 am

I am not sure why Tesla is being blamed at all.

Yes they were all Tesla employees and were probably under work related deadlines, but is Tesla responsible when an employee pilot makes a poor decision.

If this was a road accident and a Tesla employee crashed his car because he was using his phone, would Tesla be responsible?

I would still like to know if the pilot died of crash related injuries or if he had a medical emergency. His poor decision making seems to be the real problem. He was the one who made the decision to take off in fog and to turn the wrong way. Work pressure may have made him make the first decision, possibly a heart attack or some type of seizure may have been the cause of the latter decision.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 30, 2013 at 11:40 am

I agree, shut the airport down.

The issue is not whether the airport is an asset, anything can be claimed to be an asset. The problem is the whole rest of the Baylands is useless for recreation as long as the noise from the airport is blaring down at us .... and over time it only gets worse and more frequent.

Until the airport is gone the Baylands is no more of a nature preserve than a bombing range, though perhaps a bit more enjoyable.

Then we have the risk of plane crashes and the noise over Palo Alto as well, which is considerable. We already get enough airplane noise from SFO and other sources.

Palo Alto has a fantastic asset that most cities do not have - waterfront property. Property that is pretty amazing these days because of the views. I recall in the 70's it was rare to impossible to get a view to the other side of the Bay. Now we almost always have air clear enough to see the whole area, and yet we use the Baylands much less.

Why? It can only be because of airplane noise and now uncomfortable it makes it to be out by the Baylands.

Things will be right when as many or more people go to the Baylands as go to Foothills Park for recreation ... as our city gets more dense, we NEED this premium space for recreation. The Baylands should not be a political giveaway to the very rich so they can fly beyond our city while our city is stuck with the unpleasantness from the noise pollution.


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Posted by Aquamarine
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 30, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Yes, why is this a Tesla issue, unless they encouraged or ordered their employee to use a plane? Even so, they're not responsible for his poor decisions. It must be because they're the employer is one of the standard deep pockets because the employees were on company business.


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Posted by local
a resident of another community
on Jul 30, 2013 at 1:00 pm

It sounds to me like Jones went cheap and didn't have homeowners or business insurance as they would have paid them to rebuild from the onset.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 30, 2013 at 2:04 pm


The flight was Tesla employees flying for business. That is why Tesla is involved, just as they would be if there was a crash of a Tesla auto during a test drive that resulted in damage or death.

My best guess is that the flight path of the airplane was almost directly over the house of one of the passengers who lived in East Palo Alto. I think that the pilot was determined to fly over that house so his passenger could see it or photograph it or wave to someone.

I never heard about any medical emergency or failure of a plane component or system.

This was a stupid move in multiple ways that all led back to the pilot's error. As has been written about in several books airplane crashes as usually the result of 7 or so cumulative errors, and many of them are human errors. Some of them have to do with "social distance" which is likely what might have happened recently with Asiana Airlines at SFO, where one of the crew officers perhaps noticed that something was wrong but did not have the confidence to alert the captain because the captains in Korean planes have so much more power than the other officers. Perhaps the staff at the tower is afraid for their jobs enough to suggest that a plane either not take off under the current conditions or take a certain course.

The problem here that dovetails into why I am so supportive of getting rid of this airport is that even knowing that this was pilot error, the Palo Alto airport has not banned takeoffs over East Palo Alto in the intervening years. This is very important, it shows institutional incompetency.

A pilot who posts here even suggested this to them and was ignored.

To me that is a broken and arrogant system that probably is not going to fix itself any time soon. The right thing to do is to support the removal of the Palo Alto Airport.

At some point there is going to be another crash, and there already have been several. A while ago I was walking in the Baylands and out by the windsurfer launch there was a downed plane in the weeds. Maybe it's still there, I don't know.

There is be another crash at some point in Palo Alto, that is just statistics. At some point one of those crashes will not be into the Bay or the weeds and will end up again on someone's house or business.

Removing the airport will both open the Baylands as a real nature preserve and make it a place where Palo Altans will actually want to go because they will not just hear the roaring drone of airplanes taking off and landing ... about 1 every minute or two on average.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 30, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"My best guess is that the flight path of the airplane was almost directly over the house of one of the passengers who lived in East Palo Alto. I think that the pilot was determined to fly over that house so his passenger could see it or photograph it or wave to someone."

Wrong - visibility at the time was so poor that the pilot took off without being able to see the entire runway and 'at his own risk'. Here in an excerpt ftom the NTSB report:
"The pilot departed the airport in near-zero visibility instrument meteorological conditions, and shortly after takeoff, struck a power pole and power lines before impacting terrain. Review of recorded air traffic control tower (ATCT) transmissions revealed that the pilot was initially given his instrument flight rules (IFR) clearance to turn right to a heading of 060 degrees and climb to 3,000 feet. Shortly after verifying his IFR clearance, the pilot received his IFR release from the ATCT controller and was informed that the runway was not visible to the controller. The controller further informed the pilot that takeoff was at his own risk. Shortly after, the controller notified the pilot that he had two minutes for his IFR release, before it expired. The pilot stated that he did not hear a "cleared for takeoff" instruction from the controller. The controller responded that he could not clear the pilot for takeoff, due to not having the runway environment in sight and that "the release is all yours and it's at your own risk sir." The pilot acknowledged the transmission and proceeded to take off.

Under those conditions there is no way that the home in question would have been visible from the aircraft.

" Perhaps the staff at the tower is afraid for their jobs enough to suggest that a plane either not take off under the current conditions or take a certain course."

Wrong again - as noted above "The controller responded that he could not clear the pilot for takeoff, due to not having the runway environment in sight and that "the release is all yours and it's at your own risk sir." The pilot acknowledged the transmission and proceeded to take off. "

"A pilot who posts here even suggested this to them and was ignored."

Correct - I am that pilot and I have long advocated that low visibility takeoffs at PAO be prohibited from runway 31 and only be allowed on runway 13.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 30, 2013 at 2:36 pm

NO, NOT WRONG PETER, just in disagreement with your interpretation.

Perhaps the pilot though that if he was low enough they would be able to see through the fog.

If the pilot's judgement was so bad as to take off under conditions where the tower did not give him a specific OK, who's to say what his beliefs were about what he would see when got over East Palo Alto ... not you, and as I labelled by comment, my opinion. The path was too close to be coincidence in my opinion.

As I am sure you know, looking out through a lot of fog is different from looking down through not so much. In my opinion he took a series of very bad chances leading to disaster.

Not wrong on the tower either. In this case the tower should not have cleared the pilot, and he technically did not ... the controller was merely acknowledging that he was powerless under the rules to keep the pilot from taking off at his own risk .... AND AT THE RISK OF THE RESIDENT OF EAST PALO ALTO TOO!

I find your constant spinning of everything pro-airplane and airport to be the attitude at the heart of this problem. Because the pilot followed the rules and the rules allowed for this disastrous mistake, you are fine with it, while I find that the rules here were not sufficient to keep a completely unnecessary crash from occurring.

You refuse to admit this "institutional incompetency" and yet your every word paints a photographic picture of it.

"Institutional incompetency" is so rampant and epidemic in this country at all levels in all spheres public and private that is risks the lives and property of all of us. although the risk in absolute terms is always greater for the 99% than for the 1%, though the 99% have no say about it ... in our "democracy".


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 30, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Perhaps the pilot though that if he was low enough they would be able to see through the fog."

Wrong - the fog was so thick and the visibility so low that the fire engines responding could not even see the end of the street.

" the controller was merely acknowledging that he was powerless under the rules to keep the pilot from taking off at his own risk" Correct

"You refuse to admit this "institutional incompetency" and yet your every word paints a photographic picture of it." Wrong - I have long advocated that low visibility takeoffs at PAO be prohibited from runway 31 and only be allowed on runway 13.

A retired private pilot with an instrument rating and thousands of takeoffs from PAO.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 30, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Crescent Park anon is proceeding with ignorance of those in the pilot community that have advocated for change:

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, on Feb 27, 2010 at 12:04 pm

I think the time has come to act. I have submitted the following request:

Carl Honaker

Director of Airports

Santa Clara County

This is a request that the County of Santa Clara, as the operator of the Palo Alto Airport, take the necessary steps to prohibit low altitude pattern operations on the west side of runway 13/31 and to prohibit IFR departures from runway 31 whenever those departures could be safely made from runway 13.

Please let me know if you require additional information or a different form/format in order to act on this request.

Peter Carpenter

For purposes of background this request is being made by someone who

- is an IFR rated private pilot who flew for many years out of KPAO, but who no longer flies

- was a member of the PAO Joint Community Relations Committee for 18 years and Chair for 8? years

- was a Palo Alto Planning Commissioner for 4 1/2 years

- was an elected Director of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District for 8 1/2 years


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 30, 2013 at 3:25 pm

You are being irrational here. Because the "fire fighters" responding, fire engines cannot "see" anything, could not see the end of the street looking out, does not mean a low plane flying over could not see down, OR more importantly that the pilot who was not there yet could predict while on the runway whether he and his passengers could see down or not.

Clearly he chose to chance it on the assumption that if they could not see anything, nothing lost, they would just climb and divert to their planned course and meeting. For some reason he did not climb high enough to clear the power towers, and there was apparently nothing in place for the tower to alert him that he was too low and on course to crash into them.

The fact that the rules in place did not work, and yet when even you suggested that they change airport policy to avoid future crashes like this one, they not only did not take your advice, but they did not give you are reason ... at least according to the last thing I read from you.

Peter, you are ignoring the elephant sitting on the end of your nose, and that seems pretty hard here.

How good a pilot and your rating here is not at issue, it's the one pilot that has bad judgement like this, or the other that has good judgement except his plane fails over a residential area, or the one who suffers a heart-attack or stroke at the wrong time. This airport of course is safe for many landings and takeoffs, although way too loud, it's the probability over the long term that will get someone, and that is why the airport needs to be closed, and to allow Palo Alto to begin use its remarkable waterfront resource for all the residents of the city.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 30, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Anon - feel free to ignore the voice of experience (it is not clear that you have any expertise on these matters) but I can assure you that there was NO way that the house in question could have been seen or expected to be seen that morning under those conditions from an airplane flying overhead.

"Clearly he chose to chance it on the assumption that if they could not see anything, nothing lost, they would just climb and divert to their planned course and meeting."

Clearly??? - based on what facts do you state that the pilot was attempting to overfly a particular house on the ground?? Facts are important and anon seems to want to ignore the facts.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 30, 2013 at 3:48 pm

First, the issue of what was in the pilot's mind is moot, you have your opinion I have mine. Mine is based on the whole trajectory of the plane, there is no other logical reason he would have taken off in that direction whatever the probabilities were that they would get to sightsee on the ground. You do not bother to even try to explain what he was doing there. Apparently you think that as good a pilot as you are that someone else could be totally irrational and incompetent. Yet, if that was the case you would not be upholding your community responsibilities by supporting the airport in an absolute sense.

Second, on the larger issue of the protocols of the airport which you criticized and we agree on ( so don't get all snippy with me and say I am ignoring the voice of experience, as you seem to be calling yourself ) you proposed a rational easy to implement solution to reducing the probability to almost zero to the Director Of Airports, and ( correct me if I am wrong ) they ignored your suggestion without a reason? Is that correct? What conclusion does that leave you with Peter?

The second issue is the more important one that is not based on differeing opinions, and yet you conflate the two for purposes of attacking my comments and opinions.

Hey, I don't mind an attack, but I do resent going about it disingenuously by trying to cloud the issue ... absolutely no pun intended there.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 30, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" Mine is based on the whole trajectory of the plane, there is no other logical reason he would have taken off in that direction whatever the probabilities were that they would get to sightsee on the ground."

The FACTS areas stated in the NTSB report ( have you even bothered to read it?):

"The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot's failure follow the standard instrument departure as instructed, and his failure to attain a sufficient altitude to maintain clearance from power lines during takeoff in instrument meteorological conditions."

There are lots of logical reasons why he deviated from the proscribed IFR departure route including instrument failure and medical incapacitation; there is no EVIDENCE to support any one particular explanation.


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Posted by CresentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 30, 2013 at 4:05 pm

That's really a non-responsive answer Peter.
There was no sign of instrument failure, or medical incapacitation.

Also non-responsive to these questions

- Why was he where he was then? OK, you just say it's random and a coincidence that he was right over his passenger's house? I cannot force you to be honest or forthcoming, but your lack of an answer is telling. I would surmise that it might be due to you unwillingness to cast aspersions of cowboy behavior by pilots.

- Why did the airport reject your sound proposal?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 30, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

As the NTSB report makes clear there is NO EVIDENCE to support any one particular explanation for the deviation from the proscribed IFR flight path - what about that is hard to understand?

You make speculate all you want but the experts, the NTSB, examined all of the available information and they were unwilling to conclude WHY the pilot deviated form the proscribed course.

I have never condoned 'cowboy behavior' and would not do so in this case IF there was evidence to support that is what occurred in this case - but there is no such evidence.
In my years as Chair of the JCRC I frequently met with pilots to encourage them to avoid overflights of residential areas at low altitudes and under instrument conditions.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 30, 2013 at 5:06 pm

> You make speculate all you want but the experts, the NTSB, examined all of the available information and they were unwilling to conclude WHY the pilot deviated form the proscribed course.

I don't think that is the NTSB's job, is it? So, no wonder why it would not be in the report. That does not mean it is not so.

This is the third time, wading through your evasive responses, for asking you why did the airport reject your proposal?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 30, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" they were unwilling to conclude WHY the pilot deviated form the proscribed course.

I don't think that is the NTSB's job, is it?" That is exactly the NTSB's job but often there are not sufficient facts to reach such a conclusion, as was the case in WPR10FA136.

"why did the airport reject your proposal?" You would have to ask them.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 31, 2013 at 2:23 am

Because the NTSB did not go out on a limb and say they "think" the pilot was "sight-seeing" does mean it was not so, as your argument seemed to claim. Rather it means they are not going to draw conclusions. It does not mean the pilot was having a medical problem or instruments failed. As I said, all the pieces fit and it is the most logical conclusion.

I also think it is extremely significant in terms of the competence of the airport management that they did not give you any reason to limit takeoffs as you reasonable suggested. It seems a simple reasonable solution to make sure another crash like this does not occur. That they had no response to you Peter tells me they are not doing their job, though I can understand why you would not want to say that out loud yourself.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 31, 2013 at 7:40 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" it is the most logical conclusion" - in your opinion, as someone unfamiliar with pilotage and this particular IFR departure. There are no facts to prove your opinion.

My opinion, as someone intimately familiar with both pilotage and this particular IFR departure, was that the 'pilot deviated from course' due to an instrument error. There are no facts to prove my opinion.

"That they had no response to you Peter tells me they are not doing their job, though I can understand why you would not want to say that out loud yourself." I have no hesitation in stating that the airport management should have adopted my recommendation - they didn't.


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Posted by Orville and Wilbur
a resident of another community
on Jul 31, 2013 at 11:45 am

Wow. Another Peter Carpenter thread. At least it's not another Craign Laughton thread.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 31, 2013 at 12:08 pm

>> My opinion, as someone intimately familiar with both pilotage and this particular IFR departure, was that the 'pilot deviated from course' due to an instrument error. There are no facts to prove my opinion.

There was no report of instrument failure, but the location of the crash speaks for itself.

There are no facts to disprove my opinion, but my opinion does not rest on an instrument error that was not found in the report, so by Occam's Razor, the simpler explanation that fits the facts is the better explanation.

Your intimate familiarity seems to lead you to speak a lot from authority and overstep your expertise into things you cannot prove.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"There was no report of instrument failure, but the location of the crash speaks for itself."

Correct - a failure of the attitude indicator in IFR conditions in an airplane with a left turning P value due to the direction of rotation of its propellers would end up at the site of the crash.

" the simpler explanation that fits the facts is the better explanation."
Correct - there are no facts that indicate that the pilot was attempting to overfly a home.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 31, 2013 at 1:09 pm


But, again, there was no indication of instrument or IFR failure.

> Correct - there are no facts that indicate that the pilot was attempting to overfly a home.

Except the location, which speaks for itself ... louder than a presumed instrument failure there is no evidence of.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 31, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Anon - you are entitled to your opinion.

I do not know a single pilot who shares your view that the pilot of this plane attempted a fly by of a home in IFR conditions. There was zero visibility and the engines were at full power. If he was attempting a fly by he would have had to be able to see the ground and the tower operator at PAO, some 50 plus feet off the ground, could not see the ground. If he was attempting a fly by at the home which you suggest he would have had to REDUCE engine power from his takeoff power setting in order not to continue his climb - he did not reduce his power.

The crash location is totally consistent with attitude indicator failure or an a left engine failure in IFR conditions in an airplane with a left turning P value (due to the direction of rotation of its propellers). The NTSB investigation ruled out an engine failure based on acoustic analysis and post crash prop tip analysis.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 31, 2013 at 1:30 pm

@Orville and Wilbur -- CresParkAnon had two comments already before Peter chimed in, so I'd call it another CresParkAnon thread. The one Craig Laughton comment here I'm inclined to agree with.

And about Palo Alto Tower telling pilots to proceed at their own risk, that's what I hear on the radio with any helicopter operations regardless of weather.

Peter, any comment on the toxicology report?


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 31, 2013 at 1:42 pm

> Anon - you are entitled to your opinion.
> I do not know a single pilot who shares your view that the pilot of this plane attempted a fly by of a home in IFR conditions.

I assume you are talking about PILOTS THAT DID NOT CRASH INTO POWER TOWERS AS WELL, CORRECT? ;-)

By the time he got up in the air he would have realized all that, and may have been so concerned with his directional heading that he did not have mental bandwidth for altitude just assuming he would have enough altitude. Out of 180 degrees it would have been a huge coincidence that he was on track to fly almost right over one of his passengers houses.

One other thing is that you say and base most of your opinions here on that the plane would not have been able to see the ground and yet some witnesses said they saw the plane and gave testimony about what they saw. I recall, going from memory here, that a witness said the plane was flying level and there was nothing odd about its flight. Is that inconsistent with what you are saying?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 31, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

NTSB report:

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The San Mateo County Coroner's Office conducted an autopsy on the pilot on February 18, 2010. The medical examiner determined that the cause of death was "...Multiple Blunt Injuries."

The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on the pilot. According to CAMI's report, carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and drugs were tested. The report noted the following positive results: "0.011 (ug/ml, ug/g) Diphenhydramine detected in Blood, Diphenhydramine detected in Urine, Metoprolol detected in Urine, Metoprolol detected in Blood."

The NTSB report conclusion (The pilot's failure follow the standard instrument departure as instructed, and his failure to attain a sufficient altitude to maintain clearance from power lines during takeoff in instrument meteorological conditions.) does not include either drug as a factor in the crash.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 31, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Multiple witnesses located adjacent to the accident site reported observing portions of the accident sequence. One witness, who was walking on a levee near the accident site, reported that she observed an airplane "suddenly" emerge from the fog to the left of her position. The witness stated that she continued to watch the airplane fly in a level or slightly nose up attitude from her left to her right at a low altitude until it impacted power lines shortly thereafter." NTSB report.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 31, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Musical, there is a civil discussion here between myself and Peter Carpenter, why do you seem to be trying to start something? Try to add something to the discussion or maybe stay out of it if you are not up to that.

However many comments I was making first, Peter began his discussion stating I was wrong, but without any evidence other than his opinion. Read the thread ... it's not my thread. This article should not have to be here at all, and the especially the next one that happens, perhaps due to the Airport Management not accepting Peter's suggestions about take-offs.

Peter may well be entitled to his opinion, but so far I am not convinced and his arguments seem to be less consistent with the facts than mine do. Certainly not enough to justify saying I am wrong, particularly without facts to back it up. On that I think I'm due an apology, actually.

I at least have a right to an opinion, and to not have it dismissed by Peter, whose opinion I am interested in. As I said though in many other threads here on PAO, look back over some threads on airplane noise where Peter has been demonstrated to have been overstepping the authority argument to push opinions that are not supported by facts. That is why I try to push back in a way that is productive. Peter's no dummy, he just argues too well for his own good! ;-)


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 31, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Anon has provided no facts but rather speaks of "coincidence that he was on a flight track that.." without providing any evidence to support that statement. The NTSB spent almost a year analyzing this crash and makes NO reference to anon's hypothetical conclusion. I side with the NTSB experts.

Here is my original post - I stand by it and no apology is given.

Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online

"My best guess is that the flight path of the airplane was almost directly over the house of one of the passengers who lived in East Palo Alto. I think that the pilot was determined to fly over that house so his passenger could see it or photograph it or wave to someone."

Wrong - visibility at the time was so poor that the pilot took off without being able to see the entire runway and 'at his own risk'. Here in an excerpt ftom the NTSB report:

"The pilot departed the airport in near-zero visibility instrument meteorological conditions, and shortly after takeoff, struck a power pole and power lines before impacting terrain. Review of recorded air traffic control tower (ATCT) transmissions revealed that the pilot was initially given his instrument flight rules (IFR) clearance to turn right to a heading of 060 degrees and climb to 3,000 feet. Shortly after verifying his IFR clearance, the pilot received his IFR release from the ATCT controller and was informed that the runway was not visible to the controller. The controller further informed the pilot that takeoff was at his own risk. Shortly after, the controller notified the pilot that he had two minutes for his IFR release, before it expired. The pilot stated that he did not hear a "cleared for takeoff" instruction from the controller. The controller responded that he could not clear the pilot for takeoff, due to not having the runway environment in sight and that "the release is all yours and it's at your own risk sir." The pilot acknowledged the transmission and proceeded to take off.

Under those conditions there is no way that the home in question would have been visible from the aircraft.

" Perhaps the staff at the tower is afraid for their jobs enough to suggest that a plane either not take off under the current conditions or take a certain course."

Wrong again - as noted above "The controller responded that he could not clear the pilot for takeoff, due to not having the runway environment in sight and that "the release is all yours and it's at your own risk sir." The pilot acknowledged the transmission and proceeded to take off. "

"A pilot who posts here even suggested this to them and was ignored."

Correct - I am that pilot and I have long advocated that low visibility takeoffs at PAO be prohibited from runway 31 and only be allowed on runway 13.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 31, 2013 at 2:06 pm

> Multiple witnesses located adjacent to the accident site reported observing portions of the accident sequence

OK, but that's not what you stated, was it? The gist of your comment was that there was no visibility to the ground whatsoever, and thus - IF THE PILOT COULD KNOW THAT - no reason for him to be there.

What I wanted to point out is that - and I am not biased in favor of the airport - the pilot may have still flown over this area in the hope of showing his passenger his neighborhood from the air, and if nothing could be seen, they he would just divert to his planned course.

The pilot error in this case would have been that he forgot, or mismanaged the plane in bad weather and ran afoul of the power lines.

I'm just guessing here, but the "airplane flying community" would be very against the image of a pilot being reckless over a residential area, and so would want to dismiss, negate or deny that possibility as much as possible in order to keep the image of pilots responsible.

That is one big source of dangerous risk, the human factors, and it is random as well. Meaning that at some point with increasing air traffic, and increasing planes and pilots the risk of cowboy pilot making a fatal mistake as bad or worse than this goes up, and thus the expected statistical frequency. Bottom line is the airport gets more dangerous.

Then ... factor in the Airport Management NOT taking Peter Carpenter's suggestions about limiting takeoffs so they do not overfly EPA, and you have another aggravating factor or institutional incompetence and the refusal to improve performance from the airport, and I say we have a problem that is not going to go away, until the airport does.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 31, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"look back over some threads on airplane noise where Peter has been demonstrated to have been overstepping the authority argument to push opinions that are not supported by facts"

Another anon statement that is unsupported by any facts. It is so easy to make things like this up hoping that they wont be challenged. "overstepping the authority argument " - citations please.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 31, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

NTSB report
"METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

A review of recorded data from the automated weather observation station located at PAO revealed that at 0654, wind was variable at 4 knots, visibility (M)1/4 mile, fog, vertical visibility of 100 feet agl, and an altimeter setting of 30.03 inches of Mercury. At 0742, the ATCT controller at PAO reported wind variable at 5 knots, visibility 1/8th mile, fog, and a vertical visibility of 100 feet agl. Review of a weather log for the Palo Alto Air Traffic Control Tower revealed that at 0805, visibility was 1/16th mile, fog, and a vertical visibility of 100 feet agl. "

The crash occurred at 7:54.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 31, 2013 at 2:18 pm

I recall charts of the SFO air traffic over Palo Alto being misinterpreted for one, which you stated was negligible in response to my claim that there is a lot of airplane noise at night. My intent was to just express that like anyone something authority is not enough of an argument.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 31, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Again, those measurements are samples taken at a certain place at a certain time. Clearly there are breaks in the fog as we all know and was demonstrated by witnesses.

I might go on vacation to some nice tropical place taking my best guess that the weather will be good, and it may be good today, and not good tomorrow. The data you present was an hour before the crash ... assuming it was the day of the crash, and we all know how fog can change in an hour. As you probably know, it is irrelevant.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 31, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Anon - citations please, not your 'recollection'. You made a specific charge - now please provide MY actual words that support your charge.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 31, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

", those measurements are samples taken at a certain place at a certain time."

Clever strategy - any FACTS that don't support your preconceived notion are just ", those measurements are samples taken at a certain place at a certain time."

The place was within a mile of the crash site.

The times were within minutes of the crash.

The observations were by a trained observer.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 31, 2013 at 2:39 pm

@CresParkAnon -- Sorry I got trolled on the comment by @Orville and Wilbur. Remind me to ignore one-off identities, whose comments are often deleted anyway. I'm relieved that you regard your discussion with Peter as civil. I can't add much more the discussion other than to think a bit more highly of the pilot than you apparently do. My toxicology question was whether Toprol indicated an underlying medical condition that might be taken more seriously. I'll dismiss the Benadryl. Peter indicates that instrument failure was more likely, and he certainly has more experience than I do.

We've drifted somewhat off-topic of this article about Eppie's Daycare and the settlement, so I suspect most readers have tuned us out by now. I'll keep reading as long as you guys continue.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 31, 2013 at 2:59 pm

OK Peter, there is no way to say what was in the mind of the pilot of how he interpreted those facts. He did not interpret the weather very well or make judgements. I could just as well say you want to blame everything on instrument failure. I don't see it advances anything to go back and forth. The fact is that the plane was seen by several people from the ground so it follows that the plane could see at least spots of the ground. That is not in the numbers, so I'm just saying in my opinion the numbers you base your argument on do not tell it all - whether they were made by a trained observer or not.

Sorry I took a personal shot at you a bit ago, I probably should not have, but this tedious form of argument you have, like taking a whole new post to just add in "made by a trained observer" I find counter-productive and intellectually dishonest in terms of discussion.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 31, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"like taking a whole new post to just add in "made by a trained observer" I find counter-productive and intellectually dishonest in terms of discussion."

Wow - I must have really hit your guilty button! My post gave the actual weather data and noted that that data was collected within a mile of the crash site, within minutes of the crash and by a trained observer. Just facts. Why do you find facts as being " counter-productive and intellectually dishonest"?

The trained observer comment is a critical one since the NTSB has consistently found that witness statements from untrained observers - such as the those mentioned in their report on this crash - are unreliable.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 4, 2013 at 11:55 pm

The NTSB is again talking about visual interpretations, certainly more accurate by a trained observer, but you either can see something or not, no matter how well trained you are or not. If the plane was visible at that time from the ground, a trained observer somewhere else is clearly not more accurate.

And more to the point, neither speaks to what was in the mind of the pilot who may well have thought to fly over and look down and either his passengers would see or not see the ground, and without a crash all would be the same. Sadly, it was bad judgement and bad piloting - ie. human error.

And even more to the point, there is nothing in place and an airport management in charge that is resistant or maybe even hostile to being suggested what to do to help prevent such a mishap in the future ... an airport management that is will to gamble with other people's lives when those people themselves have nothing to say about it.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 5, 2013 at 6:58 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Conjecture:
"what was in the mind of the pilot who may well have thought to fly over and look down and either his passengers would see or not see the ground,"

Followed by a conclusion:
"Sadly, it was bad judgement and bad piloting - ie. human error."

without a shred of evidence. This is pure fantasy.

The NTSB determined what happened BASED IN THE FACTS;
"The pilot's failure follow the standard instrument departure as instructed, and his failure to attain a sufficient altitude to maintain clearance from power lines during takeoff in instrument meteorological conditions." Anything else is speculation by an uninformed and unqualified individual.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 5, 2013 at 7:03 am

Makes more sense than your SWAG about a phantom instrument failure to which there was also no physical or eyewitness evidence. You admitted yourself you departed from the facts even as you attacked my interpretation - meaning you don't seem eager to admit you are speculating from a position of ignorance just because you are a pilot.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 5, 2013 at 7:34 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Readers of this (tedious) topic have the official report from the NTSB which states:'"The pilot's failure follow the standard instrument departure as instructed, and his failure to attain a sufficient altitude to maintain clearance from power lines during takeoff in instrument meteorological conditions."

They also have two speculative further explanations - one from a 2000 hr, instrument qualified pilot with hundreds of takeoffs from runway 31 at Palo Alto airport and one from an individual with no known expertise or knowledge. Its a simple choice and when in doubt stay with the NTSB conclusion.


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