Town Square

Pilot error caused East Palo Alto plane crash

Original post made on Nov 24, 2011

A plane crash into an East Palo Alto neighborhood on Feb. 17, 2010, was most probably caused by the pilot's failure to follow departure instructions and failure to attain sufficient altitude to avoid striking power lines during takeoff in foggy conditions, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has determined.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 23, 2011, 11:33 PM


Posted by Jim
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2011 at 8:27 am

I remember driving to work that day on hwy 85 and thinking that this was the worst day fog that I could remember. Traffic at 5:30 am was going around 25 mph because of the fog.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2011 at 8:44 am

I know that we are going to have all the usual arguments on this thread.

One thing that has occurred to me is the fact that these were all employees of the same company en route to a business meeting. The fact that the business meeting may have been "so important" as to disregard safety has never been mentioned. I know the urgency of the importance of some business meetings have made people drive fast, or other reckless behaviors, in the past. Perhaps the pilot was just another person who put the importance of business ahead of sensible caution. In fact, perhaps his employer/supervisor/boss told him to do whatever it takes to get to this meeting on time! I wonder if we will ever know?

Posted by some guy
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm

The plane took off from runway 31, which points to roughly 310 degrees, or 50 degrees left of North (0 or 360 degrees). The pilot agreed to assume a heading of 60 degrees, which would require a right turn of 110 degrees, more than a right angle. Instead, he made an approximately 45 degree turn to the left, which resulted in a heading about 155 degrees off course, almost in the opposite direction. Why so far off course? And why did the plane only climb to 50 feet with both engines operating normally? The airplane could have easily climbed to 500 feet in that distance. I think it's very interesting that the heading the plane was on when it hit the power line tower was just about a direct route to the Tesla building in San Carlos.

I think there's a good chance that the pilot intended to buzz the building before turning around and heading south. That would also explain the lack of altitude gain, because they would have had to stay very low to be able to see the ground in the fog.

Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 29, 2011 at 6:10 pm

I'm just guessing as well, but I agree with "some guy from another comunity" ... the chance of being able to "buzz" or fly over at low level the house of the one of the passengers and the Tesla Building was probably too much temptation to resist, and the pilot was not thinking about those power lines since he could not see them and did not know how high they were.

How accurate is the altimeter at very low levels like that, and it is made to or good for hugging the ground or just measuring height above sea level?

I walk out there all the time and most planes are much higher than the electrical towers almost before they hit the end of the runway.

What is conspicuously missing here is any genuine discussion of this event relative to the expectation that it or something like it might occur again. I am assuming the pilot was not a cowboy or irresponsible, that his mistake was something anyone who goes off on a tangent of inconsiderateness could make.

Though there was loss of life, point one would be that everyone was very very lucky this was not much worse.

But the major point to consider is that this could happen again at any time- and if something like this did happen again the outcome could not count on being as lucky -ie. it would probably be much worse.

The smartest thing Palo Alto could do would be to get rid of the airport at the earliest opportunity, freeing up the Baylands for conversion to nature preserve, and some recreational uses.

I don't know anyone who likes to be out there with the constant noise from the airplanes ... it ruins the whole area.

Before the typical poster comes in and says how they like to watch planes taking off and landing, so do I ... for about 15 minutes ... then the baylands is still too noise to talk to anyone or hear one's self think. Go over to Moffett Field if you need to see airplanes.

What is the point to adding lots of area to the Baylands when it is virtually uninhabitable. They do not even allow planes to fly over places like Paris or the Grand Canyon so it does not ruin the ambiance ... why do we let the airport and aiplane owners think of Palo Alto as a place they can disrupt, ignore and disrespect for merely their convenience to get to their airplanes that should be stored elsewhere?

The clear win is to get rid of the airport and let the Baylands restore of a natural environment and them allow reasonable facilities to enable Palo Altans and others to enjoy the area.