Investigation Begins in Santa Monica Plane Crash

The single-engine Cessna smashed into a home near the airport Monday afternoon

By Jonathan Lloyd, Stephanie Stanton and Gordon Tokumatsu
|  Tuesday, Aug 30, 2011  |  Updated 7:14 PM PDT
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Santa Monica residents have serious concerns about planes flying in and out of Santa Monica airport. Will another plane crash happen again? NBC4 Gordon Tokumatsu reports.

Gordon Tokumatsu, Kristopher Li

Santa Monica residents have serious concerns about planes flying in and out of Santa Monica airport. Will another plane crash happen again? NBC4 Gordon Tokumatsu reports.

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Photos and Videos

Cell Phone Video: Pilot Rescued

Luis Espana witnessed a pilot being removed from a plane that crashed west of Santa Monica Airport. He captured the rescue on his mobile phone. Read the full story here.

Pilot Rescued from Plane Wreckage

The Cessna crashed into a house in Santa Monica. Cell phone video captured the rescue.
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Federal investigators are looking into Monday's small plane crash in Santa Monica as residents living just a few hundred feet from a runway renew calls for limits on student pilot flights.

Residents have complained for years about the possibility that a plane might crash into their homes. On Monday, a single-engine Cessna crashed into a residence near 21st and Navy streets.

The home is about one-third of a mile west of a runway.  Sources say actress Rachel Blanchard lives there, but was not home at the time of the crash. She's known for her role in "Snakes on a Plane" and the TV series "Clueless." She was not available for comment.

Painters pulled the student pilot from the crumpled wreckage. The cause of the crash was not immediately known, and the NTSB and FAA were investigating.

NTSB officials say the impact sent the engine and propellor into the cabin, breaking the pilot's leg and briefly, trapping him.

“If they don’t limit the flyovers of this very densely populated area, there will be more accidents," resident Laura Silagi said Monday.

Rescue Caught on Video

Members of the Venice Neighborhood Council said they'll lobby lawmakers to stop so many student pilots from training at the airport.
 

"You hear the planes taking off all the time, then taking off, then landing," said nearby resident Valerie Davidson.

She is referring to "touch and go's" -- a technique where student pilots practice takeoffs and landings.

"When one of those hits a house, it's not gonna be a little hole in the wall," Davidson added. "It's gonna blow up and many people are gonna die."

The city tried to ban jets from the airport but was unsuccessful. The FAA concluded the jets can operate safely there.

The nearest homes are about 300 feet from the end of the runway.

In July 2010, a pilot who was practicing touch-and-go landings at the airport died when his small plane slammed nose-first into a nearby golf course.

On Monday, the small plane hit a cinder block wall, which helped absorb energy of the crash. It also clipped some tree branches, said Robert Trimborn  of Santa Monica Airport.

Wayne Pollack, a senior National Transportation Safety Board air safety  investigator, said NTSB investigators would be at Santa Monica Airport Tuesday. He said they plan to listen to voice tapes, interview maintenance workers and speak with people  at the flight school.

The student pilot had about 40 hours of flight time at Justice Aviation at Santa Monica Airport. He was flying to Santa Barbara when he turned back.

"We were right in front of it," said Luis Espana. "We saw the plane wobbling… it hit a tree then it just went right in the house."

The pilot's flight school, Justice Aviation, is among several with offices and planes at the small airport. Today, the company issued a written statement that said, in 20 years and with more than 2,000 students, none have died or suffered serious injury in a crash.

"We realize this recent accident almost destroyed that record," the statement reads. "We have already implemented precautions that will help ensure that an accident like this does not happen again."

The wreckage was moved to a desert storage facility for the investigation.


 

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