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"Fatal crash near Scottsdale Airport spurs safety fears"

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fatal crash near Scottsdale Airport spurs safety fears
By Ofelia Madrid 
The Arizona Republic

Residents of a northeast Phoenix neighborhood where a small plane crashed
and killed a man stared in the direction of the wreckage Thursday wondering,
"What if?"
What if the plane had been bigger?
What if it had crashed into a house?
What if there had been a bigger explosion?
The single-engine Cirrus SR22 crashed onto Joan de Arc Avenue near 70th
Street around 10 a.m. about a half-mile away from Scottsdale Airport,
authorities said.
There were two men inside the plane, Phoenix Fire Department spokesman Scott
McDonald said. The names of the victims have not been released.
The 62-year-old pilot died inside the plane, while the 60-year-old passenger
was immediately transported to a nearby trauma center for non-life
threatening injuries, fire and police officials said.
Authorities had not released the names of the victims, but the plane is
registered to Frank M. Smith and Associates Inc. out of Pinetop and was
traveling from Show Low to Scottsdale, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman with the
Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash
and will release a report when finished.
For years, people in Scottsdale and Phoenix living near the airport have
lobbied airport officials not to allow heavier jets to take off more
frequently. In 2010, airport officials voted to allow jets to take off with
up to 100,000 pounds of fuel. Before, the limit was 75,000 pounds.
Although this time it was a small plane that crashed and not a business jet,
many neighbors gathered around yellow police crime tape near the crash said
this is was one of their worst fears coming true.
Airport officials say that statistically, business and corporation aviation,
which comprise the majority of planes flying in and out of Scottsdale
Airport, are safer than general aviation, such as the small plane that
crashed Thursday.
"There will always be individuals that don't want to see any kind of larger
aircraft in Scottsdale," said Gunnar Buzzard, chairman of Scottsdale's
Airport Advisory Commission. "We've gone through a litany of issues and work
extremely hard to be good neighbors with Scottsdale and Phoenix."
For Jay Eldridge, who has lived in the neighborhood west of Scottsdale Road
and south of Thunderbird Road since 1999, the crash did nothing but raise
concerns. Eldridge came out of his house to see what had happened after he
heard the plane explode.
"The small planes don't seem to bother me," he said. "My concerns are those
(larger jets). They fly low and fast."
Buzzard said there's a difference between perception and reality of what
types of planes fly in and out of the airport.
"For this calendar year, we've had only two departures of over 75,000
pounds," Buzzard said.
Considering that in November the airport had 12,000 takeoffs and landings,
the number of heavy jets is tiny, he said.
"We operate our airport as safe as possible with regards to the facilities,"
said Gary Mascaro, the airport's aviation director.
Other residents still feel safe.
"People bought their homes with the knowledge that there was an airport
nearby," said Theresa Brunetto, whose house is directly under the flight
path on the Phoenix side.
Brunetto, a former flight attendant, and her husband, a former pilot for
TWA, have owned the house about two blocks from the crash for 30 years.
"You could live 10 miles from an airport and a plane could crash," Brunetto
said. "We've always been supportive of the airport and aviation."
John Washington, a former member of the Airport Advisory Commission, called
Scottsdale Airport safe.
"I'm sure questions will be raised about the safety of the airport, as well
as homes and businesses near the airport," he said. "As with any aviation
incident or accident, it takes time and a careful investigative process to
understand what happened."
Resident Ken Hanley said he wrote letter after letter citing concerns about
airplane noise and finally gave up. But he said he could only remember one
other plane crash in his neighborhood since 1976.
Being on the Phoenix side of Scottsdale Airport, "you definitely feel your
concerns count less," Hanley said. "These cities were founded on the notion
of growth being the answer to all our problems."


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