The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors directed its staff Tuesday to identify documents and data that would need to be presented to the Federal Aviation Administration if the county at some point decides to seek the closure of Whiteman Airport in Pacoima.
No such decision has been made to pursue closure of the airport.
Two plane crashes have occurred in the airport’s vicinity in the past two months. Following the first of those crashes in November — when a Civil Air Patrol pilot died — the county created a Community Advisory Committee to explore the operations of Whiteman Airport, and make recommendations on possible adjustments or potentially recommending whether the airfield should be closed.
Following another crash on Jan. 9, when a plane landed on train tracks near the airport and was struck by a Metrolink train, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl introduced a motion saying it would be “prudent” for the county to begin identifying what materials will be needed if an effort is eventually made to close the airport.
While stressing that the Community Advisory Committee is still working on the issue and no recommendations or decisions have been made, Kuehl noted in her motion that the FAA process of closing an airport could take a decade or more, “which may make it prudent to explore the sort of information that will need to be gathered to enter into this lengthy process.”
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved the motion unanimously, without comment. The motion instructs the Department of Public Works to report back in 60 days on the “information that may need to be gathered and assembled in order to prepare an initial step for the FAA’s application process, how that data and documentation may be gathered, and by whom, and the overall cost of gathering such information.”
The motion calls specifically for information on the airport’s history, including the original land acquisition and previous federal grants; details on the airport’s “multiple roles in the community and regional airport system”; an appraisal of the land; and details on the next steps in the process of seeking a closure of the airport, should the county opt to pursue one.
Earlier this month, Rep. Tony CÃ¡rdenas, D-Los Angeles, sent a letter to the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board requesting a comprehensive safety review of the airport, saying he was prompted to do so by the two recent crashes.
“The regularity of these incidents raises serious concerns for the safety of the communities and families surrounding Whiteman Airport, as well as the pilots, personnel and staff that have access to or are located at the airport,” CÃ¡rdenas wrote.
CÃ¡rdenas said the NTSB’s database shows that 16 aviation accidents related to Whiteman Airport have taken place since 2009.
CÃ¡rdenas requested a report to include:
— All aircraft incident reports and/or citations made by the FAA regarding traffic in and out of the airport;
— A review of whether the airport meets all federal, state and local government safety and operation standards;
— An account of any prior issues in meeting federal safety and operating standards and regulations, including steps taken to mitigate those issues;
— Details on how safety trainings are conducted, the frequency of such training and an accounting of who is responsible for training those who have access to the airport and/or fly aircraft;
— A historical account of incidents and accidents at the airport or en route to and from the airport since it first opened, including a comparison with other similar general aviation airports;
— Specific information about the Jan. 9 accident, including any communications between the pilot and the airport as well as any communications between the airport and Metrolink railway before, during or after the incident; and
— An account of what processes and/or procedures occur after such incidents to ensure that all operational safety standards were met before, during and after aircraft incidents.