Rep. Tony Cárdenas has sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board requesting a comprehensive safety review of Whiteman Airport in Pacoima, his office announced Wednesday.
The letter follows multiple plane crashes, including a single-engine aircraft that was struck by a Metrolink commuter train last week.
“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,” wrote Cárdenas, a Democrat whose 29th District includes Pacoima.
On Jan. 9, the pilot was the sole occupant onboard, and he was pulled from the aircraft by bystanders prior to the arrival of firefighters that afternoon, according to Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey.
The Los Angeles Police Department’s valley bureau tweeted, “… Plane lost power, crashed onto tracks, #LAPD pulled pilot out just before approaching train collided with unoccupied plane.”
The pilot was taken to a trauma center by LAFD paramedics to be treated for unspecified injuries.
No other injuries were reported involving passengers on the Metrolink Antelope Valley line commuter train and there was no fire, according to the LAFD. A minor fuel spill was contained by firefighters.
That crash is already under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board.
The congressman also highlighted the November 2020 crash of a civil air patrol single-engine plane into parked cars on a residential street on approach to Whiteman. The pilot and sole occupant of the Cessna 172 was killed.
In audio obtained by CBS2 shortly after the crash, the pilot is heard saying to an air traffic controller, “Whiteman tower CAP439, we’ve got a loss of engine power here. We’re going to try and stretch it to the runway.”
The tower responds, “Runway’s clear and you are clear to land.”
“Hopefully we’ll make it,” the pilot replied.
In 2018, another two people were killed in a crash, including a 12-year-old, according to the congressman. Reports at the time noted the boy was critically injured and fighting for his life and a flight instructor was killed when the plane went down shortly after takeoff. Paramedics said the 60-year-old man suffered cardiac arrest.
Cárdenas said the NTSB’s database shows that 16 aviation accidents related to Whiteman Airport have taken place since 2009.
Cárdenas requested a report including:
— 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;
— 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.
“All airports have a responsibility to meet necessary airport safety and operation standards in order to fulfill required certification and ensure that all safety practices are met to the full extent as required by the Federal Aviation Administration and relevant state and local agencies,” Cárdenas said.
“Fair and transparent investigations like these keep communities safe, result in safer skies, prevent loss of life and ensure airports meet the necessary safety standards.”
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