Accountability up the air

Plane vs house = homeowner loses.

What? No pilot insurance?

I have long been concerned about the risks of increased air traffic that will accompany major improvements planned for the Longmont Airport.

On December 18, 2011 a pilot had an emergency landing on usually busy Hover Rd., near Rogers Grove. No investigation was made as to why this extreme stunt was necessary. Did the pilot fail to fill the fuel tank? Was required maintenance properly performed? It was most fortunate no one was injured or killed.

Then on March 23, 2012 we had a mid-air collision over Longmont resulting in two deaths. What if the tumbling aircraft had crashed into a home, school or busy retail center in this densely populated town?

The Master Plan to extend the runway at Vance Brand in Longmont projects a doubling of aircraft operations over the next few years. That plan does nothing to implement flight controls or even simple record keeping at our airport. With takeoffs and landings occurring once a minute and helicopters and skydivers filling the air, mid-air collisions will occur more frequently.

There is no flight control at Vance Brand. Even instructors based at other airports bring students to Longmont’s airport to practice touch and go maneuvers. Why? No one at Longmont’s airport watches his or her operating skill or behavior. The FAA identifies an airport’s Air Influence Zone. Longmont has seen fit to build six schools within that zone – risky. You must agree that having novices learn to fly over your home and school is unnecessarily risky.

FAA does not require private aircraft owners to carry liability insurance and many do not. Few buy insurance adequate to compensate the victims of a crash. You cannot drive your car without adequate insurance but your small aircraft need not be insured so why bother.

The Longmont Airport is not a significant moneymaker for the City. Longmont Council can boost out local economy by bringing in light industry and high tech companies. But anyone who tries to argue that this airport is key to companies considering a move to Longmont is out of touch with the real world of business.

Please recognize the risks to each of us presented by increased air traffic over Longmont.


4/24/12 Update by Diane Wood

Being in an aerospace industry, it is prudent to carry aircraft insurance. If there were a serious accident, your company could be sued and possibly put out of business.

In surfing the internet regarding insurance on private aircraft, I did not find any mention that most private aircraft owners carry insurance.

Listed below are some of my concerns.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AT LONGMONT MUNICIPAL AIRPORT

  • AIRNAV.COM reports 274 operations per day average during 2010 at LMO. With increased runway capacity and general improvement of the facility, more traffic can be expected in the future.
  • Daily observation shows those weekends with favorable weather experience at least double the daily average traffic. Those 548 operations are spread over about 10 hours. That is 55 operations per hour or about one a minute – all day. All this will happen without any traffic control.
  • At the same time there are hundreds of skydivers landing near the runway, gliders, ultralights, biplanes, prop planes, jets, the jump plane, helicopters.
  • Ultralights buzzing slowly along at low altitude and in the morning, drifting hot air balloons. All this happening over nearby homes and schools
  • With the expansion of the runway allowing more jet aircraft, the jet aircraft will require a larger Air Influence Zone. This means that more residential and school areas will be subjected to safety.
  • With a jet laden with fuel, it creates more of a hazard. It is heavier, contains more fuel, should an accident occur, it has more potential to do more damage to property and worst, injure, maim and kill people.
  • Migratory birds and aircraft can collide creating a tragedy.
  • Open space and wildlife will be affected.
  • Flights take off wee hours of the morning and late into the evening.
  • There is no monitoring of the airport.
  • Safety should never be considered way out of proportion.

By the way, I have not heard or read about any toaster deaths.

  6 comments for “Accountability up the air

  1. Gregory Iwan
    March 28, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    With VFR (Visual Flight Rules) this airport can apparently operate with “see and avoid.” What you can’t see CAN hurt you. As for your property, there is at least an implied avigation easement in your title insurance policy exceptions that means aircraft can fly above it without fear of infringing on your “Ab usque” bundle of rights. The legal thinking seems to be that the chances of any person on the ground being struck by an airplane are so small, that this kind of “inconvenience” is tolerable. From a legal point of view. I recall a midair over northwest Denver perhaps ten years ago. there were more than two fatalities, I think, and both aircraft fell into residential neighborhoods. It was a bit scary, but there was only an APPEAL from Denver’s mayor at the time, for a different PATTERN of distribution of casual flights (that is, not the big airlines) over the City. Did he get what he wanted? I don’t think so. Within the TCA (Terminal control Area) around DIA the air space is controlled by the FAA, not the mayor of the City & County of Denver. You want air travel and commerce, you give up some security. It’s the same with having an interstate highway in your back yard (something Longmont property developers have long coveted) — once in a while an 18-wheeler is going to jacknife and bust your fence. And look at the occasional hue and cry over train noise in the City of Longmont. Hey, the world refuses to stop at the city limits. And considering how the local economy is doing, that may be a good thing. It remains to be seen why more flight instructors do not use Tri-County Airport in Erie for their touch-and-go’s. You’d have to ask them. Meanwhile, if you don’t own a Stinger anti-aircraft missile, and don’t wish to take the risk attending USE of one, then you’re going to probably have to swallow spit and keep going. As we all have for some time now.

  2. LTLR
    April 2, 2012 at 11:17 am

    I thought the FAA said, ok, you can extend the runway but we wont give you any money to do it for at least 5-10 years. Has this changed?

  3. April 4, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Jviation did say that the FAA was unlikely to have funds for a Longmont runway extension for 10 years. A different council will look at the issue when money is available and may come to a very different conclusion than the ones we’ve had while this subject has been on the table.

  4. FRED BATES
    April 4, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    We should all be very glad one of the aircraft involved in the recent mid-air wasn’t filled with skydivers.

  5. April 23, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    First, I recently toured the Longmont airport and met with the airport manager to discuss relocating our growing aerospace business which will bring over two dozen high-tech jobs and $6 to $8 million per year to the local economy.

    Second, although not required, the vast majority of aircraft owners do carry liability insurance. I carry about a million in liability coverage for an airplane that weighs less than a Miata. Meanwhile, the required minimum auto insurance ($25,000) is barely sufficient to cover a broken arm, let alone seriously injuring a whole family. Even worse, 1 in 7 drivers aren’t insured!

    Third, as an aerospace engineer, I’ve worked on space debris casualty analysis and other risk assessment projects. I can tell you that the probability of an aircraft accident affecting people on the ground is exceedingly small, even if it occurs over a populated area. You’re far more likely to be killed by a toaster… let’s ban those!

    In short, this article fails to mention any numbers, statistics or data. It doesn’t list the economic impact of the airport, in dollars, or the statistical risk to people on the ground. The author has merely taken a grossly misunderstood risk, injected a little emotion and stretched things way out of proportion.

  6. April 23, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    “The vast majority”? How do you verify that? I suspect it’s more half-vast or less. Aerospace engineer, ooh, you guys never screw up. Cough.

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