Congressman calls for temporary closure of Pacoima’s Whiteman Airport, FAA safety audit

PACOIMA, LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Following several recent plane crashes at Pacoima’s Whiteman Airport, D-Panorama City Assemblyman Tony Cárdenas Monday called on the County of Los Angeles and the Federal Aviation Administration to impose a 30-day moratorium on flights on airport and conduct a security audit.

The accidents have affected the northeastern area of ​​the San Fernando Valley, represented by the congressman. Most recently, a fatal crash occurred on April 20, when a small plane crashed next to the westbound 210 freeway in the Sylmar area, spilling a small amount of fuel and damaging some trees. The pilot of the twin-engine Cessna 337, 62-year-old John King of Torrance, was alone on the plane and died at the scene.

It was the second crash in recent months to occur near the airport, raising questions about continued operations. In January, a plane landed on train tracks near the airport and was struck by a Metrolink train. Earlier, in November 2020, a plane crashed in a neighborhood near the runway, killing a Civil Air Patrol pilot.

In the past decade, there have been 13 crashes at or near Whiteman, one of five Los Angeles County-owned general aviation airports, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Going back even further, a 1990 county-sponsored study reported more than one accident per year in Whiteman between 1979 and 1990.

After the crash in January, the county board of supervisors asked its staff to begin compiling documents and data that would need to be submitted to the FAA if the county decided to close the 1940s airport. But Cárdenas is demanding more be done now, sending letters to the FAA urging a security clearance and temporarily halting all non-emergency flights to and from Whiteman Airport, allowing for more than 80,000 general aviation takeoffs and landings annually .

“Los Angeles County, the owner and operator of Whiteman Airport, has a responsibility to ensure that the airport meets required airport security and standards and that all safety practices are followed as required by the Federal Aviation Administration,” he said.

“These incidents have demonstrated that Los Angeles County is not meeting required safety standards and as a result, trust in the community has been broken,” he continued. “The lack of urgency and attention to ensuring this airport is running safely is unacceptable. I am requesting a 30-day moratorium on all flights departing from Whiteman Airport except for public safety or medical emergencies.”

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the federal agency will respond directly to the congressman’s letter.

Gregor also noted that he has not received a request from Los Angeles County to close the airport, which — under the terms of its most recent federal grant in 2021 — must remain open for at least 20 years from that date. Los Angeles County, which owns Whiteman Airport, has received $4.8 million in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants for Whiteman since 2006.

Copyright © 2022 City News Service, Inc. All rights reserved. Congressman calls for temporary closure of Pacoima’s Whiteman Airport, FAA safety audit

Chrissy Callahan

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