A Response to Diane Wood, TC Letters to the Editor 12/23/11

Diane Wood wrote this letter to the editor recently (from the Longmont Daily TC, 12/23/11):

Letters to the Editor – Dec. 23

Posted: 12/23/2011 01:00:00 AM MST

Emergency landing on Hover

For years I have opposed extending the runway at Vance Brand Airport. My concern is safety. Planes fly as low as 400 feet over our home. The 80-decibel aircraft noise that routinely stops conversation in our backyard is troubling, but at least it is not terrifying.

A few years ago a plane crashed in our driveway and I returned home to find the driveway blocked by firetrucks, ambulances and sheriff’s cars. Yesterday it happened again, this time on busy Hover Street; just another harmless crash done with a dead engine in full emergency conditions. How many times will we turn a blind eye to these crashes and the tragedy that will happen someday? How will you feel when you lose a family member in such an avoidable tragedy?

What will it take to deliver this message to the City Council?

Remember the airliner crash in the Hudson River in New York and the fortunate survival of all? A flock of geese brought that aircraft down. We have thousands of geese circling inside the flight pattern each afternoon. No aircraft crash has yet been reported but just think about the possibility of it happening over downtown.

Why doesn’t the City Council take into consideration these safety issues? They keep touting that increasing air traffic over Longmont will bring in business and jobs. That is just pie in the sky thinking. They should consider the safety and well-being of residents.

DIANE WOOD

Longmont

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I was wondering how long it would be before someone tried to use the recent emergency landing of a small plane on Hover to make an argument against airport expansion.  Seems Ms. Wood has good reason to be a little spooked, though.  I went back looking for Longmont airplane crashes and found a couple, but wasn’t sure which one she was referring to that crashed in her driveway.  Needless to say, if one crashed in my yard, I would also be hypersensitive to any airplane issue I would imagine.

That said, there are a couple of points that need to be made.  First, expanding the airport will really have no measurable effect on the minutely small chance of an accident.  Diane admits that although there are thousands of geese circling in the flight pattern daily (debatable, but ok, I can’t prove otherwise, though I suspect this is an exaggeration), there haven’t been any reported crashes.  I actually did find a couple with sketchy details, but none mentioned geese.  Still, the fact that the airport has operated for so long without a crash would indicate that the risk is pretty low.  I would bet that the accident rate for people driving to the airport is higher than the rate of actual plane crashes.   Like just about anything in life, there are going to be risks.  Could a plane crash into an elementary school?  Of course it is possible.  Is it likely?  The odds are exceptionally low.

The other point to be made is that the airplane that landed on Hover was actually not even headed for Longmont’s airport.  It was headed to Boulder.  And one flight I read about from way back when blew up over Longmont and originated from Stapleton.  So simply having planes in the sky is going to introduce the risk that one could fall in Longmont (or anywhere else for that matter).  Again, weighing the risk versus benefit, the benefits far, far, far outweigh the risks.

So Ms. Wood, while I can see why you are jittery about the whole issue, the fact is that the odds of a catastrophe happening are still about as good as winning the lottery.  Thankfully no one was injured this time, and hopefully any future incidents (God forbid, but there will obviously be some) will also end similarly, but this isn’t the best argument against airport expansion.

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