Santa Monica Airport wasn't really built for jets. But the airport's location on the moneyed Westside has made it a hub for billionaires and Hollywood elites who rock multimillion-dollar private aircraft.
See also: Fiery Crash at Santa Monica Airport.
It's been a sore spot for neighbors wary of multiple crashes that have occurred in the area during the three decades since jets were allowed on the neighborhood runway. And now, following the Sunday accident that appears to have killed real estate mogul Mark Benjamin, Westside U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman is calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to “implement safeguards” at the airport:
Waxman's letter today to FAA administrator Michael P. Huerta alleges that the federale has been ignoring the congressman's complaints that “inadequate safety measures jeopardize the surrounding community.”
He alleges that “the FAA has constantly rebuffed my efforts” to get it to address safety at Santa Monica Airport and that the Administration even declined an invitation to attend a community meeting last summer on aviation safety in the neighborhood.
The fatal crash should be a wake up call. You should thoroughly review the conditions at the airport, implement safeguards to protect the community, pilots, and passengers, and make the safety of Santa Monica Airport an urgent priority.
The appeal came as the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner confirmed to LA Weekly that four bodies were pulled today from the crashed Cessna Citation, which was previously linked to real estate executive Benjamin.
Coroner Lt. Fred Corral told us that the bodies of a dog and two cats were also found in the fuselage. “The bodies,” he said, “are charred.”
The genders of the deceased aren't yet clear, he said.
The plane careened to the right and plowed into a hangar after landing about 6:20 p.m. Sunday, an FAA spokesman told us. The hangar collapsed onto the burning fuselage, a fire official said.
Morley Builders, the development firm started Benjamin's father, stated yesterday that Benjamin and Benjamin's son, Luke, were believed to have been on board the flight from the mountain resort town of Hailey, Idaho. Authorities said there were no survivors.
FAA confirms twin-engine Cessna Citation plane crash at Santa Monica Airport. pic.twitter.com/DgmLzLhgIg
— Pablo Pereira (@PabloWeather) September 30, 2013
Santa Monica Airport Commission chairman David Goddard said the crash site was about 150 feet from nearby homes.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents the L.A. side of the airport, which is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, said “enough is enough.”
In a statement, Bonin notes that the FAA recommends a 1,000-foot buffer between runways and homes but Santa Monica has essentially been granted an exception allowing a buffer of 300 feet.
Bonin says there have been more than 80 accidents in the 30 years since Santa Monica began accommodating jets (not all them, however, involved jets):
Into a home in 1989. Into a home in 2004. Into a home in 2011. Onto a residential street near home in 2012. Into a golf course across the street from homes in 2010.