To the Editor:
On Sept. 15, the Sun wrote about Pacoima Beautiful’s campaign against Whiteman Airport, an effort which risks making the community less safe and depriving locals of many great opportunities.
Whiteman Airport currently serves as a base for a variety of emergency responders who help keep Pacoima, the San Fernando Valley and California as a whole safe. The airport also functions as a gateway for local children and adults to explore new horizons both literal and figurative. Shutting down the airport would mean depriving the community of all of this.
As a pilot with decades of experience at Whiteman, I want to make it very clear what is at stake here for the community: Pacoima’s future.
If the airport disappears, so will the heroic first responders stationed there who help keep residents safe when earthquakes, fires and other disasters happen.
If the airport disappears, so will the opportunities for children and adults both to take a peek into the world of aviation and learn about a field that could inspire them to strive ever higher.
If the airport disappears, so will the dreams of local children who see it as a beacon of hope for their futures. If the airport disappears, those hopeful children will see a symbol of optimism demolished.
In a 2020 press release, Pacoima Beautiful suggested major land development in the airport’s place, including both for industrial use and over 1,000 “affordable housing units.” Pacoima Beautiful has not explained how they could prevent these developments from exacerbating existent congestion, overcrowding and pollution in the area nor how these ideas fit their own calls that the community handle future decision making.
Thinking about this closure effort and what it threatens to take from the community, I remember months ago seeing a young boy walk by me across the airport tarmac with his father towing his little brother in a little red wagon. As the trio passed a pilot preparing his airplane, the boy excitedly shouted, “Cool plane!” to its pilot, who thanked him for the compliment.
I suspect (and hope) that one day I might see that boy again: not marching in front of a little red wagon but behind the controls of an aircraft. It would be terrible to see cheerful youths like him denied their chance at that future just because some people lack the vision.
On Sept. 25, Pacoima Beautiful protested against the Whiteman Airport with a small gathering of around 30 people, including many PB staff, some young children and Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez.
At the same time as the march, a program at Whiteman was hosting an event offering demonstration flights to locals, including walk-ins.
By taking part in it, the youths at PB’s protest were deprived of a chance at seeing aviation firsthand and this gets worse when you realize this was intentional.
In the Sept. 15 article, Pacoima Beautiful policy director Andres Ramirez said PB had their protest on Sept. 25 explicitly in opposition to the airport’s events and outreach that day.
Those flights could have been potentially life changing moments for the children and I feel deeply sorry they were denied to them.
I’m sure the airport will have similar events in the future and I hope the children who went to the march take a look at aviation.
Even so, anti-airport politics need to stop interfering with kids’ futures like they did that day.
The letter is a noncommercial pilot who has used Whiteman Airport’s facilities extensively.