On Jan. 9, the Sun/EL Sol reported on that day’s aircraft/train accident on Osborne St. Despite the spectacle, no deaths nor injuries occurred to any bystanders or passengers and the heroic intervention of several LAPD officers saved the injured pilot as well.
That mishap at the Osborne St. railroad crossing was surreal and the characterization that the scene was “out of a Hollywood movie” was fitting. Earlier that day, no one would ever have imagined what happened there … it came out of the blue.
Even so, some reactions to the accident were entirely predictable: Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez and Pacoima Beautiful, both long opponents of Whiteman Airport, rushed to social media to politicize the accident in support of their agenda to close the airport. Public reaction to their statements was swift and decidedly negative. The local community rebuked calls to close Whiteman Airport and implored Rodriguez and Pacoima Beautiful to instead focus on matters such as crime and vagrancy.
In a previous letter to the Sun, I wrote about Whiteman Airport and what it offers the community. From education to emergency response, firefighting to filming, national security to news choppers … Whiteman does it all. A young person interested in any of those things could find their way into any of those fields with a start at Whiteman Airport.
Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez and Pacoima Beautiful have both stubbornly and falsely declared that Pacoima “derives no value” from Whiteman, even after the airport’s contributions to the neighborhood have been repeatedly explained to them in great detail.
As Rodriguez and Pacoima Beautiful are well aware, LA County Fire Department and other emergency agencies deploy out of Whiteman’s operating areas. It is thanks to this basing that Pacoima residents know trained first responders are nearby and ready to deal with local disasters like fires. At times, Whiteman has also hosted a community food bank and vaccination center.
The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) — the civilian auxiliary to the United States Air Force — operates multiple aircraft and squadrons of airmen out of its Whiteman facilities. CAP operations offer educational opportunities to local youths where the sky is not the limit and brings security to our land when they fly on behalf of national security and public safety.
A great variety of other organizations offer further outreach and opportunities at Whiteman, including the San Fernando Valley 99s, Kitty Hawk Squadron 3 and the Experiment Aircraft Association (EAA). The workhorses of these programs are volunteer pilots from Whiteman who provide young people an opportunity to experience the world from a truly different perspective at no cost. Great opportunities are there for those who pursue them.
Anti-airport activists hound Whiteman Airport over its safety history, but its record is vastly superior to those of local roads, freeways and trains. The odds of a deadly car crash are around 1-in-100 while the odds of an aircraft mishap involving Whiteman Airport are similar to those of being struck by lightning. The difference is stark.
Although Whiteman Airport’s safety record is excellent, its opponents continuously resort to misrepresenting the facts to push their agenda. Pacoima Beautiful has habitually posted the false claim that Whiteman has had “85 accidents since 1970.” According to FAA and NTSB records, the actual number of accidents is far lower. Pacoima Beautiful’s “85 accidents” figure comes from improperly conflating Whiteman’s actual accident record with “aircraft incidents.”
An “aircraft incident” can be as insignificant an event as an aircraft having a flat tire. Though Pacoima Beautiful has been informed their accident/incident data is muddled, they have insisted on spreading the incorrect figures, nonetheless.
Apparently, it’s all they have. Bogus information about critical local infrastructure like Whiteman Airport upends community life and presents a direct threat to Pacoima’s future. Councilwoman Rodriguez and Pacoima Beautiful should dispel false information, not dish out more.
Support for Whiteman Airport remains overwhelming, despite Sunday’s freak accident. The purveyors of anti-airport politics need to accept this reality and move on to something productive.
The letter writer is a licensed noncommercial pilot who has used Whiteman Airport’s facilities extensively.