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Monday, July 17, 2006

Once was enough

The 73-year-old L.A. lawyer who killed himself and demolished and damaged homes in Hillsboro at the air show this weekend did something similar in another one of his toys in 1989, according to a KGW report tonight.

Like I say, let these cowboys go do this way out in the desert somewhere, where the only people they'll kill or devastate are themselves and spectators.

Comments (1)

Read this in today's Boregonian. You'd think crashing his plane into a house would be something he'd avoid after being lucky enough to walk away unscathed after the first accident.

Posted by: Lily at July 17, 2006 08:10 PM

Give the guy credit. He rode the plane in instead of ejecting, and obviously had the skill to pick the house that was unoccupied at the time.

Posted by: Allan L. at July 17, 2006 08:25 PM

Even in Nevada we had the sense to hold the air races in the desert (though we're stupid enough to put our airports in the middle of our cities).

Posted by: Shelley at July 17, 2006 08:36 PM

I agree with you. I think air stunts, the Blue Angels, and other similar events belong in a desert or otherwise sparsely populated area.

How many times does this need to happen before people finally agree?

Posted by: Mike S at July 17, 2006 10:48 PM

Apparently, more than once. I think the majority of people think it's great. They don't stop to realize that this is a combination privately owned circus and military recruiting fest that risks the lives and property of innocent people.

Posted by: Jack Bog at July 17, 2006 11:03 PM

Tough call for me, Jack, because I love the video of the Blue Angels. But I also see your point about this accident. I hate it when people just drop in.

Posted by: Bill McDonald at July 17, 2006 11:31 PM

Would you drive two and a half hours to the high desert to see it out there? That's where it belongs.

Posted by: Jack Bog at July 17, 2006 11:42 PM

No, I never even drove to Hillsboro to watch it. I just like the look of the jets, especially in that Van Halen video. Truth be told the whole thing was an excuse to use the drop in joke without seeming too insensitive at a time like this.

Posted by: Bill McDonald at July 18, 2006 12:10 AM

The liability here is going to be through the roof.

Posted by: Jack Bog at July 18, 2006 12:15 AM

How many times does this need to happen before people finally agree?

If you're talking numbers, airshows are at or near the very bottom of the list of truly dangerous activities.

Check out the latest numbers from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. It's an interesting picture, to be sure.

In the most recently reported year, 2004, there was exactly ONE air crash fatality of a person outside of the aircraft at the time.


Compare that to the 4,641 pedestrians struck and killed by motor vehicles that same year.

Which poses the greatest statistical risk?

We know which will get the most extensive coverage. But which is more likely to happen to YOU?

That doesn't even count the statistics involving occupants of the various transportation modes (yes, more than one person was killed inside an aircraft in 2004 -- but more than 35,000 were killed inside cars/trucks/motorcycles that year). I'm assuming the main objection in this case is over the danger to innocent bystanders, not the people who choose to get in an airplane.

Aircraft in general, and airshows specifically, are just orders of magnitude less dangerous and deadly than the other sorts of risks that each of us is exposed to against our will every day. Secondhand smoke, anyone? It doesn't kill as quickly, but it kills a lot more people over time.

Of course, when something does go wrong with an airplane it tends to go wrong pretty spectacularly and with a lot of witnesses, so the media coverage is going to be much more intense.

But come on... I just can't believe the level of overreaction here to a relatively simple accident.

Please get a sense of perspective here.

It sucks to be the person whose house has been leveled by an airplane crash.

It sucks, too, to be the person whose family was killed in an auto accident. Unfortunately, each and every one of us is more likely by far to fall into that latter category.

And if you could reduce auto fatalities by just 1%, you'd save FAR more lives than if you completely eliminated airshows entirely.

Posted by: David Wright at July 18, 2006 12:40 AM

Compare that to the 4,641 pedestrians struck and killed by motor vehicles that same year.

People have to walk. They have to drive. They don't have to show how cool they are by hanging out of airborne helicopters and flying rickety old warplanes that are falling apart. This is a testosterone thing that needs to be played out safely in the desert somewhere.

Posted by: Jack Bog at July 18, 2006 03:03 AM

you also have to factor in how many cars and pedestrians and how many miles driven vs how many air shows.

Posted by: eric at July 18, 2006 07:31 AM

David Wright,
Since you're generally pretty sharp, I'm sure you're aware that, given the "vehicle miles traveled," those fatality statistics are not in your favor.
Granted, getting hit by a runaway airplane is pretty rare, but that doesn't mean it's less rare, on a normalized basis, than getting hit by a runaway car.

Posted by: Jud at July 18, 2006 08:21 AM


What you say is possibly true -- for airshows specifically, definitely not true for air travel in general -- but not particularly relevant.

Normalized stats will give you an idea of relative risk for a single individual engaging in equal exposure to two different events. Exposure in the case of an airshow performance is not tied to vehicle miles traveled, but rather to time.

And anyhow, calculating the likelihood that a particular event will occur requires factoring in the amount of exposure to that risk factor for that event.

And the simple fact is that, in the real world, your exposure to being hit by a car is far higher than your exposure to being hit by an airplane. Your chances of actually being killed by an airplane crashing on you (whether at an airshow or not) are orders of magnitude lower than your chances of actually being hit and killed by a car. There's really just no comparison.

Posted by: David Wright at July 18, 2006 09:15 AM

I think that if had happened during the event then the criticism would be valid. As I understand it he was headed home, just like thousand of civilian aviators everyday. His plane crashed. Hillsboro has had many of these, this one just happened to be over a house. The dangerous maneuvers (during the air show) are held over the airfield and not houses. This people are not "cowboys" they are people with an interest in history and in technology. It is the same group of people who are still advancing aviation safety and ingenuity.

Let’s not make this more than it is, a plane crash that took someone’s life. You folks sound like he did it on purpose.

Posted by: Travis Bryan at July 18, 2006 09:34 AM

A modest proposal...

How about all you folks who want to ban airshows because of this one particular accident, "invest" all of your retirement savings in the Oregon Lottery.

After all, apparently it's not important how slim your chances of winning the big jackpot... what's important is that it would be a pretty big deal if you did. ;-)

Posted by: David Wright at July 18, 2006 09:39 AM

Do I recall correctly that the last time a plane landed on a house in Portland, it was a commercial jet in the 1970s?

Posted by: Kai Jones at July 18, 2006 09:40 AM

Also, if you are worried but airplanes, dont buy a house next to an airport... It's cheaper to buy next to an airport for a reason... Did the Hillsboro Airport pre-date that housing complex?

Posted by: ken at July 18, 2006 09:51 AM

I loved going to airshows as a kid back in Michigan. The family would pile up and head to one part or another of the state to see all the awesome aircraft.

The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds were always my favorites. I found some video of a Thunderbird accident with one lucky pilot. You can find a ground shot and cockpit shot here:

Posted by: Matt at July 18, 2006 10:31 AM

My friend Erica lives right next door to the house that was obliterated. She, (who is pregnant), her husband and young son were all home at the time, and of course, very grateful that they were not hurt. And on top of dealing with the crash, she said she is sick and tired of all the "looky-loos" that are tearing up her front yard and finding it perfectly okay to wander into her back yard (and let the dog or her son wander away) to get closer look. That's disgusting.

Posted by: laurelann at July 18, 2006 10:52 AM

After further review, I don't think a call to move this event to a less populated location is an 'overreaction'. Again, per their press-spin kit (THEIR OWN WORDS!!):
Q9 How many airshow accidents are there each year, we just heard about the one in the Ukraine not that long ago?

A9 As you would expect, this varies considerably. In some years, the industry has one or two accidents. In other years, it might have three, four or five.

That, my friends, is knowingly and willfully ignoring some pretty staggering odds, justified by simply having enough liability insurance. Sorry, that doesn't cut it. We're not talking about routine aircraft, doing routine maneuvers. It's stunts, old planes, risky maneuvers and other higher-risk activity than a municipal airport normally sees. The fact that it was a 'static display' should worry you more, not less.

Posted by: TKrueg at July 18, 2006 11:08 AM

"Do I recall correctly that the last time a plane landed on a house in Portland, it was a commercial jet in the 1970s?"

I believe it was in Parkrose in November 1978.

Posted by: tom at July 18, 2006 11:13 AM

It was a United Airlines DC-8 that crashed into an empty lot (except for several large Douglas Fir trees) at 157th and Burnside. 10 people died. The pilot was burning fuel prior to attempting an emergency landing at PDX. The plane ran out of fuel short of the runway and came down in an empty lot between occupied houses and apartments. You can still see where the plane clipped some trees south of Burnside on its way down.

Posted by: Molly at July 18, 2006 11:58 AM

Sorry, that doesn't cut it. We're not talking about routine aircraft, doing routine maneuvers. It's stunts, old planes, risky maneuvers and other higher-risk activity than a municipal airport normally sees. The fact that it was a 'static display' should worry you more, not less.

C'mon...he landed it, people looked at it for two days (the 'static' part), and he was flying it home. Sounds pretty "routine" to me...yeesh.

Posted by: Jon at July 18, 2006 01:04 PM

The document also mentions the scenerio of a sniper. In reality most large events have some sort of written plan for emergent situations. It's known as trying to plan for any eventuality.

The military is always making contingicy plans and so should we all - have you got your 3 day food/meds for the upcoming natural disaster event?
Having said all this I've wondered for the last 10 years why this event has continued in Hillsboro as the community grows around the airport.

Posted by: Don at July 18, 2006 01:52 PM

If I'm not mistaken, the MAX has killed more people than the Airshow. Should we tear up the tracks now?
If you read the news, private planes crash on a weekly basis in this country. That's all this was, a private plane flying in/out of Hillsboro. It had a problem on takeoff and it crashed.

Are you going to close Hillsboro because of one crash?

Posted by: Todd at July 18, 2006 03:06 PM

Why is it so hard to understand a higher level of caution for a purely optional activity, as opposed to an essential one?

Posted by: Allan L. at July 18, 2006 04:46 PM


Posted by: Alan DeWitt at July 18, 2006 05:21 PM

If it HAS to be in Portland, why not Troutdale? Less neighborhoods near it... I'd also suggest Redmond at one point, but you probably wouldn't recognize the town and its new cul-de-sacs...

Posted by: TKrueg at July 18, 2006 09:13 PM

[Posted as indicated; restored later.]


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