String of Crashes Leads to Call for Whiteman Airport Shutdown

After 13 airplane crashes in a decade at the Pacoima airport, a local congressman is demanding it be shuttered pending an FAA investigation

There have been 13 airplane crashes at Paicoma’s Whiteman Airport in the last decade and a local congressman wants it shuttered until the Federation Aviation Administration has chance to investigate whether that’s due to more than bad luck.

Panorama City Democrat Tony Cárdenas on Monday urged Los Angeles County and the FAA to place a 30-day moratorium on flights at the San Fernando Valley airport and conduct a safety audit, City News Service reports.

In the most recent accident, Torrance pilot John King, 62, died when his twin-engine Cessna 337 crashed alongside the westbound 210 Freeway in the Sylmar area on April 20. In January, a plane landed on train tracks near Whiteman and was struck by a Metrolink train. In November 2020, a plane a Civil Air Patrol pilot died when his aircraft crashed in the neighborhood near the runway.

The 13 crashes only account for the last ten years at Whiteman, one of five general aviation airports owned by Los Angeles County, according to CNS. Previously, a 1990 county-sponsored study cited more than one accident a year annually at Whiteman between 1979 and 1990.

Following the January crash, the county Board of Supervisors asked its staff to begin compiling documents and data that would need to be presented to the FAA if the county wanted to permanently close the 1940s-era airport. Cárdenas is asking for additional steps to be taken, including sending letters to the FAA demanding a safety audit and temporarily halting all non-emergency flights into and out of the airport, which sees more than 80,000 general aviation takeoffs and landings each year.

“These incidents have demonstrated that Los Angeles County is failing to achieve the required safety standards and, as a result, trust with the community has been broken,” the legislator said. “The lack of urgency and attention to ensuring that this airport is running safely is unacceptable. I am requesting a 30-day moratorium on all flights originating from Whiteman Airport, except public safety or medical emergency flights.”

A spokesman for the FAA told CNS that the agency will respond directly to the congressman’s letter but also remarked that he has not received any request from Los Angeles County to close the airport, which is required—under the terms of its most recent federal grant in 2021—to remain open for at least 20 years from that date.

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