Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Harvey Gold: Unintended consequences

Harvey Gold
It seems to me…I have to admit that I am a firm believer in always trying to avoid the “unintended consequences” when considering solutions to problems.

So, when I read that the Oakewold housing development was back on the table, the possibility of unfortunate unintended consequences immediately came to mind. When the developers filed to build the proposed 650 units of housing as well as commercial space near the Stafford Regional Airport, I wrote that this was a bad idea and that the Board of Supervisors “…should say no to this development that would develop 232 acres into a planned traditional neighborhood development bringing 650 new residences next to the Stafford Airport.”

I based this on accident statistics and personal experience of housing developments built next to businesses whose functions can eventually become problems for those in the new homes. These problems can include safety, threats to future airport expansion and development, and eventually potential homeowner complaints, if not law suits, about noise, lights and the safety of their health and property. I have seen this happen many times involving homes being built adjacent to farming operations, factories, landfills, airports and chemical and manufacturing plants.

The issues that new homeowners raise are valid in their minds, but what they often don’t want to accept is that they moved there knowing the facility they now object to was there for a long time doing what they still do -- and the new homeowners knew it when they bought their homes and moved there. But after they moved, the farm odors, pesticide sprays, odors from chemical or manufacturing smokestacks, methane from landfills or the sounds of airplanes taking off and landing suddenly becomes a nuisance or a threat even though it was always there.

The “unintended consequences” of living next to one of these facilities perhaps didn’t occur to them or they honestly thought it would not be a problem. But sometimes the routine odors, noise or chemicals become a real threat to health and safety, and the new residents are affected, sometimes seriously and sometimes fatally.

We do recall with great sadness the private plane crash next to the Stafford Regional Airport on Feb. 22, 2006, that took the lives of builder Rick Potter and other prominent local businessmen during a misty, foggy morning. I knew Rick and he was serious about his flying, about his business, his family and his life. He never intended to crash. It was an unintended event that left scars on the land and on many people.

In that same year there were at least 25 private plane crashes in Virginia. All were unintended.

Could it happen today? Fast forward to Dec. 8, 2014, and Gaithersburg, Maryland, where six people were killed – three in a plane that crashed into a Gaithersburg house and three on the ground -- setting several homes on fire. The crash occurred less than a mile from the Montgomery County Airpark. The twin engine, 10 passenger plane crashed into a single family home where a mother and two very young children were spending a quiet Monday morning. All three died and the home was destroyed by the crash and resulting fire. Several other homes had fire or property damage. Three passengers were also killed. There was no storm on that quiet Monday morning. The plane just seemed to fall out of the sky. The cause is still unexplained.

This heartbreaking event cannot be blamed on the airport, it was there before the homes were built. But building homes that close to an airport does increase the risk for all who live or work close to it. Landings and takeoffs are perhaps the most risky times of flying, but when homes are built near an airport the risk continues all day, every day as routine landings and takeoffs take place all day, every day. And then the unexpected happens. A plane just falls out of the sky, another unintended consequence that is the result of decisions made by folks who never intended for anything bad to happen.

In view of the statistics and history’s lessons, I find it hard to comprehend how those folks who want to build the homes and have been turned down by the Board of Supervisors can now contemplate suing the county for the right to build the homes adjacent to Stafford’s airport. Perhaps the unintended consequences of their action will be they will lose.


NTSB Identification: NYC06FA072

The docket is stored in the Docket Management System (DMS). Please contact Records Management Division
Accident occurred Wednesday, February 22, 2006 in Stafford, VA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/26/2007
Aircraft: Lancair Company LC41-550FG, registration: N400WX
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot attempted a night Global Positioning System (GPS) instrument approach to an airport, but executed a missed approach. He subsequently requested, and flew an ILS approach to another airport. Radar and transponder returns confirmed the airplane flew the localizer course down to about 200 feet above ground level (agl). Weather, about the time of the accident, included calm winds, 1 1/4 statute miles visibility, light drizzle, and an overcast ceiling 500 feet agl. There were no witnesses to the accident; however, when a passenger's wife arrived at the airport minutes later, she noted "spots" of fog and a fog layer above her. She later noted that a police cruiser with flashing lights was lost in the fog when it drove out on the tarmac. The airplane's wreckage was located in a wooded area, about 300 yards left of the runway, 3/4 of the way down its 5,000-foot length. Tree cuts were consistent with the airplane having been in a 30-degree left turn. The missed approach procedure was to climb to 600 feet above mean sea level (400 feet agl), then make a climbing left turn to 2,000 feet, direct to a VORTAC and hold. There was no evidence of mechanical malfunction.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to execute the published missed approach. Factors included the night lighting conditions, low ceilings and fog. 

NTSB Identification: DCA15MA029
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, December 08, 2014 in Gaithersburg, MD
Aircraft: EMBRAER EMB-500, registration: N100EQ
Injuries: 6 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 8, 2014, about 1041 Eastern Standard Time (EST), an Embraer EMB-500 Phenom 100, N100EQ, impacted terrain and houses about 0.75 miles short of runway 14 while on approach to Montgomery County Airpark (GAI), Gaithersburg, Maryland. The airline transport rated pilot and two passengers were fatally injured as well as three persons on the ground. The airplane was destroyed during the impact and ensuing fire. Marginal visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and the flight was operating on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. The airplane was registered to and operated by Sage Aviation LLC., of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. The flight originated from Horace Williams Airport (IGX), Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with GAI as its intended destination.

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