Sunday, January 31, 2016

Torrance commission may block Lexus car lot near Zamperini Field Airport (KTOA), Los Angeles County, California

When a small plane took off from Torrance Municipal Airport on a Sunday morning in 1997, crashing into a three-story office building across the street and killing all four aboard, firefighters noted that only the day of the week prevented casualties on the ground.

About the same time, the local aviation community was fighting — successfully, it eventually turned out — siting a new Range Rover automobile dealership north of the former Ishibashi produce stand on Crenshaw Boulevard.

Doing so would encroach on a Federal Aviation Administration Runway Protection Zone, intended to ensure incompatible development doesn’t compromise public safety, Jim Gates, then president of the Torrance Airport Association, told the Daily Breeze at the time.

Almost two decades later, the TAA is fighting a virtually identical proposal: the expansion of a Lexus dealership that would put an auto sales lot partially within the same Runway Protection Zone that’s intended to protect people on the ground and provide a margin of safety for pilots in an emergency.

“According to the map presented at the public hearing on June 4, 1997, it is the very same property on which the Lexus dealer now wants to place the (sales) parking lot,” said Gates, who is now vice president of the TAA.

“It’s deja vu all over again,” he said. “Everybody has forgotten what happened 20 years ago.”

On Wednesday, the county’s Airport Land Use Commission will decide whether to uphold a staff recommendation to overturn the city’s approval of the dealership expansion because it is inconsistent with policies regulating development around airports that are “intended to minimize public exposure to excessive noise and safety hazards.”

“The proposed project would convert open/vacant industrial land, which is generally considered compatible with airports, to retail land, a use found incompatible with airports due to safety concerns and high noise levels,” states a commission staff report.

“The project introduces auto dealership employees and customers into a portion of the RPZ that is currently vacant, open and fenced off to prevent any access by people for nonairport purposes.”

Lexus currently uses the site at 24777 Crenshaw Blvd. for its parts and service department.

But dealership executives told city officials they have outgrown the present sales site on Pacific Coast Highway and would like to consolidate operations on Crenshaw.

Auto sales are the city’s top source of sales tax revenues.

In turn, sales tax revenue is the largest contributor to the city’s operating budget, bringing in more than 26 percent of all sales tax revenues the city collects and growing 2 percent in fiscal year 2014-15, municipal officials said last May.

That month, the Torrance Planning Commission approved the expansion of a 35-foot-high building and a sales lot. The sales lot is partially within the RPZ; county officials want it relocated.

Contrary to the county’s position, city officials said the expansion would be compatible with existing uses and steps would be taken to ensure “the proposed development is not detrimental to public health and safety.”

But the TAA appealed the ruling and brought the issue to the attention of regulatory agencies that took a closer look at the project.

Regulatory concerns include:

• A possible violation of the county’s land use policies that “prohibit projects that would affect safe air navigation.”

• That the project’s “proponent will need to obtain additional FAA review and approval for details of the project that have not yet been included in the FAA notification.”

• The planting of five trees that can reach 50 feet in height require an FAA determination that “safe air navigation” would be unaffected.

Terry Barrie, chief of the Office of Aviation Planning under the state Department of Transportation, wrote a letter to the city saying that the city had “not accurately represented the FAA’s obstruction analysis program.”

Contrary to the assertion of city officials, Barrie added, the FAA has “not issued any kind of preliminary clearance for the project.”

“Approval of this project presents a potential hazard to people and property on the ground and exposes the city to greater liability from aircraft accidents,” he wrote.

City staff acknowledged receiving, but did not respond to, a request for comment Friday from the Daily Breeze.

The TAA noted that at least three aircraft crashes have occurred within the RPZs around Zamperini Field at Torrance airport.

And the group cited a U.S. Air Force study that found 75 percent of all aviation accidents within 10 miles of an airport occur in an RPZ, which is why the FAA advises that the zones should be “clear of all facilities supporting incompatible activities.”

“Other government agencies should not need to force the city of Torrance to protect its citizens — the city has a responsibility to maintain a safe airport and a safe community,” the TAA said in a statement on its website. “If approved, this plan would put Lexus employees and the public in a dangerous area.”

Original article can be found here: 

NTSB Identification: LAX97FA328
The docket is stored in the Docket Management System (DMS). Please contact Records Management Division
Accident occurred Sunday, September 21, 1997 in TORRANCE, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/18/2000
Aircraft: Beech C23, registration: N543JL
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.

Witnesses reported that after takeoff, the airplane never climbed beyond 150 to 200 feet above ground level. One witness reported the airplane's rotation and initial climb were normal until it achieved 100 feet, then it began to pitch nose up until the witness could clearly see the tops of the wings. The airplane then rolled to the right and descended vertically. The airplane collided with a three-story commercial office building about 2,000 feet from the departure end of the runway and was partially consumed by a postimpact fire. An audiocassette re-recording from the airport noise-monitoring site was examined to document any engine or propeller sounds that could be heard during the takeoff. A video recording that was recovered from the accident aircraft was also examined to document the takeoff distance and airborne pitch attitude/flight path of the airplane. The video recording began just as the aircraft was taking the runway for departure and appeared to continue uninterrupted until the airplane crashed. The audio track of the video was examined to document any engine or propeller sounds heard during the takeoff. Engine rpm was derived from both the audio track of the video recording and the noise-monitoring recording. The engine speeds derived from the video recording were between 2,250 and 2,430 rpm. Engine speeds derived from the noise monitoring station started at 2,750 and decreased to 2,510 rpm. Directly above the monitoring station there was no alteration in the measured frequency due to the Doppler shift. No dramatic changes were observed in the frequencies associated with the aircraft's engine. Examination of the engine did not disclose evidence of mechanical malfunction.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The failure of the pilot to attain and maintain adequate airspeed during the initial takeoff climb, which resulted in a stall/spin and subsequent collision with a building.

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