SAN DIEGO, CA. After Monday’s tragic crash of a F/A-18D Hornet into a University City residence that wiped out nearly an entire family and their home, destroying and damaging four other houses, calls have begun to mount for moving the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. The crash occurred when the pilot, who had lost power in two engines, could no longer control the aircraft and ejected. The plane crashed into a residential neighborhood two miles west of the Miramar runway. The plane also narrowly missed University City High School by a quarter of a mile.
Don Yoon, who was at work when it occurred, lost his wife, two young daughters, and mother-in-law in the horrific crash.
Today’s Letters to the Editor in the Union Tribune were filled with anguished calls to move the military airfield as it is located in the midst of many neighborhoods. One letter asked, “What was the military thinking when it decided to land a damaged aircraft at Miramar Marine Corps Air Base when there were miles of ocean nearby?” The letter writer concluded, “…the decision to maintain a military base in the heart of San Diego suburbs is … wrong.”
A second letter asked: “What if the aircraft had crashed into the high school?”, and then demanded: “As residents of San Diego, we should call for an immediate halt to all naval flight exercises that send aircraft over our neighborhoods.” Another flatly stated the pilot’s “decision to cross the shore and head over the heavily populated La Jolla and University City areas in a crippled plane was foolish and cost four lives.” Yet, another letter writer said he had campaigned “to get Miramar moved to El Centro or some other remote location, away from civilian populations.” Other letters sounded the same theme, although, not all letters contained that tone.
Today’s Union-Tribune follow-up article raised several questions as well:
What’s unclear is why the pilot chose to land at Miramar, which involves an approach over heavily populated La Jolla and University City, instead of North Island Naval Air Station, which could be approached entirely over water.
The U-T article cited earlier concerns about the proximity of the airfield to schools and residential neighborhoods:
In 1979, a defense researcher warned in a report against building the school or houses too close to the end of the Miramar runway. Many residents fought construction of the school for 17 years because of safety and environmental issues, but the school’s backers prevailed, and University City High was opened in 1981.
“A substantial threat of a catastrophic accident exists in the community west of Miramar,” said Jerry Kopecek, the study’s author, who was then a vice president for the Navy consultant Science Applications, Inc. ….
Kopecek, now retired, said he looked at half a century of data showing that most crashes occurred within two miles of the end of a runway.
The voiceofsandiego has an excellent recap of the warnings from 30 years ago.
Public Forum Scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 11
There will be a public forum to discuss issues that the crash raised, hosted by newly-sworn-in City Councilmember Sherri Lightner, Police Chief Lansdowne and military representatives. It will be held at Univeristy City High School, located at 6949 Genesse Avenue at 6pm.
Several government investigations on the crash will also be held shortly.