Neighbors say plane crash was only a matter of time

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EL CAJON, Calif. – Residents who live below the Gillespie Field flight path believe it was only a matter of time before there was a plane crash like the one that killed two people Thursday.

A flight instructor and a student were killed when their plane crashed into a Santee neighborhood just west of Gillespie Field.

Fletcher Hills resident Sue Strom and her neighbors knew tragedy would strike her neighborhood eventually due to the sheer number of flights and inexperienced pilots learning to fly.

"Sadly -- and we regret the loss of life today -- it wasn't if it was going to happen, it was when it was going to happen," Strom said.

Strom moved into Fletcher Hills in 1977, when she said Gillespie Field was just a small general aviation airport. Now, the county-operated facility conducts anywhere from 140 to 190 take-offs and landings per day, according to Strom.

"The biggest deal we always hear is, you knew the airport was there when you moved here. Well what we have now is an international flight training school -- two separate things," said Strom.

Residents believe that unless changes are made, more tragedy lies ahead.

She said she and some of her neighbors have filed a lawsuit in hopes of forcing Gillespie Field to limit its hours of operation and cut down on the number of flight schools at the airport.

The legal proceedings have yet to run their course.

"The quality of life has been eroded. The value of our homes has been affected. The air has been affected,” Strom said. “These small planes are using leaded gas, unlike larger airliners. We can show you plants that are coated, our solar panels. Our children and schools are breathing this air."


  • Sam Anderson

    It was a matter of time. More planes will crash. The instructors are shutting off the fuel supply, or bringing the throttle back to idle, to see how fast the student reacts. We have watched this happen in excess of 15 years. We have seen some planes nearly stall over our residential area before re-starting the engine. This happens over Prospect Middle School and hundreds of houses between Weld and Prospect streets. This simulated engine failure and/or fuel starvation lesson must stop over residential areas. Now!

    • Matt

      Sam you obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. Pilots NEVER turn off fuel. That would be completely insane. Simulated engine practice or similar maneuvers are not practied unless in accordance with CFR 91.119. And it sounds like you don’t know what it mean to “stall”. An aerodynamic stall has nothing to do with the engine, like a car. And instructors and pilots are not going to let the airplane stall on departure. You do know we have to pass a huge exam with an examiner appointed by the Feds in addition to recurrent training? Besides Gillespie isn’t unique in that it has a large community surrounding it. Do some research.

  • Idiot Liberal

    So the complaining people bought homes in the flight path of a nearby airport and complain that (surprise, surprise)…airplanes are all over the place!

    One crash since 1977…boy, she was right! She’s like Nostradamus!

  • Rick Skinner

    Golden State is a very responsible and very careful flight training school. I flew with them and the first thing they teach is the correct flight path. When you have power loss, that is a very different issue and the people who want to make noise the issue should be ashamed.

  • JJ Vordell

    Ms. Strom speaks for a FEW in the neighborhood, not many or all. Everyone signed forms and disclosures accting that there was an airport and the risks. The vast majority in this area have personal responsibility and work well with the airport but not Sue and her group. They have threatened a lawsuit for years but can’t get enough neighbors to join them. The aircraft are far safer than driving on nearby 125 or 52 but Sue and her media buddies (who refuse to talk to anyone that does not support Sue and her cronies) refuse to rationally discuss facts, reports and statistics that show the airport is appropriate and safe. Not at al
    Surprisingl that Sue and her small group will use this tragic incident for their personal gain.

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