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."

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