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Community Group Calls For Whiteman Airport In Pacoima To Be Shut Down

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Community groups and local leaders are calling for the closure of Whiteman Airport in Pacoima, where there's been a number of recent small plane crashes.

"I live here. I work here. We've raised our children here," said Bobby Arias, one of the many Pacoima residents on hand at the protest to close the airport's doors for good.

FAA To Shut Down Air Traffic Control Tower At L.A.'s Whiteman Airport
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 22: A plane passes the Whiteman Airport control tower as it takes off on March 22, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. The control tower at Whiteman Airport is scheduled to close starting April 7 under the Federal Aviation Administration's forced spending cuts. According to FAA 149 federal control towrs nationwide are expected to close within a four week period among them five control towers in Southern California, Whiteman Airport in the Pacoima section of Los Angeles, Fullerton Municipal Airport, Riverside Municipal Airport, Brown Field and Ramona Airports in San Diego County. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Residents were joined by non-profit group, Pacoima Beautiful, calling on Los Angeles County to make safety a priority, and shut down Whiteman Airport, where there have been a number of plane crashes recently.

"We're here today to say shut down the Whiteman Airport," said Veronica Padilla, executive director of Pacoima Beautiful in a statement. "We cannot remain silent and idle while Pacoima residents live next to an airport whose airplanes operate on lead-based fuel and poses a public safety hazard due to airplanes crashing into the neighborhood," the statement continued, "No one should live under these conditions. It is not okay to expose people to unnecessary pollution and hazards."

One of those crashes happened earlier this month, on Jan. 9, when a small plane crashed into train tracks, and was destroyed moments later by a Metrolink train. The pilot was rescued by police officers just a few seconds before the train hurtled into the downed plane.

In Nov. 2020, a Civil Air Patrol pilot died after his single-engine Cessna airplane approaching Whiteman Airport knocked over several power lines, before crashing onto a residential street.

"What are we waiting for?" Padilla asked on Wednesday, "Are we waiting for an explosion, are we waiting for a specific number of people to die?"

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors directed staff members to identify documents and information that would be necessary to present to the Federal Aviation Administration, should a formal request to close the airport come from the county.

While the Board of Supervisors has jurisdiction authority over the airport, they don't actually have the power to close it down, and as of Wednesday no petition for the airport's closure has been started by the board.

According to L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, the process could take up the greater part of the decade, but it should remain at the forefront of resident's concerns as they continue to seek safety from the dangers presented by the airstrip so close to their neighborhoods.

Residents were joined in their effort by Congressman Tony Cardenas, who had the issue brought to his attention following the crash in early-January. In response, he sent letters to both the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board, asking for comprehensive safety reports on Whiteman Airport.

"How safe is Whiteman Airport?" He asked, " Are these incidents over and above the average? Are they doing everything that they can to make sure that it's as safe as possible? That's what we're going to get down to the bottom of."

Cardenas also honored the officers who rescued the pilot on Jan. 9 at Montague Charter Academy on Wednesday.

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