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Some Santa Monica Residents Upset Over Flight School's Groupon Deal

SANTA MONICA (CBS) — Some residents in Santa Monica are upset that the same flight school whose student pilot landed a plane on a house last year recently offered a discount on lessons.

Hundreds of Groupons have been sold for discounted flying lessons offered by Justice Aviation at Santa Monica Airport. Residents like Martin Rubin say Justice is putting their safety in the hands of thrill-seeking amateurs.

"It's just another example of just complete disregard for the effects of this airport on the community," Rubin told CBS2's Serene Branson.

Residents also say the wording of the initial ad was in poor taste. It stated that novice pilots could "man the controls and try steep turns while flying over the Santa Monica Pier, Malibu Hills and scenic landmarks."

"The sound of some of these old planes they sound like they're on their last... they sound like they're getting ready to stop... and you think they're gonna come down," Rubin said.

In August of 2011, the flight school was in the news when a student pilot nose dived into a blocked wall of a Santa Monica home, which was under construction at the time.

But Joe Justice, owner and operator of the flight school, spoke to CBS2's Serene Branson in his first interview since then to set the record straight about the accident and the deal.

"It was a student pilot by himself, that's correct, but these Groupon flights all have an instructor on board. Those maneuvers are not done until we get out of the practice area and that's like offshore Malibu," he said.

Justice also touted their safety record, noting they've had no major crashes with a certified pilot on board in 21 years. He also pointed out that they don't write the group ads and they altered the wording in their second one.

"That ad had some bad wording in it. I wish it hadn't happened. I wish I could have caught the text before it went out but the next ad that did go out for the next campaign was very softly worded," he explained.

The airport lease is up in 2015 and Justice says the push to shut it down continues to get lift off.

"Well there's controversy at everything in Santa Monica Airport. There is a small group of people that basically would like to see the airport close and at every opportunity they question everything that's done here," Justice added.

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