As represented by the articles below, the opponents to the existence of Santa Monica Airport have tried to leverage the publicity of Harrison Ford’s crash to give credibility to their claims that it is unsafe. Their cries of “close the airport” have been booming, and the message includes a table of all the accidents at SMO (with no reference points). The anti-airport group, though relentless, has been unsuccessful in its efforts to close the runway and surrounding aviation businesses, in derogation of binding contractual and statutory prohibitions.
Santa Monica Airport is a good, safe facility. Its record is comparable to other similar airports. Like many urban runways, it has incongruously attracted residential and business development around its fences. The operational and ATC procedures in place there are designed to minimize the risk. The departure pattern follows the golf course for environmental and safety reasons (see map). The FAA scrutinizes every aspect of SMO very carefully due to its high profile in the LA Basin and around the country. To allege that this airport does not meet safety standards defies considerable objective data.
Another inference in the critiques is that a celebrity pilot like Harrison Ford increases the risk. The primary response to that attack is what actually happened—Ford exercised great skill to land his plane in an area unoccupied by people. As one eyewitness said:
“’Looking at where he crashed and how the plane went down, I’m sure there was a moment where he said, ‘I’m not going to risk lives, whatever happens, happens. It’s going to be just me,’”
Previous reports of the Star Wars star’s stick and rudder skills are quite positive. Another source, when asked after the accident about Ford’s ability in the cockpit, noted how meticulous, well trained, cautious and capable he is. This opinion was expressed by an aviation writer who knows safety as a professional.
The reality here is that the unfortunate Ford accident demonstrates that the safety systems at Santa Monica Airport work.