News Release


DATE: February 8, 2007

CONTACT: Steve Schmidt, 619-531-4766 or 619-206-9108 


Anniversary of La Mesa plane crash prompts call for rapid changes

EL CAJON — One year after an airplane crash killed three people in the skies above La Mesa, the County Board of Supervisors is calling on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to expedite upgrades to the warning system used by controllers at all traffic facilities, including Gillespie Field and seven other County-owned airports.  

At the request of Supervisor Dianne Jacob, supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday to support recommendations issued in July of 2006 by the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB). The agency is still investigating the February 8, 2006 collision that spread debris for more than a mile on the ground. Jacob said Supervisors intend to send a letter to the FAA expressing hope for quick change.  

“A recent newspaper investigation revealed that controllers failed to broadcast alerts not only in the La Mesa crash, but in a fatal crash on Julian’s Volcan Mountain in 2004 and a Learjet crash on Otay Mountain that same year,” Jacob said. “The NTSB’s recommended changes must be implemented fast to save lives in our skies,” she said.

The NTSB’s recommendations included:

  • A redesign the current warning system in control towers
  • A review and possible revision of computer software to minimize unwarranted warnings
  • A review of air traffic facilities to verify that meaning warnings are provided to relevant tower controllers
  • A requirement that all air traffic controllers demonstrate an understanding of minimum-altitude flight rules and the local topography where they direct aircraft.

Air traffic control at County airports falls under the authority of the FAA.

County airports supported 1.3 million air operations last year including private, commercial and emergency flights.