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Clearwater Airpark should be shut down

Re: As kids look on, plane falls from sky, story, Jan. 18.

In the past four years, planes from the Clearwater Airpark have run out of gas and landed in McMullen-Booth Road, crashed on takeoff into the residential neighborhood south of the runway, crashed on landing into the residential neighborhood north of the runway, and now two have collided in mid air and crashed near a playground full of kids a couple of hundred yards from my house in my neighborhood east of the runway. At least one plane had the courtesy to crash on its own runway and stay away from our homes and families.

David King, whose company operates Clearwater Airpark, has these words of reassurance: "It happens." Yes, it does. That's precisely why the Clearwater Airpark should be closed, because unlike Albert Whitted or St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, it doesn't happen over Tampa Bay, but directly over the heads of our wives and children, right in the middle of the most densely populated county in the state.

It's by nothing more miraculous than sheer dumb luck that none of my neighbors or our children on the ground have been killed yet, but as long as Clearwater Airpark is allowed to remain open, it most assuredly will happen.

Emmet Bondurant, Clearwater

Pilots responsible for preventing mid air crashes

Re: As kids look on, plane falls from sky, story, Jan. 18.

The paper quoted David King, manager of the Clearwater Airpark, as saying that both pilots involved in Saturday's mid air collision were following procedures and "sometimes, these things just happen."

I am a pilot who uses the Clearwater Airpark and disagree completely with Mr. King's statement. One or both of the pilots made a fatal mistake that could have been far worse. If proper procedures had been followed, this would not have happened.

Clearwater Airpark is one of thousands of airports in the United States that do not have control towers. When flying to or from these airports, it is the responsibility of every pilot to tell others where he/she is and what he/she intends to do. The pilots are also responsible for listening, knowing where all other aircraft in the area are and what they are doing.

When a pilot announces his/her position and intentions, other aircraft in the area must see the aircraft or they must stay clear until they do. I do not know the details of the collision, but I do know that if these pilots had been communicating properly and, more importantly, watching for other traffic, this accident would not have happened.

Mr. King was wrong. The accident was not the result of a random "it happens" or bad procedures. It was the result of (for some reason or other) one or both pilots failing to follow those procedures.

John Beach, Palm Harbor

Much thanks to those who helped after plane crash

Re: Dead pilot flew, lived with zest, story, Jan. 19.

Unfortunately, I was a witness to the tragedy that occurred at the Long Center on Saturday, when Bela Toth lost his life as the pilot of a single-engine plane that crashed into the huge oak tree adjacent to the Long Center playground and parking lot.

I want to commend the staff of the Long Center for their immediate response to the accident and to the safety of the occupants of the center and its adjacent facilities. In particular, I would like to commend two city employees who put their lives on the line in responding to this tragic incident. I do not know their last names, but do know their first names: Dawn, who I think is one of the center's supervisors, and Frank, who I think is a technical assistant at the center.

These people showed little regard for their own lives by responding as quickly as humanly possible to the site, and they secured the site to prevent any further injury or chaos from occurring. They had no knowledge of whether this plane would explode after impact or burst into flames because of the leakage of the fuel into the area. Yet, they were in the immediate area of the site and provided supervision and instruction to those who were confused by witnessing such a tragedy.

Frank immediately went to the crowded playground to ensure that there were no injuries to either the children or the parents who were enjoying the playground facilities. Dawn secured the site and surrounding facilities with the assistance of the Pinellas County sheriff's deputy who was quick to respond to the crash site. She provided all onlookers with guidance and assistance in keeping the area clear for emergency vehicles and personnel.

The Long Center was host to two major events during the time of the crash and, because of these employees' efforts, the events were able to go on as scheduled. Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst, City Manager Bill Horne and Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunbar should be proud of the efforts of these people along with the tireless efforts of the facility's head supervisor and the remainder of the staff in providing those competitors with an organized event and a safe environment in which they could compete with the utmost confidence.

Ed Bates, Clearwater

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