Last updated: 02:00 PM ET, Fri March 06 2015

Harrison Ford's Plane Crash Fuels Debate Over Santa Monica Airport's Future

Airlines & Airports | Patrick Clarke | March 06, 2015

Harrison Ford's Plane Crash Fuels Debate Over Santa Monica Airport's Future

Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Actor Harrison Ford's crash-landing of a vintage plane at a Venice golf course just outside of Santa Monica Airport on Thursday afternoon could potentially be the catalyst for closing an airport that's developed a reputation for being unsafe and at the very least a nuisance to those nearest, according to Matt Stevens and Dan Weikel of the Los Angeles Times. 

The 72-year-old Star Wars and Indiana Jones star suffered non-life-threatening injuries and is expected to make a full recovery after crashing the restored Ryan PT-22 Recruit at Penmar Golf Course. 

But with Ford's status reportedly stable, the focus will now shift to the National Transportation Safety Board and FAA's investigation of the accident. And regardless of what they determine, the high-profile incident helps build the argument for those like Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin who oppose the airport.

"Really, for me, the first concern has always been the fear of a plane falling out of the sky and landing in someone's home," said Bonin. "That has happened in the past."

According to Stevens and Weikel, "NTSB records and news reports show there have been 42 Santa Monica-related crashes since 1982 within five miles of the airport," with nearly a dozen planes crashing in Santa Monica and West Los Angeles neighborhoods.

In addition to safety, nearby residents have long been concerned with noise and air pollution stemming from Santa Monica Airport.

"We are certainly hoping that Harrison Ford will have a full recovery," said Martin Rubin, president of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution. "But this is the second crash in Penmar over the years. This certainly raises safety concerns. Santa Monica is unique in the nation because it has dense neighborhoods next to an airport."

Meanwhile, longtime Santa Monica resident Valerie Davidson said neighbors "live in fear" and called the latest accident a "wake-up call."

Still, it seems the airport's opposition will have several hurdles to overcome if it's to impact change. 

FAA officials maintain that the city is obligated to keep the airport open unless the U.S. government agrees otherwise as a result of agreements that date back to the late 1940s.

Those in support of Santa Monica Airport also argue that it's an integral part of the region's transportation system.

It's worth pointing out that Ford has been one of the airport's biggest supporters of late. Stevens and Weikel report that he recently contributed nearly $26,000 to a pro-airport ballot campaign and that he "joined with airport tenants in asking the federal government to determine whether the terms of an aviation improvement grant require Santa Monica to keep the airport open until at least 2023," but the proceeding is pending. 

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