On April 8, 2008, a single-engine Cessna crashed on the main runway at Redding Municipal Airport when its landing gear failed to deploy. The two occupants were involved in a flying lesson and walked away without apparent injury. This most recent airplane incident raises concern about the string of small plane accidents that have increased over the last four to five years in this Northern California hub.
This follows the crash of a Cessna near Benton Airpark only weeks before. The single-engine Cessna 180 struck the embankment above Starlight Dr. near Buenaventura Blvd. in west Redding and broke in half. The pilot suffered serious spinal injuries. The crash was 2000 feet from Benton’s landing strip and about 1000 feet from a residential area.
Last year, in April of 2007, another small plane made an emergency landing in the Whitehawk Subdivision of Redding, approximately ½ mile from Benton Airpark. The plane landed on a residential street. Neither the pilot nor any homeowners were injured.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, 12 crashes in route to or leaving Benton have occurred since 1984. Regarding the apparent increase in frequency of these crashes in the last four years, Redding Airport Manager, Rod Dinger, was quoted as saying, “It’s unfortunate that we’ve had four accidents in the same general area. However, when you compare the past 12 years prior to that, we haven’t had too many incidents at all. … These just all happened almost at the same time.”
Mr. Dinger’s comments only beg the question: Why are there more frequent small plane crashes in the Benton Airpark area in the last four years? Further, shouldn’t our level of concern and assessment increase as the area surrounding the airpark grows each year in residential development? Has the airpark outlived its necessity and usefulness?