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The Montgomery County Airpark Should Be Shut Down Immediately

Posted on behalf of Goldberg Finnegan, LLC on Dec 09, 2014 in Community News

A Picture of an Airport

The horrible tragedy that occurred yesterday in Gaithersburg was the third plane crash in Montgomery County in 2014! No, I am not kidding and it gets worse there was a horrific fourth crash right up the road in Frederick, Maryland between a helicopter and an airplane in October of 2014, in which 3 people died (one of the planes involved was owned by Montgomery County residents). 

Yesterday, several innocent Montgomery County residents, including two young children, died, homes were destroyed, and lives were forever changed. It is time for Montgomery County residents to demand that the Airpark be shut down until it is determined why these incidents keep occurring in our backyard.   

Did tightening the State and County budgets cause the Airpark/Air Traffic Controllers to cut corners on safety? The Montgomery County Council and Maryland Legislature should close the Airpark until it determines why planes keep crashing in our backyard, and hire a top notch safety consultant to make sure that proper safety procedures are in place at the Airpark before it is reopened. Having a small airport to service smaller planes like the one that crashed Monday is a luxury, not a necessity, and if the Airpark cannot be operated with the highest safety standards in place, then it should be closed down permanently. Dulles, Reagan National and BWI Airports are all less than an hour away!  Remember the Airpark used to be surrounded by farmland, but the neighborhoods have become much more highly populated and developed in the last two decades. Does a small Airpark really belong there now?    

If the trend of plane crashes in Gaithersburg/Frederick continues, I can assure you that those who live in close proximity to the Airport will see their home values decrease.

Each of these crashes puts the lives of our friends and neighbors in grave danger. Most people don't even know that the Montgomery County Airpark itself is basically immune from any sort of civil liability for plane crashes (The Local Government Tort Claims Act limits their total liability to $500,000.00 per occurrence (not per person), and if the County is not put on formal and proper Notice of a claim, then the claim is completely barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity). Hmm...Does this immunity from civil liability create a disincentive for safety?   

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Marie Wagner Gemmell and the other people killed in the December 8 plane crash. There were apparently 3 people on board the Embraer EMB-500 Jet plane when it crashed into a house on Snouffer School Road. The presumed pilot and owner was Dr. Michael J. Rosenberg, the CEO of a North Carolina-based pharmaceutical company Health Decisions, and of course, our prayers are with his friends and family as well.

The fatalities include three people on the plane and three people on the ground. There was also substantial property damage done to several homes, and dozens if not hundreds of peoples lives will be forever changed by this one crash alone. Eyewitnesses say that the plane was flying erratically, struggling desperately and seemed to be out of control as it approached the Montgomery County Airpark. Some have speculated that birds could have been a cause of the crash, but the reality is that the cause of most small plane crashes is pilot error (there are often other contributing factors as well). The NTSB has obtained the flight recorder devices and is currently investigating why the crash happened.    

My personal opinion is that only professional pilots, those who fly planes on a regular basis for a living, should be permitted to fly and land so close to our homes and schools in Montgomery County. I just don't think that CEOs, doctors, lawyers, or anyone else should be flying planes over our homes and schools as a hobby. I have personally lost a friend who took up flying as a hobby (he left behind a beautiful wife and child). The Washington Post reported this morning that Most planes that crash are small and private, like the twin-engine Embraer EMB-500 Phenom 100 that crashed into a suburban Maryland home on Monday morning, killing six people in Gaithersburg. The NTSB says that 1,550 people died in smaller plane (aka General Aviation) crashes in 2011 (that is most recent statistic).   

Those who choose to fly planes as a hobby are putting themselves and innocent people on the ground at risk. In addition to yesterdays terrible tragedy here are some others you may know of who died on small airplanes:   John F. Kennedy Jr., Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Denver, Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, Jiles the Big Bopper Richardson, Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, golfer Payne Stewart and Lewis Katz, a former owner of the NBA's New Jersey Nets and the NHL's New Jersey Devils, who died this summer.

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