Scapegoats aplenty in Roy plane crash aftermath

The crash of a light plane into a Roy neighborhood on Dec. 5 had many elements common to such accidents.

This blog post focuses on how the crash’s aftermath progressed to the identification and savaging of scapegoats, under the category, “some things never change.” More on that later. First, the other relevant themes:

- Dense fog hampered landing conditions.

- The pilot of the small plane apparently did not follow suggestions to divert to another airport with clear visibility.

- People whose Roy homes are beneath the flight paths around the Ogden-Hinckley Airport are weary of the occasional crashes in their neighborhoods; they fear for their lives; and they want officialdom to eliminate the problem.

- Roy and Ogden officials are saying they’ll do everything they can, and the Ogden airport manager says he’s proud of the busy airport’s overall good safety record.

The unsatisfying bottom line is that the airport’s not going anywhere and neither are the homes in harm’s way. No one’s happy.

So, at impasse, human nature kicks in and everyone starts to pinpoint scapegoats.

Scapegoat No. 1 is the airport manager, Ed Rich. Ogden has the busiest civil aviation airport in the state and, as mentioned earlier, has a good overall record. But Rich made the public relations mistake of emphasizing that. He also pointed out the airport was here long before Roy allowed residential subdivision building near its runways.

As bulls maddened by a flapping red cape, angered Roy residents charged the matador at a meeting of the Ogden City Council on Tuesday night, as reported by the Standard-Examiner’s Michael McFall.

“I saw Mr. Rich sit there in his comfortable office and smugly say that a couple of crashes isn’t a big problem,” said Darrel Gamble, who lost a third of his own house in the latest crash. “I’m a Christian, but I wish a plane had crashed into his house.” Gamble says he owes them an apology.

Some of Rich’s comments in numerous media interviews since the crash did come off as insensitive. Some of the flak he’s getting for that is deserved. Rich, who waved the matador’s cape, is the main scapegoat for residents’ frustration and rage.

But Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey apparently is not willing to let his airport manager suffer such a pummeling without trying to find some scapegoats of his own. Those targets would be news media outlets who interviewed Rich and reported his defensive and excuse-laden comments.

“He (Godfrey) also lamented that they do not control how the media represents Ed Rich, the airport manager.” And, Godfrey said, Rich’s comments “may have been misconstrued.”

Godfrey’s shoot-the-messenger approach of denigrating the news coverage is a shabby attempt to deflect legitimate public alarm about the Roy crashes. And his implication that people aren’t smart enough to properly construe the airport manager’s inept responses to the problem is an insult to the Roy residents.

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9 Responses to Scapegoats aplenty in Roy plane crash aftermath

  1. Bob Becker says:

    1. Mr. Rich has a tin ear for how his comments might sound to others. On that, we can I think agree. That does not, however, dilute his point about the overall good safety record of the airport he runs.

    2. On the “we were here first and they moved in later” matter: Mr. Rich has a point. This is something that comes up with some regularity in these parts. Remember the people who bought homes cheek by jowl with an oil refinery near SLC, which then had a major explosion that damaged their homes? The solution some suggested was the refinery should buy out the homeowners so they could move away. In NY some years ago, some airports began buying out homeowners who had built or bought close to runway ends and who were complaining about noise. And here in Utah some years ago, new subdivision residents I think began howling about the smell of manure being spread on the farmers’ field they’d decided to buy homes right next to. In such situations, I admit, I have some sympathy for those who were there first.

    3. I am not a pilot and know exactly zero about flight rules for general aviation aircraft in limited visibility situations. But I can’t help wondering if OHAP “suggested” to the pilot that he divert to another field with clearer conditions, was it in the power of OHAP officials to close the field to incoming traffic until conditions improved? And should they have? Or are such matters entirely the pilot’s call? [I don't know. Am asking.]

    • laytonian says:

      Good points, Bob.

      Don’t forget the landowners at the south end of the Hill AFB runway, who got big payouts for keeping their land free of subdivisions.

      In fact, one children’s daycare center was allowed to expand to such an extent (during the late 1970-early 2000s) that we taxpayers paid them over ONE MILLION DOLLARS to shut down their operation and move their temporary trailers out.
      (I never could figure out why they were allowed to expand for so long!)

      The Roy homeowners have one point in their argument’s favor: the 1985 runway extension that changed the air traffic patterns to put more planes above their homes.

      We have “life flight” and regular helicopters over our home, several times a day – and we’re miles from an airport. Life flight hasn’t had the best record over the past few years.

  2. Mark Shenefelt says:

    Airport traffic and role have increased since the homes were built, and the residents fought runway extension for years before they lost. But I too have some sympathy for the airport with its we-were-here first argument.

    I live a few hundred feet from Harrison Boulevard. There is one house in our subdivision that lies immediately to the right and below southbound Harrison in the 50 mph zone, protected only by a well-worn jersey barrier. I can’t image how the people in that house can sleep, one bad turn of a semi away from probable death. No way would I ever buy a house in such a location.

  3. Byron Beck says:

    While it is true that the airport was there before the homes is only part of the story. As a long time Roy resident I remember when the city and its citizens actively worked to try and prevent the expansion of the airport via the runway that brings the planes over the Roy homes, Roy High School and Sand Ridge Junior High as pilots make their approach on this runway. So yes, the citizens do have a legitimate point that we were here first, make the original north-south runway work.

  4. John says:

    As to Bob Beckers question in this case the pilot had the final decision to attempt the landing or not. There is really no way to close the airport. No door to lock so to speak. He will receive the blame from the FAA for doing so. He simply made a bad decision that turned out to be very costly. Ed Rich on the other hand is a public relations nightmare. Go out to the airport and talk to some of the pilots who hang out there day in and day out. He is not a very popular guy with the airport users but the mayor likes him. The best thing Mayor Godfrey could have done as soon as he heard about the crash was to call Mr. Rich and tell him not to talk to the media. He is the last person anyone would want representing their city. He simply has no tact. As for the residents of Roy they can get as angry as they want nothing at the airport is going to change. The fact of the matter is a train car hauling chlorine or other toxic material could de-rail in the backyard of any one of a thousand homes, a semi-truck hauling hazardous materials could crash and injure you and your family. The fact is there are risks of danger we face every day, and occasionally folks make bad decisions that lead to tragedy. As a pilot who flies out of Ogden I can tell you every crash that occurred in this neighborhood was the result of a pilot making a bad decision and had nothing to do with the configuration or operation of the airport. If the airport changed then the crashes would just have happened in some other neighborhood.

  5. Jon says:

    You’re a lot more likely to die in a collision on 1900 West in Roy than from a plane crash. The kids who dive under the trampoline aren’t reacting to the plane crash, they’re reacting to their mother’s irrational fears.

  6. GORDO says:

    ARE ANY ANGRY ROY RESIDENTS SIX-TWO, TWO-TEN WHO WORK OUT EVERY DAY? AND DON’T DRINK BEER ANYMORE?

    • Mark Shenefelt says:

      Gordo, speaking of anger, have you looked into some anger management courses for yourself? It might help. You’ve escalated to all caps.

      Do you have anything worthwhile to add to the airport issues at hand?

  7. John says:

    An E-mail yesterday from the airport manager Ed Rich states that fixed wing takeoff’s from the intersection of runways 16/34 and 3/21 will no longer be permitted to allow for higher altitudes as aircraft fly over homes to the south of the airport.

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