NewsLocal NewsEast County News


Aviation experts weigh in on flight safety after deadly crash near Gillespie Field

Neighbors question safety of Gillespie Field expansion
Posted at 4:32 PM, Dec 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 20:38:33-05

EL CAJON, Calif. (KGTV) — As more information comes out about the jet crash on Monday night in El Cajon that killed four people on board, pilots and aviation experts are weighing in about how it could've happened.

"These guys got in too close too tight dodging the mountain out there and tried to get in that slot and just let the airplane get too slow," aviation expert Joe Graham said.

Graham's analysis echoed by others familiar with Gillespie Field, the airport where the Learjet 35A was trying to land.

"You don't have much room for a mistake or any kind of adjustment really if you miss that slot you're in trouble," Graham said.

Robert Germann is the founder of a group called Citizens Against Gillespie Expansion, or "CAGE." He said jets have an especially hard time navigating the approach and runway.

"You're confined in the box of El Cajon with Rattlesnake Mountain and the terrain around it," said Germann.

When Germann saw what happened Monday night, he said he first felt for those on board and their loved ones but also wasn't surprised. He thinks the airport was never designed to support the volume and type of air traffic it does now and worries we'll only see more crashes in the future.

"Short and narrow runways, I think it's unsafe," Germann said.

But other pilots disagree. Local aviation expert Bill Labarge said crashes at Gillespie can usually be attributed to mechanical failure or pilot error and in his opinion doesn't believe the airport is difficult to navigate for an experienced pilot.