According to an article in the Pensacola News Journal, the military tries to keep the areas around bases as safe as possible, including routing military flights over unpopulated areas and preventing development in high-risk areas, including near the ends of runways. Furthermore, areas known as "accident potential zones" have either a ban residential development or a limit on the number of houses in the area.
However, even with these precautions, accidents involving planes in residential areas still happen. The article notes that a 1996 accident, in which an Air Force F-16 crashed into a neighborhood, took the life of a 4-year-old boy and seriously injured his mother. A 2003 crash did not take any lives, but did damage 2 homes.
Granted, those accidents are relatively rare. But still, all it takes is one crash for a life to end, and for what? What is the purpose of having these planes fly over residential areas. Even if they are not necessarily dangerous, at best the planes cause a noise disturbance. Now, people who live in areas where planes have crashed likely wonder if their home really is safe from a plane crash.
In San Diego, the plane crashed while it was trying to reach Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. One of the plane's engines had lost power, which led to the decision to try to reach Miramar. While trying to reach Miramar, the plane's other engine also lost power.
The model of plane involved in the accident can operate on one engine, but the malfunction of one engine can cause a reaction in which a blade breaks off and flies into the other engine, causing that second engine to malfunction, also. The pilot in this incident ejected safely from the plane; however, with no pilot, there was no way to steer the plane away from a residential area. Unfortunately, in this case, that meant that the plane landed in a home with 4 people inside.
Nothing can bring back the man's family. Nothing can lessen the shock of having a plane crash into your home—your neighborhood. But this kind of thing happens. It's not always military planes that crash into residential areas—sometimes it is home-built planes and small, private planes—but when such airplane crashes occur, they frequently take the lives of innocent bystanders—people on the street who had no idea that they were in the path of a potential disaster.
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The truth is that if your home is on a flight path there actually is a risk, no matter how small, of your home being involved in a plane crash. The recent accident in San Diego is not all that uncommon an occurrence. In Florida, 2 people died when the plane they were in crashed into a home. Three people on the ground were injured in the accident. The plane was only 2 miles short of the runway when it crashed into the home.
Sometimes, there really and truly is nothing a pilot can do, except make a snap decision and hope that he has managed to avert disaster. However, even in those cases, an accident could be caused by faulty maintenance on a plane or malfunctioning parts. Just because a pilot is not at fault in a plane crash, doesn't mean there is no one to blame.