SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Federal investigators on Tuesday listened to Santa Monica Airport audio tapes and examined maintenance records in an effort to determine what caused a single-engine plane to crash into the yard of a vacant home.
The student pilot, whose name hasn't been released, was pulled from the Cessna 172 wreckage moments after the Monday afternoon crash into a neighborhood about a quarter-mile west of the runway.
The pilot, whose name was withheld, was taken to a hospital with a broken leg and underwent surgery Monday night.
The pilot was attempting a landing when he decided to go around for another pass, Santa Monica Airport director Robert Trimborn told the Santa Monica Daily Press (http://bit.ly/pkGY09).
The plane struck a cinder block wall next to the house and part of the aircraft penetrated a wall of the home. Trimborn said it was a miracle the pilot and people on the ground weren't killed.
Painter Luis Espana told KNBC-TV that he saw the plane coming down.
"We were right in front of it," Espana said. "We saw the plane wobbling. It hit a tree then it just went right in the house."
Espana and fellow painters at the home rushed to the aircraft.
"We had to help the guy get out of the plane. It was just unbelievable. We couldn't believe what was happening," said Espana, who took cell phone video of the rescue.
The accident site investigation was completed Monday night and the wreckage was taken to a desert storage facility north of Los Angeles, National Transportation Safety Board senior investigator Wayne Pollack said. NTSB investigators will examine the wreckage on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, federal investigators listened to air traffic communication tapes and interviewed Santa Monica Airport tower witnesses and operators of Justice Aviation flight school. They also examined maintenance records for the Cessna, built in 1973.
Pollack said NTSB investigators will interview the pilot when he's available.
Residents have complained for years about the potential for a jet to overshoot the runway and crash into homes. The nearest homes are within 300 feet of the runway's end.
The city tried to ban fast-landing jets from the airport but the FAA concluded the jets can operate safely.