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Increasing concerns about small plane crashes near high residential area

“How can it be avoided?" asks Santee Mayor

SANTEE, Calif. — Families and communities are still reeling from Monday's plane crash in Santee. 

Two lives were lost. Two homes were completely destroyed while several others were impacted. As the community works to pick up the pieces, questions linger asking how can we stop this from happening again?

"People are nervous. When those planes are coming over our city they're a little bit lower in altitude," said John W. Minto, Mayor of Santee. 

This isn't the first time Santee has had to put the pieces back together after a plane crash. 

"We're going to survive all of this. It's not our first tragedy in Santee. It's a resilient community. It's a loving community," said Mayor Minto. 

Locals who live in Santee and other neighborhoods near airports are now asking the question, “How can it be avoided?"

Kevin Karpe runs Diverse Vector Aviation Consulting. It's his job to help companies work better with the aviation community.  

"Montgomery, Gillespie and Miramar are really intricately tied because the approach paths to their runways crisscross each other," said Karpe. "They're all over lapping like this (crosses hands and arms.) That is where air traffic control comes in and separates those aircraft."

Karpe explains why there seems to be increasing interactions between communities and airports. 

"When the airports were built, there was really nothing around them. Sparse population in East San Diego County and even in South San Diego - farm land, agricultural areas," said Karpe. "The cities basically moved to the minimum distances from the airport where the airport can act properly." 

Karpe says it's an uphill battle to change flight patterns and altitudes. 

"As long as they (planes and pilots) meet those federally mandated minimum safe altitudes, it's deemed safe."

Another question that has been asked is can small planes fly anywhere they want? No. But in some cases, there's wiggle room. 

"You can't regulate aircraft operations, pilot activities and other factors that might lead to a crash. You can't regulate that because it's all real time."

Mayor Minto says, he believes there's more pilot error that needs to be addressed. 

"A lot of the pilots will fly out of the actual flight pattern. They'll come up off the runway and cut short from the west end of town and then they'll come to the east end of town and cut short of the Sky Ranch Development," said Mayor Minto. "That ceiling should be higher so that people feel safe. Let's respect our community and fly the right pattern, stay a good altitude and be safe over Santee."

One piece of advice Karpe gives to communities near airports, who are having issues, is to immediately start the conversations with those airports and governing bodies about how to coexist. 

If any changes need to be made since it's mandated by the federal government, the airport and community can petition the federal government together to make accommodations.

WATCH RELATED: 'Steve would not want anybody to be upset' | Vigil held for UPS driver killed in Santee plane crash (October 2021)