Greta Cobar

Plane Crash: One More Reason to Close Santa Monica Airport

By Greta Cobar

A private jet carrying four people and three pets crashed at landing into a hangar on the side of the runway at Santa Monica airport.

If the hangar wasn’t there, the plane would have crashed into the rows of residences situated only 150 feet from the site of the crash. The flames that immediately erupted burned at a temperature higher than most fires because jet fuel was involved. The fire damaged three big buildings.

Before the September 29 plane crash, the Beachhead was the only newspaper to publish articles advocating for the closing of the airport come 2015, when its lease runs out. Written mostly by Martin Rubin, director of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP), the articles focused on the pollution that Venice residents have been subjected to, as the flight path of the planes is over Venice, not Santa Monica. Following the crash, dozens of other publications and political figures have spoken in support of closing the airport.

Mark Benjamin, 63, owner of one of the largest construction companies in Southern California, and his son, Luke, 28, have been identified as two of the people on the plane. The identities of two women who were also on board have not been released at this time. Two cats and one dog were also on the plane. The crash had no survivors.

The hangar destroyed was partly owned by Tony Bill. His aerobatic plane, truck and motorcycle were destroyed.

The cause of the crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, which is currently closed because of the government shutdown.

The plane was a twin-engine Cessna Citation coming from Hailey, Idaho. It veered off the runway and slammed into the hangar upon landing at 6:20pm.

Current efforts are focused on transforming the airport into a park, and the Sierra Club has officially endorsed such efforts. Santa Monica City College, which already operates in newly constructed buildings on the grounds of the airport, would have an excellent opportunity for expansion. Art shows that periodically take place in select hangars could also widen and branch out.

As tragic as this plane crash undoubtedly was, it symbolically put jet fuel on the years-long efforts of Venice residents to close the airport. Because it only serves private planes and jets, the airport caters to only a small percentage of Santa Monica residents. However, it provides consistent noise and air pollution to many others. A park, on the other hand, would serve many more, provide silence and clean air.

The Airport-to-Park train has already been put in motion, so jump aboard and enjoy the ride!


“I have long thought that the airport should be shut down, and I feel the same way today. The airport is a proven danger to nearby residents both from the risk of crashes and from growing evidence of pollution and emissions from the jet fuel. Sadly, this is déjà vu all over again.”

– Mike Bonin, City Councilperson


“These homes experience not just potential safety dangers, but also jet exhaust blowing right into their living rooms. Noise is a concern as well.”

– Ted Lieu, State Senator


“The one option that we know that really isn’t under consideration is status quo. The airport will not remain the same as it is now.”

– Martin Pastucha,

Santa Monica Public Works Director


“In July 2015, the City of Santa Monica’s 1984 agreement with the FAA expires. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-purpose an enormous and unique land parcel as our largest park. Let’s build a park!”

– Martin Rubin, CRAAP

SMO after plane crash