Air Heads

SFO officials deserve some blame for an air disaster in Honduras. By Matt Smith

The truth is, however, that neither the Honduran government nor Interairports took the necessary steps to make the city's airport safer. Shantytowns surround Aeropuerto Toncontín; to extend the runway, entire neighborhoods had to be moved. This political quagmire, along with SFO Enterprises' financing mess, guaranteed mutually assured procrastination. And the extension never got off the ground, even though it was a rationale for the SFO-led privatization.

SFO Enterprises sold its interest in Interairports in 2006. But its legacy remains in the form of the dangerously short runway. The city's potential responsibility for Aeropuerto Toncontín's safety conditions doesn't end there. A subsidiary of SFO Enterprises developed safety manuals and procedures for the country's airports, and the consortium was tasked with bringing runway surfaces to world-class standards.

Now five people are dead and Honduras is in chaos.

La Tribuna reporter Vanegas said preliminary details from an International Civil Aviation investigation suggest pilot error caused the plane to land halfway down the runway, leaving too little space to stop. An aide to President Zelaya, however, told me unsafe runway conditions were at fault.

Before blame makes its way north to San Francisco, this city should conduct an additional inquiry. Somehow, after all their mishaps over the years, both Martin and Fermin remain employed by the city. It's time, once and for all, to hold them accountable for their misadventure, and let them go.

E-mail the writer to discuss the story: Matt.Smith@SFWeekly.com.

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