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Public deserves full review of airshow, airport safety

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Sunday afternoon's fatal crash of a plane into a nearby Hillsboro residential subdivision should serve as a loud and important wake up call: it's time to consider the future of the annual Oregon International Airshow and publicly ensure the safe operation of the Hillsboro Airport.

Unfortunately, a Federal Aviation Administration investigation into the crash may take many months and quite possibly as long as up to one year.

Until then, many area residents and business operators surrounding the airport will have ongoing and rightful questions and misgivings about the safety of the two-day airshow - and some about the on-going safe operation of the airport.

We understand that the airshow and the airport's day-to-day and future operations are not connected. But in the public's mind and worries they are. It's all about safety.

Tonight offers a first opportunity for an airing of facts and concerns when the Port of Portland, the airport's operator, holds a public meeting to discuss Sunday's tragic crash of a warplane piloted by Californian Robert Guilford. Guilford's plane was part of a static showcase of planes on display at the airshow. The plane crashed shortly after Guilford was leaving the airshow for his home and exploded upon impact, destroying one home and damaging three others. Fortunately, no one on the ground was injured.

Tonight's meeting at 5:30 at the Hillsboro Civic Center is not part of a formal investigation. But it is a good chance for airshow organizers to discuss the incident and their event's safety. Port officials also must openly address safety measures employed at the airport and by pilots and also discuss past and planned future safety improvements at the airport.

The meeting also is an opportunity for airshow and port officials to listen and learn from citizens and businesspeople. Hillsboro is a far different community than it was when the airshow was launched 19 years ago. The city's population has doubled. Economic development has brought high value employment and billions of dollars worth of investments. Meanwhile, flight activity at the airport has surged. The future will feature thousands of more local residents, more nearby businesses and more activity at the airport.

It would be easy to rush to judge the airshow: it's either safe or it's not. It also would be easy to rush to defend or criticize the airport, which was built when Hillsboro was a farming community and its location was far away from dense housing or businesses.

But rushed judgments of any sort don't serve the best interests of the public, safety, the airshow nor the airport.

That's why we favor a full and timely review of the crash and a concurrent review of the on-going safe operation of the airport. Doing so will allow city of Hillsboro and Port of Portland officials, show organizers and local residents and businesses to consider all of the facts and how to best address public safety, airport operations and the airshow in a future that will bring many more people and much more commercial activity to Hillsboro and Washington County.