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Pilot of low-flying plane sought

Barbara Diamond

City officials are seeking the identity of the pilot of a small,

red plane that flew over Laguna Beach on Monday -- but not much over.

“Our home sits about 250 to 300 feet above sea level and that


aircraft was flying at my eye level, well below the regulation

altitude,” said Mayor Wayne Baglin.

He likened the pilot to a hot-rodder with little concern for the

safety of others.


“At one point, I was hoping the pilot would crash out over the

ocean,” Baglin said. “One little mistake or a carburetor cough and we

would have had a disaster.”

The plane flew low over the beaches and turned cartwheels over

Woods Cove between 5 and 5:30 p.m. and then skedaddled with one wing

pointed directly down and the other one up, observers said. Some said

the pilot made a getaway north, some said to the south -- a worrisome

thought with San Onofre just down the road apiece.


Some of the acrobatics were almost directly over the home of

Councilwoman Toni Iseman, who has campaigned for restrictions on

banner-planes in the skies.

Iseman went on the warpath.

“I called Don Segner, a former Federal Aviation Administration

official in the Reagan administration; I called Ken Frank, who was at

Main Beach; I called Wayne Baglin; I tried to call the John Wayne

Airport tower, but I couldn’t get a number; and I called the Orange


County Sheriff’s office to try to get airports alerted for the plane

and was told it was an FAA issue,” Iseman said.

She also contacted the offices of California Democratic Sens.

Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, as well as the FAA.

“On Tuesday, I found out that the problem is that the FAA does not

have the power to regulate general aviation,” Iseman said. “Transfers

of ownership are not required to be registered, nor a description. So

ownership of that little red plane with the little white tip cannot

be identified unless we have a photograph of the plane with its

identifying numbers.”

Sales of cars, boats, motorcycles and homes are all better

tracked, a disquieting thought for residents concerned with homeland


Iseman photographed the plane, but she was facing into the sun and

fears she will only get silhouettes. She hopes that other

photographers might have had a better angle. Anyone who took still

pictures or video of the plane or who has information about the

pilot’s identify is asked to contact the City Manager’s office,


“If this happens again, get out your cameras and try to get the

number of the plane,” Iseman said.

Baglin said if the FAA really doesn’t keep better account of the

private planes, the City Council should put the matter on a meeting


“I would like to see our staff recommend a program to enforce

flight violations,” Baglin said. “This is getting worse, not better,

and I think we need to make violation reports. If the offense

originates here, we need to document the incident and try to identify

the violator.”

All elected officials, including Rep. Chris Cox, should be

notified, he added.

“I think this is a coastal issue,” Baglin said.

Iseman is on record against the flights of planes trailing banners

at low altitudes just off the city’s beaches, partially because of

the banner content, which sometimes advertises alcohol, and because

of the noise. She also would like to see curbs on the cigarette boats

that cruise the coast.

However, Monday’s incident was just plain scary, she said.

“I have never see a plane that low,” Iseman said. “That pilot

could have killed a thousand people at Main Beach or destroyed

hundreds of homes.”