Lobdell: Catch up with a wrap up

Some follow-ups on recent columns:

Mystery Solved?

I received an interesting e-mail from a veteran private pilot who gave one possible explanation for the single-engine plane crash in Newport Beach's Back Bay that killed three people.

In a recent column ("Lobdell: Unsolved mysteries in Newport-Mesa," Dec. 3), I wrote that I couldn't figure out how an experienced pilot could have run out of gas and, facing an emergency landing, chose to go down in the muddy flats of an estuary instead of a nearby street or park.

Here's the reader's take: First, a Musketeer Beechcraft, the type of plane that went down, with two passengers, has a range of about 550 nautical miles, not the 1,000-mile nautical range stated in several news articles and in my column.

Second, the pilot — flying from Baja to Torrance — would have gotten gas in San Felipe, stopped in Mexicali to exit Mexico and then in Calexico to enter the United States. Taking off and landing three times takes a lot of gas, as does getting over the mountains near Julian.

The distance from San Felipe to Torrance is about 500 miles, so even though the plane would have flown near the Ramona and Fallbrook airports, a decision was made to keep going.

The reader said that the fuel gauges aren't very accurate on older planes (the Musketeer was a 1968 model), and the pilot was probably "in a hurry to get home [after] a long day in the saddle. [He] thought he could make it. The gas gauges [probably] looked OK."

As for landing in the Back Bay, the pilot likely did it "because of the wide open, smooth water with no obstacles, and it was just in front of John Wayne Airport! With retractable gear he would have made it (because he would have been able to glide longer). In the end, he ran out of altitude, time and landing choices."

Doesn't sound so mysterious anymore, does it?

What's Fair

Facilities Management West, the winning bidder for the 150-acre Orange County Fairgrounds property, though the sale hasn't gone through yet and may never be completed, is trying to buy pieces of equipment and other assets, intellectual property, and a license to privately operate the fair from the Fair Board ("Lobdell: Stay vigilant on fair happenings," Dec. 5).

Before negotiations continue, the Fair Board and Newport Beach-based Facilities Management should read the state's Food and Agriculture Code 4059, which states that if a fair wants to sell equipment and other assets, it must first offer them to other fairs. If there are no takers, then the assets must be sold to private parties through a bidding process.

This underscores my theory that the Fair Board can't possibly sell the rights to operate the annual fair to a private company without an open bidding process.

Leece, Baugh and Me

Costa Mesa Councilwoman Wendy Leece and Orange County GOP chief Scott Baugh have graciously agreed to sit down with me for a breakfast or lunch at Mimi's Café in Costa Mesa ("Lobdell: Leece is no traitor," Dec. 19). On the agenda: to mend, or at least understand, the riff between Leece and GOP leaders over her vote just before November's election to approve a multi-year Costa Mesa police union contract with only minor concessions.

I'm disappointed that Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, a longtime friend and ally of Leece who was harshly critical of her vote, declined the invite. He believes Leece ignored his advice, did the wrong thing, and there's nothing left to talk about.

I'll report on the Mimi's summit as soon as we can make it happen.

Councilman Jim Righeimer or Darth Vader?

Jim Righeimer will be sworn in as Costa Mesa's newest council member Tuesday. Some in the community, led by influential city blogger Geoff West, see Righeimer as a carpet-bagging opportunist who will use his intellect, hardball political instincts and Republican ties to rule the city like a Daly in Chicago.

I even joked to one longtime Righeimer acquaintance that many people are building him up to be Costa Mesa's political Darth Vader.

"I don't think that's far off," he said, surprising me.

I'm not in the Righeimer-is-the-anti-Christ camp. I've known him for a long time, and just don't see it. He's a family man, experienced personal tragedy with grace, and has always volunteered to better his community.

Like all of us, he has his faults, and being in the political arena for years, he's earned enemies. His one undeserved rap is that he's the enemy of public safety. I don't buy that you can't be pro-public safety and pro-fiscal responsibility as the same time.

And he will be an immediate force in Costa Mesa politics. On the City Council, he'll emerge quickly as the leader because a vacuum exists for several reasons. But Righeimer's power will be checked by his colleagues, political forces and the local media.

I'm giving Righeimer a chance. And I hope that he'll dampen skepticism about his election by voting for Wendy Leece for mayor Tuesday. Traditionally, the mayor pro tem is voted to the ceremonial post of mayor. Leece is mayor pro tem. The only barrier she faces is her controversial vote to approve the police union contract.

Fellow conservative Councilman Gary Monahan also voted for the union contract, has been mayor a bazillion times, and has his hands full running his restaurant during the Great Recession. His vote should be for Leece.

And I think Katrina Foley will vote for Leece, which should be enough (I'm sure Leece would vote for herself, providing a three-person majority).

Councilman Eric Bever, who voted against the contract, has legitimately not given his support to Leece, though I hope he is a bigger person than that.

And wouldn't it be great if Righeimer not only voted for Leece for mayor, but made the motion to have her nominated?

That would be a worthy start to Righeimer's tenure on the council.

WILLIAM LOBDELL is former editor of the Daily Pilot, former Los Angeles Times reporter and editor, and a Costa Mesa resident. The column runs Tuesday and Friday. His e-mail is williamlobdell@gmail.com.

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