By NATHANIEL PERCY | npercy@scng.com and ERIC LICAS | elicas@scng.com | Daily Breeze

A small plane crashed into an embankment overlooking the 210 Freeway in Sylmar, killing the pilot, on Wednesday afternoon, April 20.

The pilot was the sole occupant of the aircraft, Federal Aviation Administration officials said.

An air-traffic controller at Whiteman Airport in Pacoima, six miles from the crash, had advised the pilot to climb to 2,500 feet and fly in a “race-track pattern” along the 210 Freeway while waiting for clearance to land, according to recordings of radio communication.

Then, at 12:27 p.m., he realized there was a problem.

“(I) saw that (Cessna 337) Skymaster fall out of the sky, can you check if he’s on the freeway?” he asked at least one other pilot in a tower broadcast at 12:27 p.m. “I visually observed it about 2.5 miles northwest of the 210/118 interchange there.”

People were advised to avoid the area while crews searched through the wreckage and cleaned up a small fuel spill, fire officials said.

The identity of the pilot had not been released as off Wednesday evening. The cause of the crash was under investigation by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board.

In January, U.S. Rep. Tony Cardenas joined local lawmakers in calling for a review of operations at Whiteman Airport, following numerous crashes in the area in recent years. A plane that crash-landed on a set of train tracks in January was struck by a train just moments after police yanked its pilot out of the wreckage. In November 2020, the pilot of a Cessna 182 attempting to land at the airport died when the aircraft slammed into a residential neighborhood.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez expressed condolences to the family of the pilot in a statement Wednesday. She has been a vocal critic of Whiteman Airport and has repeatedly called for it to be shut down.

“Pending confirmation of its departure, the frequency of these incidents should warrant an immediate closure and investigation over the private operations at Whiteman Airport out of respect for the lives of the victims, their families and our community,” Rodriguez said.