Nevertheless, it appeared as a nightmarish place on Monday morning, September 25, 1978, at 09:02:07 hours. Dwight Street (between Boundary and Nile Streets) is a serene neighborhood consisting mainly of modest one-story residences for those who are not acquainted with the San Diego neighborhood of North Park.
Flight 182 of Pacific Southwest Airways to San Diego.
Captain James McFeron immediately radioed San Diego’s Lindbergh Field’s Control Center to request guidance for the final approach to Miramar NAS. The crew and passengers on board Flight PSA 182, a regularly scheduled flight from Los Angeles to San Diego, were carried by the Boeing 727-214 jet airliner operated by PSA Airlines, a subsidiary of Southwest Pacific. The aircraft, with the call sign N533PS, had just entered San Diego’s airspace and was approximately nine minutes ahead of schedule.
TRACON.3, also known as Control Approach Radar Terminal California Southern, has now been relocated and expanded adjacent to the Miramar Station of the Marine Corps Air Corps. It is responsible for directing all commercial and private aircraft departing or descending at the smaller feeder airports within San Diego County or at Lindbergh Field. The San Diego Approach Center is equipped with civilian air traffic control facilities and radar.
Captain McFeron directed Miramar to switch from Visual Flight Rules (VRF) to Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) as he began his descent from 11,000 to 4,700 feet. This decision was made because the wind in Santa Ana was clear in the morning.
The flight crew of PSA 182 were capable of employing terrestrial features and landmarks as navigational points of reference because of VFR regulations, which indicated that the weather conditions above San Diego were sufficiently clear. While utilizing VFR, the crew would need to visually steer clear of obstacles, especially other aircraft, by maneuvering and controlling the airplane through a “see and avoid” method.
The PSA flight assigned to corridor would take it diagonally across the eastern Pacific Beach to Mission Valley before turning eastward toward El Valley, Mission over point A. Slowly banking right into a parallel approach to Highway 94, Lindbergh Field’s Runway 27.6 would start to turn into the western approach, paralleling the North Park.
Many crews flying or “deadheading” off flight duty were able to travel for free from San Diego to Los Angeles. PSA employees were passengers on a regularly scheduled flight from Sacramento to San Diego, with a total of 128 passengers. The flight crew consisted of four flight attendants and Wahne J. Martin, who piloted the aircraft as the First Officer. In addition, Robert E. Fox served as the Flight Engineer and Captain McFeron was in charge of the cabin crew on PSA Flight 182.
Many employees of PSA, who were residents of the Los Angeles area, had to commute to the Lindbergh Field headquarters in order to attend a training seminar or plan and work on operations. However, due to the recent expansion of the company’s services throughout the state, some flight crew personnel were restricted from operating aircraft and had limited working hours. This was because the FAA mandated these limitations. That is why Flight 182 was acting as a shuttle service for many passengers, returning on flights to San Diego.
The aircraft, a well-recognized Boeing 727-214, had a sleek and narrow fuselage measuring 153 feet long. It featured two external engines set in a horizontal line, with a third internal engine leading to an “S-shaped” intake duct built into the base of the tail’s leading edge. The cockpit was painted black, with whimsical white, black-trimmed logos and colorful fruit stripes in shades of white, red, orange, and fuchsia. Below the high “T”-shaped vertical stabilizer on the rear side of the fuselage, there were two opposing external engines mounted on either side, along with back-swept wings. Overall, the aircraft had distinguishing features that made it easily recognizable while flying over San Diego during its 10-year-old flight time.
Passengers, particularly the male ones, were instructed by flight attendants to change into attractive hot pants and mini skirts later. The in-flight intercom broadcasted comic cabin patter, which often criticized the airline for having low airfares. It was considered the epitome of the swinging Sixties. The airline’s self-promoting ad campaign, synonymous with the company, introduced the “Grinningbirds” PSA’s in 1972, labeling it as the “World’s Friendliest Airline.”
The incident that took place over San Diego nine years ago was chillingly similar to what would happen if the two pilots had failed to avoid “the other” and chose to continue to their intended destination. After assessing that the damage was negligible, the pilot of the PSA aircraft immediately returned to San Francisco Airport, shaken by the incident. Meanwhile, the pilot of the Cessna 182L, while climbing to its cruising altitude, had bumped the right wing of the Boeing 727-100, one of PSA’s airliners. However, in January 1969, this close call was not a serious accident. The proud San Diego-based airline did not have such a history during its 29-year-old existence.
On September 25, 1978, Captain McFeron directed Miramar control to notify Lindbergh Field’s Terminal Area Service that he was now entering its airspace. He advised them that he was transitioning before landing in his Skylark 172 Cessna, with the call sign N7711G. Miramar control would provide him with traffic advisories and sequencing vectoring radar. As he descended to 4,000 feet, Captain McFeron was above Mission Bay.
Gibbs Flite Center Cessna N7711G.
The aircraft, which was ILS-equipped, could land at the airport under adverse weather conditions or at night without relying on the radio beam emitted from the airport’s runway. Boswell, who was learning the intricacies of the aircraft’s Instrument Landing System (ILS), held a commercial pilot license with ratings for multi-engine and single-engine landings. Kazy, a 35-year-old United States Marine Corps gunnery sergeant, was instructing Boswell while on extended leave from Camp Pendleton. Kazy had previously worked for several years as a certified flight instructor in Ohio, holding a commercial pilot license with ratings for instruments and multi-engine and single-engine landings. Although he had only worked at Gibbs for slightly over a year, Kazy had previously worked at the Montgomery Field Flight Center, a small general aviation airport located four miles northeast of Lindbergh Field, which was owned by Flite Gibbs, the owner of the Cessna N7711G.
Boswell, under Kazy’s supervision, had made several landing practice approaches to Lindbergh Field’s runway, solely focusing his attention on the ILS dashboard-mounted dial. He was wearing a special plastic visor with a hood to compete with larger commercial aircraft for air space over the airport. That meant the Cessna would have little training certification for ILS set up. Lindbergh Field was the only airport in San Diego County where aircraft could compete with commercial planes.
The approaching airplane, however, did not transmit that information to both Lindbergh and Miramar, the air traffic controllers on the ground. The transponders calculated airspeed and altitude, identifying the Call Number of each aircraft and relaying the information to Lindbergh and Miramar. The air traffic controllers on the ground received the information from the transponders, which indicated the heading, altitude, and glide path of each plane. They were equipped with on-board transponders connected to their respective ILS instrument gauges on the dashboard. Both Cessna N7711G and PSA Flight 182’s Boeing 727-214 were equipped with on-board transponders connected to their respective ILS instrument gauges on the dashboard.
They informed him on radar that he should stay below 3,500 feet and fly in a northeasterly direction along Montgomery Field. After doing so, they reiterated Lindbergh’s directions and told him that they had him on radar at an altitude of 1,500 feet. Furthermore, they instructed him to contact Miramar Control Approach Center for further instructions and to maintain VFR procedures, not going higher than 3,500 feet. In response, Lindbergh Tower instructed him at 08:59:01 to use the on-board ILS system and notified him that the Cessna was climbing away from the airport. Boswell was satisfied with the use of the ILS system.
The Unfortunate Sequence of Events.
At 08:59:50, Officer First Fox responded, “Ok, we’ve got twelve other aircraft flying below and ahead of his aircraft. Two of them were smaller private aircraft. That would indicate that there were aircraft that we previously reported climbing and at an altitude of 1,400 feet. They were on a northeast course. Six seconds later, Captain McFeron responded, “We’re looking.” They reported that the northbound Cessna aircraft, with the registration number N7711G, was one mile ahead of them at twelve o’clock. Miramar had been notified of the traffic from PSA 182 at 08:59.30.”
Captain McFeron initiated his last descent, reaching out to Lindbergh Field’s control tower and notifying them that he was keeping a visual distance from any incoming air traffic. Miramar instructed Captain McFeron to “maintain visual separation” from any approaching air traffic after Flight Officer Fox confirmed, “I see them,” while looking through his plane’s small windshield at 09:00:21. Captain McFeron subsequently communicated to Miramar, “I have spotted the traffic.”
It is important to note that the crew on Captain McFeron’s flight solely relied on visual surveillance to maintain constant visual contact with the Cessna until it either diverged from their course or landed, in order to avoid any potential collision. Despite the fact that ground controllers could provide separation criteria in terms of either lateral or vertical separation, the crew’s responsibility was to maintain visual separation, as known as “visual separation maintain.”
Upon receiving radio communication, Boswell immediately acknowledged that a jet from PSA Airlines was inbound to Lindbergh Field. The jet was flying eastbound, two miles behind Boswell’s aircraft at an altitude of 3,200 feet. At 09:00:31, Boswell was informed that there was traffic ahead, which prompted him to inform Miramar that he would maintain a heading of 70 degrees and fly at or below 3,500 feet under visual flight rules. Meanwhile, Control Lindbergh assigned responsibility for guiding PSA Flight 182’s Cessna 182 on its final approach to Miramar.
Passing to our right, I believe he is saying, “Okay, we had it there a minute ago,” McFeron allegedly informed Lindbergh Control at 09:00:44. “But I do not see him now,” Fox responded, “Yes, but is that the one [we’re] observing?” Looking out the cabin windshield, Captain McFeron inquired. “Traffic, twelve o’clock, one mile, a Cessna,” advised Lindbergh Control, acknowledging at 09:00:38. Captain McFeron notified Lindbergh Control that it was commencing its downwind approach as PSA Flight 182 initiated its diagonal passage across Mission Valley.
All of this helped to seal the doom of both aircrafts. “He did not relay any further information to him,” I knew much more about the traffic than the flight crew because the controller believed that Captain McFeron had observed the Cessna passing 7711N, which he interpreted as the word “passing.” Captain McFeron later testified that he heard the use of the word “passing” and thought it was his approach to the 182’s Flight PSA, as given by the air traffic controller monitoring the traffic.
At 09:00:52, it appeared that there was some confusion among the cabin crew of PSA 182. An off-duty captain, who was also in the cockpit, expressed his hope. The captain then mentioned, “I suppose,” while Flight Engineer Wahne responded with “Supposed to be” when Fox inquired, “Are we clear of that Cessna?” After twenty seconds, Captain McFeron commented, “The Cessna was right over there just a minute ago.”
The experienced flight crew of PSA should be able to differentiate between the smaller high-engine single-wing Cessna passenger aircraft at close range, which is the 172, and the larger low-engine twin-wing Cessna passenger aircraft, which is the 401. It has been suggested that Captain McFeron might have been referring to a Cessna 401 with the call sign N3208Q, which was also conducting ILS approach landings while in radio contact with Lindbergh Field between 08:58 and 09:05. Perhaps turning downwind before we saw him behind us, I noticed that the tension eased for Captain McFeron around 21:01:09.
The air traffic controller at Lindbergh Control informed Captain McFeron that he had lost visual contact with N7711G, the Cessna 182 with whom he had been in communication. If he wanted to conduct ILS practice landings, he would need to position himself to the west and contact the Cessna 401 that Fox’s Flight Officer was referring to. After the airliner’s landing gear was lowered, I was looking at the inbound aircraft and saw that it was seven seconds away and underneath one of them.
The question persisted, where was Cessna N7711G located?
Neither Kazy nor Boswell had access to Lindbergh Field or Miramar to locate the huge jet airliner bearing down on them. They presumably felt compelled to actively identify their location in relation to Flight PSA 182, so they could have their transmissions monitored by both Lindbergh Field’s control tower and Miramar. While the crew of Flight PSA 182 could monitor both Lindbergh Field and Miramar from the deck of the jetliner, the rapidly descending Boeing 737 changed its heading from east due 90° to east due 70° without informing Miramar. The on-board radio of the Cessna was only tuned to the air traffic controllers at Miramar, not Lindbergh Field. According to later radar ground tracking printouts, the Cessna N7711G was climbing at about 120 mph, approximately 1,300 feet below and ahead of the Boeing.
Both aircraft experienced issues with visibility. The Boeing jet airliner was in a “nose up deck approach” while descending, which made it extremely difficult for the flight crew to have a clear view of the small Cessna flying directly beneath it. Boswell and Kazy’s rearward visibility would have been limited due to the elevated placement of the climbing Cessna 172 Skyhawk’s cantilevered wing.
At 09:01:28, the automated radar-activated conflict alert system at Miramar acknowledged that neither Kazy nor Boswell informed Lindbergh Control about the 182 PSA’s warning alert conflict, incredulously. It was reported that only 19 seconds after the Cessna N7711G advised that there was traffic in your vicinity, a PSA jet was sighted approaching, indicating an impending collision. The ground controller at Miramar did not give any warning notice more than 40 seconds before the collision between the two aircraft, even though the radar-activated conflict alert system had been installed earlier that month.
“Tower, We’re Descending, This Is PSA.”
At 47:01:09, just .9 seconds before impact, the right wing of the Cessna 182 Flight PSA tipped downwards, causing it to bank into a roughly 2,600 feet turn above the intersection of El Cajon Boulevard and 30th Street. As a result, the 2,100-pound Cessna hooked onto the right wing of the 110-ton airliner, tearing through its fuel tanks and causing one of them to explode and rupture, leading to the flip and upside-down descent of the Cessna into the airliner.
As the aircraft became more unresponsive, Flight Officer Fox struggled to maintain control. Captain McFeron muttered plaintively with a hopeful tone, “Easy, baby.” Throughout the cockpit of the jet airliner, the sound of the explosion and the impact at a speed of 175-180 mph reverberated.
North of Polk Avenue and 33rd Street, the blazing frontal part of the aircraft detached and collided with the front porch of a residence, where Kazy’s remains had been propelled approximately 10 blocks eastward, crossing the 805 Freeway. In the twisted remains, law enforcement officers discovered Boswell’s severely injured body still secured to the seat. Close to the junction of Ohio Street and Polk Avenue, witnesses on the ground observed that the fragmented rear portion of the Cessna appeared to descend “like a lifeless doll” before touching down.
At 09:01:51, within the damaged PSA jet airliner, Captain McFeron inquired about the magnitude of the harm to his aircraft. Flight Officer Fox replied, “It’s severe.” He strongly declared, “We’ve been struck, sir; we have been struck!” When requested to provide more details. Three seconds later, Captain McFeron calmly informed Lindbergh Field, “Tower, we are descending, this is PSA.” Lindbergh Control replied, saying, “Understood, we will contact the necessary equipment for you.”
According to witnesses on the ground, the aircraft nose-dived “right to its wing root, trailing a plume of smoke and fire from its wing. Despite the best efforts of the crew, the cabin’s control to regain the aircraft was unsuccessful. The severing of the electrical and hydraulic lines caused a loss of anti-stalling and lifting properties of the aircraft, which were used to enhance its low-speed performance. The leading edge of the starboard wing, along with the flaps and hydraulically actuated slats, were damaged or torn away, impacting the Cessna 182. According to George Wendt, a staff photographer from San Diego County, who took the now-famous photographs, the aircraft was in such a condition that it would have been impossible for Flight PSA to reach Lindberg Field.
54, “Mother, I adore you,” a sorrowful whisper in the cabin followed by someone saying, “Hello darling,” Prepare yourself,” Captain McFeron issued his final instruction, 53 Seconds before collision, “This is the end, darling,” Captain McFeron’s final recorded radio message to Lindbergh Control was as his airplane plummeted towards the earth at a speed exceeding 300 mph.
At 09:02:07, the jetliner, after traveling approximately 3,500 feet from the initial mid-air collision point, slammed nose-first and wing-low right at an attitude of approximately 200 degrees heading on the intersection of Dwight and Nile streets in northeast San Diego, sending a shockwave that registered on the seismograph at the Natural History Museum two miles away. The explosion resulting from the impact compressed thousands of gallons of jet fuel.
“This Is Not Occurring”.
He realized that he was stepping on a mound of bodies, about twelve to ten bodies piled up, approximately half a foot high and round, with maybe thirty bodies in total. As he cleared the smoke, he noticed the height of the mound.
The ten-year veteran of SDFD, Rankin, spent the next two hours conducting additional house-to-house searches and putting out fires. As he entered the house, he stopped in his tracks, transfixed by the sight of dead bodies strung like decorations from the tall tree in front of him. His eyes closed as he thought, “This is not happening.”
Late into the evening, courageous individuals from various backgrounds including emergency personnel, civilians, military personnel, and volunteers from religious organizations were actively extinguishing fires, searching for survivors, offering prayers for the deceased, and recovering bodies. Additionally, they were responsible for preventing looters or individuals seeking souvenirs from entering the affected area. Rankin was astounded by the sheer number of these individuals, exclaiming, “Wow! Where did all these people come from?” Prior to this, Rankin took a moment to observe the still smoldering crash site behind him. Rankin encountered Smith at the end of Dwight Street while diligently carrying out his duties.
62. Some people were seen carrying armfuls of valuables, according to Robinson. They could grab anything they wanted, as reported by Bill, a spokesperson for the SDPD. While some officers said that others managed to escape the confusion, five individuals were arrested for looting. The Los Angeles Times reported conflicting accounts regarding looting at the crash site the following day.
Reports indicate that there were 63 homes damaged or looted, with no one being charged for the theft of human remains. Additionally, there were three other arrests made for removing evidence or debris from the scene of the accident. The police had made 40 arrests on the day of the incident, but failed to disperse the crowd, resulting in 43 more arrests. According to Robinson, a police officer who had been involved in transporting prisoners, he had given information to a prisoner-processing center and later recanted his statement within a month. In response to the allegations, Mayor Pete Wilson ordered his staff to investigate the situation. Furthermore, Marines who were guarding the crash site were broadcasted nationwide by a Chicago-based news company, angering the public.
“That is one of ours.”
65. That is one of ours. “Oh no! That belongs to San Diego’s airline;” he pondered, identifying the letters “PSA” on its back intake. Chief Osby was shocked to witness a massive airplane tail segment resting on the road, reaching the location before the majority of city fire departments. 64. In order to determine the circumstances, SDFD Battalion Chief Robert Osby ran seven blocks to the crash site, after establishing a fire control center at the Sav-On drug store parking lot on University Avenue and 32nd Street.
Because of the steep angle of descent and the high speed of the aircraft, the damage was confined to a relatively small area. However, the explosion caused 68 blinding explosions, causing water to react violently. This could have later sprayed the individuals who were near the burning aircraft, as several people yelled for help. The first responders, laboring in 101-degree heat, brought pitchers of iced water and covered bodies with blankets or sheets. Osby had warned that the raw aviation fuel pools or power lines that were dangerously close could down electric lines. Nyhus, the Chief Deputy of the San Diego Police Department, bravely directed civilians and officers who climbed into burning houses to look for victims. Osby was already on the scene, surprised to see a U.S. Navy firefighting crew amidst the black smoke and fires. The aircraft exploded like a hand grenade, sending out a burst of fiery debris-like shrapnel, fanning out along a 500-foot-long conical footlong lane on both sides of Boundary Street from Nile Street to Dwight Street.
They were able to keep confined fires on Dwight Street, after converging and encircling around the core fire. They went into action, laying down lines of hoses and saw the hydrants, they saw the fires. The fire crews didn’t really need orders from me — they began fighting the fires. He also didn’t want their vehicles running over any bodies strewn across the streets. Chief Osby ordered every additional fire engine company arriving to carefully proceed due to the ruptured gas and power lines, as well as the downed Streets Boundary and Nile. As the ranking firefighter, Chief Osby met the ordered additional fire engine company.
Several local television and radio crews were among them, including Joe Gillespie, the news director of radio station KSDO, and John Britton, a journalist. Meanwhile, reporters at The San Diego Evening Tribune scrambled to write a series of poignant and informative articles for the newspaper’s late edition, which later earned them the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the shocking images and reports from the world and the nation. Additionally, Hal Brown, the morning news announcer, relayed up-to-date information from the crash site to his radio audience via a two-way car radio.
Gary Jaus, one among the fifteen inexperienced SDPD recruits, expressed his astonishment at the abundance of human body parts amidst the wreckage surrounding him. Despite his prior experience at the Clairemont Mortuary, he joined hundreds of law enforcement officers in securing the perimeter of a nine-block area and aiding in the search and rescue operations. Additionally, he assisted the San Diego County Coroner’s Office in meticulously examining the wreckage for any potential evidence that could aid in identifying the victims.
Only a few bodies were recognizable as human. There were no faces on the bodies. There were few bodies to speak of—only pieces…I was no stranger to dead bodies, but I wasn’t ready to see the torso of a stewardess slammed against a car. 74
75. After a long day of collecting various objects, Cassidy said that there were too many pieces to count. It was also incredibly hot. However, he believed that other volunteers should handle the dismembered body parts with respect and care. Along with the plastic bag containing the corpse, he placed small, same-colored flags near the body parts that seemed to belong together. In order to protect themselves, the volunteers wore a pair of surgical gloves, as there was no other form of protection available. Among the civilian volunteers was George Cassity, a young sailor scheduled for deployment the following day.
The crash resulted in the death of all 135 crew members and passengers. Among those who perished were seven residents of North Park, ranging in age from 3-year-old to 82-year-old, including an 82-year-old grandmother. Additionally, the remains of the victims were scattered throughout the area, including the gymnasium of St. Augustine St. Roman Catholic High School located at Nutmeg and 33rd Streets. Instead of transporting the injured victims to the overcrowded temporary morgue, ambulances were waiting to transport them to the Southwest half-mile away at the daycare center. The temporary morgue soon became overcrowded, prompting the establishment of the Red Cross triage facility and emergency command post.
The post-mortem forensic experts identified the deceased. By nightfall, about 220 body bags were delivered to either the county morgue or private mortuaries by trucks. The numbered bags were then loaded into one of four spacious refrigerated tractor-trailer trucks parked outside. Prior to closing the zippers, priests performed prayers and applied sacred oil to the remains. Nurses at the gym numbered and cataloged the contents of each bag.
The funeral homes, whether they were located out-of-town or local, were responsible for making arrangements for the remains. In order to determine the exact cause of death for those who were killed, neighbors were interviewed, reports were examined, and the records office at the local chapter of the American Red Cross, 79, was consulted. Additionally, the “Disaster Squad” of the FBI, along with two dentists, compared the victims’ fingerprints with the fingerprint files sent from the headquarters of the American Red Cross in Washington. The forensic investigation team, which included members from the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office and the local county coroner’s staff, also played a crucial role in the investigation.
During their initial investigation, investigators confirmed that the nose landing gear of the airliner’s jet had struck a smaller aircraft before smashing into the starboard wing. The investigators discovered pieces of the embedded Cessna in the smaller aircraft. These remains were recovered and investigators combed through the Boeing 727-214, associated with the empty building at Convair Dynamics-General plant in Lindbergh Field, in collaboration with forensic investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
85 Field Lindbergh of flights continued resolutely despite the loss of 84 PSA employees. We feel like a family at PSA, and we share the concern for our regular passengers’ families first and foremost. In a subsequent press interview, President William Shimp stated that we are also concerned about the loved ones and friends of those on board Flight 182. The staff, including Assistant Financial Special Don Simonian, promptly responded to the constant stream of phone calls from people asking about the status of their loved ones or friends. Inside PSA’s headquarters building at Lindbergh Field, the staff continued to address the concerns of those calling about the status of their loved ones or friends on board Flight 182.
Seven friends and family members were killed on the devastated ground. Walker Gary Bruce lost his mother and his 3-year-old son. He was one of the surviving family members who brought a lawsuit against the PSA. Other residents of North Park also suffered the loss of their houses. The crash destroyed or damaged about 28 houses. The airline would eventually pay over $5.5 million in settlements to claimants for wrongful death as well as property damage.
Two bodies slammed into a car on Boundary Street. Some were just getting hit by bodies or debris hurtling through the air. Most of those who survived crawled out of the back windows of their burning homes. Nine people were injured in the crash. Despite blood splattered on their foreheads and hands, the 33-year-old mother and her son only suffered minor lacerations. Workers who removed a torso from the windshield of the car were shocked to see the driver, Mary Fuller, still alive.
On that day, Ranallo Father and Clifford James Father, both priests from St. Augustine High School, witnessed the horrors and were mentally shaken by the aftermath of what they saw. They, along with dozens of other responders, volunteers, clergy, firefighters, and police, were affected by the wounds of another kind. Later, Ranallo Father confessed that it was at least something they could do, even though it seemed futile. They administered the last rites together at the temporary morgue, knowing that it was a simple act of being there for the human fellows who couldn’t say goodbye to their families. The young priest said, “We can’t do it in the name of the family, but we can be given the touch of being a human fellow one last time.”
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is currently referred to as the condition that caused nightmares upon awakening or unexplained crying, experienced by many first responders in the form of bouts of melancholia, lasting for weeks and months. As stated by a uniformed serviceman who was a first responder, “Now we know what we went through in Vietnam,” as noted on the crashed website.
Years later, another initial responder, SDPD officer Bill Farrar, expressed sadness, I pass by the accident site approximately once a year.
We will never get over it. I know that there are many others who felt just like me on that helpless Monday. I will never get away and touch fresh memories. Usually, I go out and walk past the streets, sidewalks, and homes where many have died and rebuilt in the past.
95. San Diegans regarded PSA as their shared regional airline, which had many employees who personally worked with at least one person on Flight 182. The depression and shock of losing PSA also affected regular customers and employees, casting a cloud over them.
Eyewitnesses who witnessed the midair collision and the monstrous explosion that produced a towering column of black smoke saw the aircraft falling and the vivid images of the crash. Additionally, those who were unable to turn away were also affected by the incident.
The NTSB concluded in their one-year investigation that the mid-air collision was primarily the responsibility of the cabin crew of the PSA 182, as Lindbergh Control had not been notified of the lost contact with the Cessna N7711G, which led to the crash. Presently, Lindbergh Field is still located in its original location, and Mayor Pete Wilson, including his opponents, countered the demand of many people to move the airport to a less populated area, anticipating that increased air traffic would result in an even greater disaster. This reignited the often-acrimonious debate over the location of the worst commercial aviation crash in United States history.
The Air Traffic Control and radar system are believed to have a subconscious belief that they would protect them from the catastrophic midair collision. Olcott W. J. Proposed another significant factor that the flight crew of PSA airline had. They argued that the frequent production of erroneous identification by air traffic controllers often resulted in the approach of “see-and-avoid” by pilots. However, the NTSB was compelled to reopen the case due to pressure from the airline pilot association and the flight crew, for example, the Air Line Pilots Association.
The incorrect resolution of the conflict alert notification was observed. They also observed the lack of communication to the flight crew regarding the movement direction of Cessna N7711G. These factors encompassed the utilization of visual separation procedures by the nearby air traffic controllers despite the availability of radar, and a revised NTSB 1982 report mentioned additional elements that played a role in the accident, although it did not clear the PSA flight crew of responsibility.
PSA’s scheduling of work was not successful in improving conditions for pilots, as evidenced by the strike on day 50. Chapman, a veteran pilot with 14 years of experience, filed a lawsuit against PSA in 1981, claiming wrongful termination and emotional distress after being fired for reporting the difficult working conditions that likely contributed most to the mental and physical impairment of the flight crew. The NTSB had previously ignored Chapman’s claim that fatigue was a factor in the crash, further fueling his frustration with the airline. The former PSA pilot’s report was conspicuously absent from the investigation.
Chapman, Holley, Price, and others believed that the deaths of 143 people were preventable, as evidence cited by Captain McFeron before taking off from Los Angeles suggested that poor shift scheduling and chronic nutritional and sleep deprivation resulted in the detrimental effects of work on the mind. At the International Symposium on Work Shift and Night in Kyoto, Japan in 1982, scientists who studied the biological effects of work, including Holley and Professor Price J. W., Presented a treatise supporting the case of pilot fatigue. Additionally, biologists from San Jose State University also supported the argument.
Following the crash of PSA Flight 182, air traffic controllers at Lindbergh Field and other national airports began using mandatory ground-based positive radar control to monitor and direct departing and approaching aircraft. This new procedure replaced the previous reliance on pilots’ use of the flawed “see and avoid” method. Additionally, a Terminal Radar Service Area was promptly implemented around Lindbergh Field, and similar upgrades were made at other national airports. The tragic accident prompted immediate and long-term enhancements to local and national air traffic control procedures, as is often the case with aviation-related accidents.
The aircraft controllers at both facilities were now able to view the same radar picture through transponders, which identified the heading and altitude of each flight. Once the aircraft got below 2,500 feet at Lindbergh Field’s tower control, all landing approach control procedures would be taken over by San Diego’s Miramar Approach Control. Within the 30-mile diameter zone between 2,500 and 12,500 feet altitude, Miramar Approach Control would be responsible for all aircraft flying within this invisible zone. To make them clearly visible on the radar screens of ground controllers, all flying aircraft within Lindbergh Field would be equipped with an operating on-board transponder by placing this designation over the field. In the aftermath of a midair collision over New York City in 1960, several airports created designated Class B airspace to provide better control and separation in high traffic areas. On May 15, 1980, the FAA established Class B airspace over Lindbergh Field.
Activities such as 108 training pilot control and ILS facilitation were upgraded at smaller airfields like Palomar McClellan Airport, Carlsbad’s Gillespie Field, El Cajon’s Montgomery Field, and Brown Field in San Diego. These airfields were relegated to serve as “feeder” airfields for larger ones. To prevent the recurrence of mid-air collisions, the FAA banned all non-landing practice ILS for aircraft not certified with ILScertification in Class B airspace. This ban applies to all major airfields in San Diego and any other US airspace.
Recommendations for avoidance maneuvers are also suggested. In 1987, the current TCAS system was introduced, which automatically provides pilots with immediate and direct knowledge of potential mid-air collisions. This system is installed on most commercial cargo and passenger airplanes, utilizing computers, transponders, altimeters, encoding sensors, beacon radar, and other on-board equipment. The earlier versions of TCAS were deemed impractical due to their complexity. The development of modern aircraft Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) was accelerated after the collision of two commercial airliners over the Grand Canyon in June 30, 1956. Arguably, one of the most historically significant aftereffects of this collision was the mid-air collision between a private aircraft and an Aeroméxico jetliner over Cerritos in 1986, which resembled the crash of Flight 182 PSA.
Also, the development of anticollision technology played a role in the crash of PSA Flight 182. In 1991, a local San Diego firm introduced and developed similar anti-collision technology for automobiles, known as Vehicle Intelligent Systems Highway. This technology, also known as On-Board Vehicle Radar (VORAD), functions similarly to a police radar gun. If a vehicle gets too close to obstacles ahead, the system continuously scans for low-output microwave signals, like a scout, emitting from the approaching vehicle. If the vehicle gets too close, the system automatically engages the vehicle’s braking system, thereby avoiding a dangerous collision. First installed in Greyhound buses, this system has become a standard safety component in all modern domestic and foreign-made automobiles operating within the United States as of 1992.
Responders and surviving family members hesitate to attend impromptu gatherings, but some eyewitnesses, as well as those who live on Dwight and Nile Streets, often leave flowers, signs, or chalk-colored scrawls of the crash victims’ names on the sidewalk corner. This is usually done near the anniversary date of September 25th. The neighborhood has been rebuilt, but it still looks different from how it used to be. Stanley Cichy, a resident of Surviving Park, reports that going back to the crash site in North Park is difficult for many people. Knowing that the changes made after the mid-air collision on September 25th, 1978, may have contributed to saving thousands of lives offers some solace to those who are still emotionally scarred by the loss of their friends and family on that day.
There is no memorial on Dwight Street to honor the volunteers, responders, and first victims of the crash. The trauma that some will never recover from could be acknowledged and possibly reduced, at the very least, by having a memorial. If a memorial is to be built in the future, it should not intrude upon the peaceful and unassuming streetscape. The original location of the PSA headquarters building, which was purchased by USAir in 1987, has been removed from the entrance near Harbor Drive. However, one museum, The Museum of Air & Space, has rescued and displayed large bronze plaques from the PSA exhibit at Balboa Park’s San Diego. The furthest two plaques are located away from the crash site, while the closest one sits in front of a small plaque in the memorial tree planted outside the North Park library branch. There are three bronze memorial plaques dedicated to the crash victims, located at a distance from the crash site.