Mid-Air of PSA Flight 182 and its Impacts on U.S. Aviation
Utah Valley University
This paper reviews the tragic mid-air crash of PSA flight 182 and Cessna N7711G a Cessna 172 over San Diego and its resulting FAA rules and regulation changes, and their affect on the U.S. aviation industry. PSA Flight 182’s mid-air resulted in the most sweeping FAA changes to airspace to date. The FAA rules and regulation changes was a success in preventing similar mid-airs of this type.
On September 25, 1978, I was a 16-year-old inspiring young pilot going to high school within 10 miles of San Diego’s Lindbergh International Airport. It was about nine a.m. and clear skies when I noticed a large towering black cloud of smoke to the northwest. Minutes later, our High School Teacher informed us that two planes just collided over downtown San Diego. Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) flight 182, a Boeing 727-214 carrying 135 passengers collided with a Cessna 172 with two on board crashed 3 miles northeast of Lindbergh field over the San Diego community of North Park. PSA flight 182 originated as a routine regularly scheduled early flight from Sacramento International with 35 PSA employees on board deadheading to San Diego. PSA flight 182 made a brief stop over at Los Angeles International before continuing on to San Diego Lindbergh (NTSB).
PSA flight 182 was on a visual extended right downwind leg for runway 27 entering from Mission Bay (MZB) VORTAC and Cessna N7711G a Cessna 172M with an Instructor and licensed private pilot student practicing ILS approaches to runway 9 at Lindbergh, since Lindbergh was the only airport in the area equipped with an ILS at the time (University of Chicago Press). The Cessna 172 just completed their second ILS approach and departed towards the northeast heading back to their home base of Montgomery Field. PSA flight 182 starting to make a descending right turn to base descended upon the Cessna impacting the right wing of the Boeing 727 and striking the nose and cockpit area of the Cessna causing it to brake apart and explode in-flight. PSA flight 182 suffered severe damage to its right wing rendering it virtually uncontrollable causing it to crash in a fire ball at a 50-degree right bank with a severe nose down attitude (Super70s.com) . The two main debris fields came to rest about 3,500 feet apart engulfing the neighborhood of North Park in fire and destroying about two dozen homes.
PSA flight 182 was the worst aviation crash in history to that date and is still California’s worst to date killing 144 people, seven of which were on the ground and destroying or damaging 22 homes. According to the National Transportation Safety Board’s report, there were several mistakes that led up to and contributed to the mid-air collision, which could have been avoided. Upon contacting San Diego Approach Control PSA, flight 182 was cleared for a visual to runway 29 with unknown traffic at twelve o’clock. The PSA aircrew initially was unable to make visual contact with the unknown traffic when approach again called out additional traffic at one O’clock a Cessna 172 three miles north of the field northeast bound out of 1,400 feet. Initially the PSA aircrew replied to approach that they had additional traffic in sight, approach then issued PSA a visual separation clearance (Macpherson). However, it was later discovered according to cockpit tapes what was really going on was confusion among the PSA aircrew as to weather they ever had the Cessna in sight. They had lost sight of the Cessna and a discussion broke out in the PSA cockpit as to weather the Cessna had passed below and off their right wing prior to the Boeing starting their right turn to base. The PSA aircrew failed to let approach control know that they had lost visual contact with the Cessna or was not sure. PSA flight 182 started...