PSA Flight 182: Disaster over San Diego (1978)

It was the morning of Monday, September 25, 1978 in San Diego California. PSA (Pacific Southwest Airlines) Flight 182 was just leaving Sacramento for its final destination: San Diego. Captain James McFerron and First Officer Robert Fox along with 5 other crew members were about to embark on what they thought was going to be a normal flight, a flight that they had made hundreds of times. How wrong they were.

PSA crash September 25, 1978. Photograph taken by Hans Wendt who has granted U-T permission to reuse (as of September 1999). U-T use only, NO SALES

It was 8:34am when Flight 182 departed LAX for San Diego with 128 passengers on board, including 29 PSA employees. At a minute before 9:00 am, PSA flight 189 was alerted crew was alerted by ground controller that a small Cessna 172 Skyhawk aircraft was in its close proximity.

The Cessna was being flown by Martin Kazy Jr., 32 and David Boswell, 35. They had departed from an adjacent airstrip called Montgomery Field, which was away from San Diego’s Lindbergh field where PSA 182 was on approach. The pilots of the Cessna blew their flight plan and veered directly into the landing pattern in front of the approaching Boeing PSA flight. What the pilots of PSA 182 didn’t realize was that they were right on top of the Cessna.


The pilot’s conversation with the tower:

09:00:38 Lindbergh tower PSA one eighty-two, Lindbergh tower, ah, traffic twelve o’clock one mile a Cessna.
09:00:41 First officer Flaps five.
09:00:42 Captain Is that the one (we’re) looking at?
09:00:43 First officer Yeah, but I don’t see him now.
09:00:44 Captain (to Lindbergh tower) Okay, we had it there a minute ago.
09:00:47 Lindbergh tower One eighty-two, roger.
09:00:50 Captain (to Lindbergh tower) I think he’s pass(ed) off to our right.
09:00:51 Lindbergh tower Yeah.
09:00:52 Captain He was right over here a minute ago.
09:00:53 First officer Yeah.
09:01:07 Lindbergh tower PSA one eighty-two, cleared to land.
09:01:08 Captain (to Lindbergh tower) One eighty-two’s cleared to land.
09:01:11 First officer Are we clear of that Cessna?
09:01:13 Flight engineer Suppose to be
09:01:14 Captain I guess
09:01:15 First officer (Fifteen)
09:01:20 Off-duty captain I hope
09:01:21 Captain Oh yeah, before we turned downwind,
I saw him at about one o’clock,
probably behind us now

PSA Flight 182 hit the Cessna, which was directly below it and out of the pilots sight-line while in a landing pattern at 2,600 feet. PSA 182’s right wing exploded upon contact making the plane unresponsive and out of control. It rapidly made a sharp right bank and then the fuel tank inside caught fire.

Flight 182 crashed into a small community of Spanish style homes at a 300 mph at 09:02:07 killing 144 people total making it California’s deadliest plane crash ever.