On This Day in History: Carnage in the Skies Over San Diego! - LaJolla.com

On This Day in History: Carnage in the Skies Over San Diego!

Forty-three years ago today, two planes collided in the air space over North Park. The aftermath was devastating.

September 25th is a sad day in California history. 

In 1978, September 25th fell on a Monday. Pacific Southwest Airlines flight 182 collided midair with a private Cessna.

Witnesses described the “screaming nosedive” of the airliner and the ensuing “inferno” of homes engulfed in flames. Large chunks of shrapnel also fell from the sky. In the end, 153 people were dead.

The tragedy was accidental, and all pilots involved followed orders and directives right up to the crash. The only issue, yet nothing illegal, was that the private jet had a “hood” that impeded the pilot’s vision.

From the radio transmission log to Los Angeles Air Control,  Cessna 172 thought PSA 182 was behind them, when in fact, the commercial airliner was right in front and above them, descending rapidly. 

Due to the hood and small size of the private jet, both airliners were in a visually challenging situation. Plus, the fact that Cessna 172 veered slightly to the east, off-course, was the culmination that created the perfect storm.

The unfortunate nature of this situation had devastating consequences. PSA 182 eventually hit Cessna 172 during its descent. The fireball that ensued due to the gas tank igniting killed everyone onboard near-instantaneously. Then, the debris from the two planes crashed in the middle of a North Park, destroying 22 homes and killing seven people on the ground.

While this is a horrific tragedy, it is important to remember events that had a profound and devastating effect on our community, especially in local history. After all, the events of that day, resulting from a few minutes of error, have helped shape the aviation safety and California communities we experience today. 

Note: Banner photo courtesy of Jon Proctor via Wikipedia. It’s a Boeing 727-214, Pacific Southwest Airlines, similar to the one that crashed on this day in history.

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