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Many passengers arose as early as 5:30 a.m. in the Sacramento area to catch PSA Flight 182, a popular 7 a.m. commuter run for state officials and businessmen with errands in the California capital, Los Angeles or San Diego. With Captain McFeron, 45, a 17-year veteran PSA pilot with 14,382 flying hours in his log, at the controls, the flight landed uneventfully in Los Angeles with its 130 passengers. There 102 lucky travelers got off, but an unfortunate 100 boarded the plane for its 35-minute southward leg to San Diego. In addition to a crew of three officers and four flight attendants, the flight carried 31 other PSA employees, some with business at PSA's San Diego headquarters, others returning to their homes there from earlier flights.
While PSA 182 was on the ground in Los Angeles, Martin Kazy Jr., 32, a flight instructor with 5,000 hours of experience, got into a yellow-striped Cessna 172 owned by Gibbs Flite Center at Montgomery Field, eleven miles northeast of Lindbergh Field. Kazy, who had moved to California last year from Youngstown, Ohio, had just obtained a new job flying charter aircraft throughout the West and had asked his fiancéee, Jennifer Lefler, 25, also a flyer, to travel with him as copilot. One of his last scheduled assignments as an instructor was last week's flight. With him was Marine Sergeant David Lee Boswell, 35, who held a commercial pilot's license but wanted to upgrade his certificate by meeting the requirements for instrument flight training. He had already spent 48 hours in flying under instrument rules, as well as more than 400 under visible flight rules. Boswell's friends believe he had hoped to pursue a flying career, perhaps after retiring from the Marines in 1982 with 20 years of service.
The two took off at 8:15 a.m., warmed by the bright sun. Hazy visibility was a welcome ten miles. As the plane headed for Lindbergh Field, Instructor Kazy sat in the right front seat of the four-seater, Boswell in the left. They received permission from the Lindbergh tower to make a practice approach under instrument conditions, since Lindbergh is the only airport in the area with the sophisticated electronics for guiding instrument flights. As they circled to await the assigned time for their training maneuver, a mild Santa Ana wind was blowing off the hot, dry desert out of the east, contrary to the normal prevailing winds off the Pacific. To aid the light craft, the tower gave approval for it to use Runway 9 (the designation for a runway heading of 90°, or due east). Commercial flights, not affected by the light wind, were using the same runway but in the opposite direction (designated Runway 27, short for 270°). For the practice run, Boswell put on special goggles, obstructing his view of the sky but permitting him to see his lighted instrument panel. Kazy had full visibility and sat at dual controls so he could take over the Cessna at any sign of danger.