Nation: Death over San Diego

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PSA Flight 182 left Los Angeles at 8:30 a.m., flying southward along the Pacific, tracked first by radar controllers at Los Angeles, then by similar Federal Aviation Administration controllers at Miramar Naval Air Station near San Diego. A couple of miles after the PSA plane turned east over Mission Bay, the controllers at Miramar passed control to the Lindbergh tower. The tower assigned Runway 27 for landing. That would require the 727 to continue eastward, flying parallel to the runway, then turn south and finally back toward the west for the touchdown.

In the Cessna at 8:55 a.m., Boswell was cleared to make his instrument approach on Runway 9. He did so, then pulled up instead of landing, just as planned. At 8:58, the Cessna asked the Miramar center, which had taken over control of the small plane, for permission to circle for a second, similar practice pass. Permission was granted. The. Cessna was to head east-northeast (70°) for about ten miles and climb to 3,500 ft. before circling west. The Cessna pilots followed instructions, heading directly into the glare of the morning sun.

The big 727 was still heading east as First Officer Robert E. Fox lowered the craft's wing flaps to slow it to 170 m.p.h. He dropped the landing gear and pulled the plane's nose up, in preparation for banking sharply to the right.

Then came a crucial series of radio communications on two separate channels. The PSA cockpit crew could monitor both the Miramar frequency and that of the Lindbergh tower. The Cessna pilots were tuned only to Miramar. Miramar clearly warned the airliner about the Cessna. The sequence:

08:59:30. Miramar to PSA: "Traffic 12 o'clock [dead ahead]. One mile, northbound."

PSA: "We're looking." 08:59:40. Miramar to PSA: "Additional traffic 12 o'clock three miles north of field, northeast-bound Cessna 172 climbing out of 1400 [altitude in feet]."

PSA: "O.K., we got that one."

09:00:15. Miramar to PSA: "Traffic 12 o'clock three miles out of 1700."

PSA: "Traffic in sight."

09:00:30. Miramar to Cessna: "Traffic 6 o'clock [directly to rear of Cessna] two miles eastbound. PSA jet inbound to Lindbergh out of 3200. Has you in sight."

Cessna: Response unintelligible.

09:00:40. Lindbergh to PSA: "Traffic 12 o'clock one mile. A Cessna."

PSA: "O.K. We had him a minute ago."

Lindbergh: "Roger."

PSA: "I think he passed off to our right."

09:01:45. Miramar to Cessna: "Traffic in your vicinity is a PSA jet. Has you in sight. He is descending toward Lindbergh."

Cessna: No response.

The planes had just collided.

The airliner, descending and beginning to turn, had overtaken the small, ascending craft from the rear. The 727's nose wheel hooked the Cessna and flipped the light plane against the airliner's lowered right wing. Both planes plunged toward the earth.

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