- A Pacific Southwest Airlines jet collided in mid-air with a small Cessna over San Diego, killing 153 people on September 25, 1978. Debris from the planes fell into a populous neighborhood and caused extensive damage on the ground.
David Lee Boswell and his instructor, Martin Kazy, were in the process of a flying lesson in a single-engine Cessna 172 on the morning of September 25, practicing approaches at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field Airport. After two successful passes, Boswell pointed the Cessna toward Montgomery Field airport northeast of San Diego.
At the same time, Pacific Southwest Flight 182 was approaching San Diego. The plane, a Boeing 727, was carrying 144 passengers and crew members from Sacramento after a stopover in Los Angeles.
Although air traffic controllers at Lindbergh had told Boswell to keep the Cessna below 3,500 feet altitude while flying northeast, the Cessna did not comply and changed course without informing controllers.
The pilots of Flight 182 could see the Cessna clearly at 9 a.m., but soon lost sight of it and did not report it to controllers. Meanwhile, the conflict alert system began flashing at the air traffic control center. However, because the alert system triggered so frequently on false alarms, it was ignored. The controllers believed that the 727 pilots had the Cessna in sight. Within a minute, the planes collided.
The 727’s fuel exploded in a huge ball of fire upon impact. A witness on the ground reported that he saw her “baked apples and oranges on the trees.”
The planes plummeted directly into San Diego’s North Park neighborhood, destroying 22 homes and killing seven people on the ground. All 144 people on the 727 were killed, as were the two Cessna pilots.