Pilot in fatal crash in California was repeatedly warned to climb
The air traffic controller repeated the warnings to the pilot more than half a dozen times. Stop drifting, stay on course and make a terrifying, urgent plea: “Low altitude alarm, get on immediately, board the plane.”
Instead, the twin-engine plane plowed into suburban San Diego, killing the pilot and a delivery driver on the ground, and burning homes. Now federal investigators must try to find out what caused the crash that left a shocked and damaged neighborhood.
The Cessna 340 crashed in Santee Monday afternoon and cut off a UPS van as it prepared to land at Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in San Diego.
An elderly couple was burned when their home went up in flames. Neighbors helped the woman out of a window. Nearly a dozen other homes in the eastern suburb of San Diego were damaged.
The plane was owned and piloted by Dr. Sugata Das, a cardiologist who worked in Yuma, Arizona and commuted to his San Diego home, according to the website of a nonprofit charity he ran, the Power of Love Foundation.
On a recording from LiveATC, a website that monitors and publishes flight communications, an air traffic controller that repeatedly warns that it must climb in altitude. He also warned that a C-130, a large military transport aircraft, was overhead and could cause turbulence.
That replied that he was aware of it.
Later you can hear the controller say: “Of course it looks like you are drifting properly, are you correcting it?”
“Correct,” replies Das.
That asks if he’s cleared for the runway. The controller says âI need you to flyâ and warns him that he is going too deep.
That tells him he’s climbing. The controller tells him to climb again and Das says he is going up.
“Okay. It looks like you’re dismounting, sir. I need to make sure you are climbing, not dismounting,” the controller says.
Then the controller speaks with greater urgency.
“Low altitude alarm, climb immediately, get on the plane,” he says. “Please get on the plane.”
The air traffic controller repeatedly told the plane to climb to 1,524 meters and when it stayed at 457 meters the air traffic controller warned, “You appear to be descending again, sir.”
There is no response.
An NTSB investigator arrived at the crash site Tuesday morning and will review radar data, weather information, air traffic control communications, aircraft maintenance records and the pilot’s medical records, agency spokeswoman Jennifer Gabris said.
Al Diehl, a former National Transportation Safety Board investigator, said the tape showed the pilot tried to handle a major distraction or major emergency himself – a violation of a basic rule that airmen should always tell air traffic controllers everything.
âThe first thing you do in an emergency is call, climb and confess – and he didn’t do any of the three,â said Diehl. “These are very basic rules that flight instructors tell their students.”
Diehl, who helped design a Cessna cockpit, said the aircraft had a complex system that could lead to fatal errors.
Clouds and windy weather could make the plane’s ability to handle difficult, Diehl said. Investigators will also look to see if there might have been a medical emergency, which an autopsy is supposed to reveal.
Diehl noticed that the plane made a sweeping right turn at the last minute, as if it wanted to return to another airport that was closer because something was wrong. Air traffic control did not mention that.
Robert Katz, a certified flight instructor, said he believed this was “completely disoriented”. Katz said the clouds were low enough that the pilot had to use an instrument landing system on approach.
“He doesn’t know which way is up,” Katz told CBS8 in San Diego.
That grew up on the west coast of India and studied medicine at the University of Pune. He went to Yuma in 2004 and started a cardiovascular practice, according to the Power of Love Foundation. He leaves behind a wife and two sons.
UPS driver Steve Krueger, 61, was living in the Ocean Beach neighborhood of Ocean Beach and was on his regular route when he was killed. He planned to retire on October 22nd, said his brother Jeffrey Krueger.
His brother said he was immensely popular with his customers.
“He was very fond of sweets at Christmas and they always bombarded him with stuff,” he told KNSD-TV. âThey appreciated him very much and he always had fun with them. He was that type of guy. “
“He was very, you have to be positive,” said Jeff Kreuger. âThings are getting better and better and don’t take life so seriously that it brings you down. Have fun with things. “
Krueger also enjoyed skiing and other sports. He had bought a house near Mammoth Lakes.
Krueger sent pictures of himself in his brown uniform and with a UPS package while waterskiing and posing with the mammoth mascot for the Mammoth Mountain ski area, his brother said.
On Tuesday, UPS observed a minute’s silence in Krueger’s honor, and the flag outside a UPS service center in San Diego was lowered to half the staff.
“Those who knew Steve said he was proud of his work,” a company statement said. “And his positive attitude and happy laugh made the toughest days a little easier.”