"PSA one eighty-two, traffic twelve o'clock, one mile northbound."

"We're looking."

"PSA one eighty-two, additional traffic's, ah, twelve o'clock, three miles just north of the field northwest bound, a Cessna one seventy-two climbing VFR out of one thousand four hundred."

"Okay, we've got that other twelve."

"Cessna seven-seven-one-one-golf, San Diego departure radar contact, maintain VFR conditions at or below three thousand five hundred, fly heading zero-seven-zero, vector final approach course, PSA one eighty-two, traffic's at twelve o'clock, three miles out of one thousand seven hundred."

"Traffic in sight."

These words were spoken just before 9:00 AM on a hot Monday morning twenty-five years ago September 25, 1978. A Pacific Southwest Airlines Boeing 727, aircraft identification N533PS, was en route from Sacramento to San Diego. A Cessna 172, aircraft identification N7711G, was shooting missed approaches at Lindbergh Field.

Capt. James McFeron was in command of PSA Flight 182 assisted by First Officer Robert Fox and Flight Engineer Martin Wahne. David Lee Boswell was in the Cessna taking instrument flying lessons from his instructor, Martin Kazy. I was a six-year San Diego police officer on my way to downtown court. The region was in the middle of a Santa Ana heat wave.

Moments later, after being cleared to land on runway 27 at Lindbergh, the final sounds came from the PSA cockpit.

"Are we clear of that Cessna?"

"Suppose to be."

"I guess."

"I hope."

"Oh yeah, before we turned downwind, I saw him about one o'clock, probably behind us now."

"There's one underneath."

"I was looking at that inbound there."



[sound of impact]

"Easy baby, easy baby."

"What have we got here?"

"It's bad."

"We're hit man, we are hit."

"Tower, we're going down, this is PSA."

"Okay, we'll call the equipment for you."

[sound of stall warning]

[end of recording]

As I drove west toward 801 W. Market, I heard fire engine sirens and saw thick black smoke coming from the east. I had no idea what was burning. In the meantime officers begin to report in on the different police radio frequencies. Officer John Haeussinger in Unit 123D (Tierra Santa) reported that a huge airliner was on fire and going down in Mission Hills.

One reported a plane crash near 70th and El Cajon. John DeLoach in Unit 53C had it dead on saying that he'd just observed a PSA jetliner go down near University and Felton.

Billie Crow was working the radio. One could not have chosen a better dispatcher for such a situation. Needless to say, it was chaotic. In the chaos Billie misunderstood the location and repeated Falcon Street. I don't think it mattered. The smoke could be seen from throughout the city.
Officers streamed into the area.

I arrived at the patio and was immediately directed by the Watch Commander to continue to the courthouse and summon every police officer I could find. I did so and then headed out to the crash scene. I approached from the south and parked at the entrance to the east alley of Felton at Myrtle. I walked north in the alley into the firestorm that was consuming a full block of homes.

There were police officers, firefighters, and citizens everywhere.

There were pieces of aircraft. There were pieces of humans. They were on the ground, on vehicles, and in the trees. High in a tree along Boundary I saw an intact torso wearing a PSA pilot's uniform. A flight attendant's body had crashed through the windshield of a moving vehicle causing its driver and her child to be hysterical. Another body had landed in the bedroom of a home. The elderly resident heard the crash believing it to be an earthquake. He entered the bedroom and thought he'd found his dead wife.

I searched for someone to provide assistance to. The SDPD had ambulances then. We all knew Advanced First Aid and regularly used it. I walked through the carnage and found nothing but countless body parts. Like all experienced police officers, I was used to arriving at a scene and turning disorganized chaos back into calm normalcy. I found myself almost in a daze. There was absolutely nothing I could do. There were no injured people. There was just widespread death and destruction.

Sgt. Frank Kral arrived to establish and coordinate arriving ambulances and a triage area. There were no living victims to attend to.

Officers began to remove unauthorized people from the area. We set up an inner and outer perimeter. Reports began to arrive of looting. We dealt with the many representatives of the media. Virtually the entire police department including recruits from the academy and officers from most nearby agencies assembled at St. Augustine High School. The SWAT team was assembled. The sheriff's department sent ASTREA (there was no ABLE) to assist with aerial supervision.

After many hours, the fires were out. The coroner's office recruited assistance from other counties. The task of identifying and removing hundreds of body parts began. I was assigned to be part of the inner perimeter for the remainder of the week. The efforts of all concerned were hampered by the insufferable heat of the Santa Ana condition.

The Cessna had fallen several blocks away near 32nd and Lincoln Ave. Its plummet to earth was captured by Channel 39 cameraman Steve Howell.
Two photographs of the burning 727 were taken by Hans Wendt who was working for the County and assigned to an event at the Go-Lo gas station at Boundary and University. Those photographs preserved the last moments of PSA 182 as it rolled to the right, its starboard wing ablaze while its crew tried valiantly to save their aircraft and its human cargo.

I drive by the crash location about once a year. I usually get out and walk past the rebuilt homes and past the sidewalks and streets where so many died. I get in fresh touch with memories that will never go away. I know that there are many others, just like me, who felt so helpless that Monday. We will never get over it.