Bad Weekend in San Diego

This past weekend saw two plane crashes involving Cessna 172s operating to or from my home base, Montgomery Field in San Diego.

The first one was on Friday when a plane en route from San Diego to French Valley (Temecula) was observed going down in the ocean about 30 miles west of Oceanside. After an extensive search, no body was found although plenty of debris from the plane was evident. Much has been made that the pilot was a “novice” and that he was not talking to any ATC facility once off the ground. This accident baffles me since if you look at a map of the area it should be impossible to wrongly navigate this trip.

oceanside airport - Google Maps

First this is a trip that student pilots make a lot during training out of MYF so the routes to it should be very well known. But mostly, it is easy because you just follow the coast. Weather was VFR so no reason why he could not see the land. To be so far off the coast makes me wonder if there was something more going on for the pilot to be so distracted to be flying in the opposite direction with such obvious navigational clues. Sad for a life to be lost, and for the flying club that lost one of it’s rental fleet.

The second accident occurred Saturday night when another 172 crash-landed just off Interstate-5 near Camp Pendleton (just north of Ocenaside) on its way from Orange County airport to KMYF. The three people on board suffered a range of injuries, at least two of them are still in hospital. According to an eye witness report the pilot stated that the engine had quit and he had been unable to restart it. Faced with a choice of the freeway or the beach the pilot tried for the latter and hit an unseen ravine. Not knowing where the engine out happened but in daylight the pilot may well have been able to see many places around that would have made decent landing strips. Hopefully all the people will recover well.