Skip to comments.Photographer Recalls PSA Crash 30-Years Ago (Sept. 25, 1978)
Posted on 09/25/2008 12:27:15 AM PDT by South40
SAN DIEGO -- It was the defining image of an historic tragedy.
10News Digital Correspondent, Ron Tuatagaloa, spoke to the man who captured two incredible images 30-years ago.
The eyes of Hans Wendt have seen much during his long career as a photographer. But nothing could prepare him for September 25, 1978. He was taking pictures for the county on University and Boundary.
We heard this explosion and this crash in the air and looked up. I saw the PSA airliner first. I never saw the little Cessna. I got two shots of the PSA airliner crashing, said Wendt in an interview Wednesday.
A lifelong aviation buff and the son of a military pilot, Wendt knew the plane was doomed.
I could see a big chunk of the leading edge of the wing was taken out and I knew that the plane couldn't do anything but crash. I didn't think anyone could survive a crash like that. And they didn't, Wendt recalled.
It was the deadliest aviation disaster in U.S. history at the time. And at the right place and right time, Wendt snapped two pristine shots of the airliner before impact. He was shocked by the lack of interest in the pictures from local media.
Only one guy was interested and his newspaper got the 24-hour exclusive on the picture. All this happened before anyone saw the picture, Wendt told 10News.
Millions have seen the pictures now. They've brought Wendt fame, a modest fortune, and a permanent place in photographic history. But he said he won't mind when that spotlight dims.
I like to not think about it. I keep hoping that everything's over with that I don't have to worry about it anymore. But that doesn't seem to be happening, does it? Here you are, Wendt said.
PSA Flight 182 with its wing on fire plummets toward North Park after colliding with a Cessna 172
on September 25, 1978. Photograph taken by Hans Wendt. Wendt was a county photographer
when he caught this image while covering a press conference in the area.
The airliner just before it crashed into the San Diego neighborhood of North Park. This was one of two
photos shot by Hans Wendt, a County photographer at the time of the crash.
A plume of smoke rises from North Park after the crash of PSA flight 182.
Aerial photos of the crash site show smoke and fire rising from the wreckage
Aerial photos of the crash site show smoke and fire rising from the wreckage.
144 people died in the worst air disaster in California history When PSA flight 182 collided with a Cessna
172 and crashed into North Park.
Many more images here
Remember the accident all too well. I was going to Basic Electricity and Electronics there at NTC. Black cloud of death up beyond Rosencrans. Was a terrible day for American Aviation.
Controllers, however, stated that, since 182 had reported having the traffic in sight, they did not feel necessary to issue altitude restrictions to either aircraft. In listening to the conversation between controllers and 182, it is unclear what First Officer Fox meant when he replied "OK-we've got that other 12." Nonetheless, McFeron did, at one point, reply that the 172 was in sight. Analysis of the CVR showed that the crew did not maintain visual contact with the aircraft and may not have ever had it in sight. Just a few moments before impact, McFeron asked the crew "Are we clear of that Cessna?" to which Whane replied "Supposed to be!" "I hope!" McFeron said, followed by "Yeah-before we turned downwind, I saw him about one o'clock-probably behind us now.
" Six seconds before impact, Fox said "There's one underneath...I was looking at that inbound there." These factors caused the NTSB to to revise it rulings, finding both crew error and ATC failure as probable cause.
If memory serves me right, there was a lot of speculation that the pilot had on a helmet to imitate limited visibility for some kind of flight rating, while he was flying with a flight instructor...
The Cessna had two experienced pilots on board one who was at the time of the accident practicing ILS approaches under the instruction of the other. Don't know that they ever found the alleged helmet in the wreckage, though.
This accident—along with one where a British Airways Trident 1E and a Yugoslavian DC-9 collided mid-air in Yugoslavia a few years earlier and the collision between an Aeromexico DC-9 and a small private plane eight years later—was the thing that spurred the development of TCAS equipment to warn the flight crew of imminent collisions.
What did PSA stand for?
Ask your prostate...
Pacific Southwest Airlines
The plane with the smile.
Had a varied fleet of DC-9's, 727's and even L-1011's.
And they had the best looking stewardesses with imaginative uniforms.
What a sad day that was. I was working for Logicon when it was in small offices in Sorrento Valley and saw the smoke on my way to work. We had just had our new Lanier Word Processing machines delivered the week before and were set for training that morning. But the training was delayed because no one could concentrate.
All I can think of when I look at those pictures is, those poor people. Life is such a fragile thing.
I remember it well, too.
Man, 30 years, already? I’m getting old.
We lived near the North Park area when this happened. I vividly recall the live news on the scene video at the site. Very grim and gruesome (Channel 10 later got called on the carpet for showing that live footage, IIRC.). My boss lost her husband on that flight. I just can’t comprehend the anguish, even to this day.
I’ve got my own strange tales about that day, but that’s for another time, another place.
Seeing those pics takes me right back there to that day-
and it’s not a good feeling.
I remember that day. Was 3 miles west of the impact.
Sounded and felt like a major bomb was dropped.
Could smell the result of all that happened.
Just a really sad day.
I’m a woman so that might be difficult :-)
I didn't hear it or see it. But as a recent transplant to SD (I grew up in FL) I recall very well how it affected the community and others I knew.
I was in Orange County (Huntington Beach) in August of 1986, the day the Aero-Mexico plane crashed in Cerritos. I didn't see that one either as I was in the middle of a riot at the OP surfing contest.
It seems like a few yrs. ago but when you see the photos and film, a very long time ago.