Flight instructor – NBC 7 San Diego


What there is to know

  • On October 11, 2021, a medic piloting a twin-engine Cessna C340 crashed around 12:15 p.m. in a neighborhood in Santee, eastern San Diego County, destroying two homes and a UPS truck.
  • The plane was heading for San Diego from Yuma, Arizona; according to its flight path it was supposed to land at the Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in Kearny Mesa but never made it
  • At least two people were killed in the fatal plane crash: the pilot, Dr Sugata Das, and the driver of the UPS truck, Steve krueger

It will likely be weeks, if not months, before residents of Santee find out what happened in the skies of this East County town on Monday, but a review of official records and a discussion with an instructor from Local theft can offer clues to the cause of the fatal crash. .

Besides, it will be some time before there is official confirmation of who was killed in the plane piloted by Dr. Saguta Das. County Information Officer Chuck Westerheide told NBC 7 on Tuesday that official ID is unlikely to come out for a few weeks.

Dr Sugata Das was a cardiologist at the Yuma Regional Medical Center and was piloting the plane that crashed at Santee, reports NBC 7’s Allie Raffa

However, discussions with local flight instructor Chris Sluka, reviews of Federal Aviation Administration records, and a review of communications between Das and local air traffic controllers provide a picture of what was happening shortly after noon Monday above. of Santee.

Das, a San Diego County resident of the Fairbanks Ranch community, had filed flight plans for Montgomery Field in Kearny Mesa, returning from a trip to Yuma, Ariz., A flight he regularly took during his travel for his work as a doctor affiliated with Yuma. Regional medical center.

FAA records show that the flight experience and training of Das pilots was well above average. In fact, he obtained a commercial pilot’s license in October 2014, which would have enabled him to carry paying passengers. More specifically, he had a multi-engine airplane rating and an instrument airplane certificate, which most private pilots do not have. Certification has allowed Das to fly more types of aircraft with fewer restrictions. Put simply, an instrument rating means the pilot can fly an aircraft without seeing out of the window – or at night – relying solely on the aircraft’s instruments.

Cody and Courtney Campbell were at work when a small plane crashed into their Greencastle Street home in Santee, reports NBC 7’s Dana Griffin

In addition, Das seems to have a lot of flying experience. Since July 19, its twin-engine Cessna C340 has made 25 flights, most between San Diego and Yuma, but it has also flown longer than three hours.

San Diego flight instructor Christopher Sluka, who did not know Das personally, told NBC 7 that based on Das’ flight history, he was not a typical weekend warrior, nor even someone with a hobby of flying. He thinks Das moved and certainly knew what he was doing.

In addition, Das received first class medical certification in August 2020, the most difficult medical class certification, the one that is expensive to obtain. In fact, only airline pilots are required to have this certificate, which means that since last summer he has passed the most rigorous medical examination. Pilots over 40 must all have an ECG test, which Das, a cardiologist, would be familiar with.

Sluka told NBC 7 that the average descent speed is 500 feet per minute. At the time of the accident, Das was flying at 3,800 feet per minute.

NBC 7’s Mark Mullen shares air traffic control audio that explains some of the issues the pilot experienced en route to the runway.

Sluka believes that this fact, combined with an audio recording of Das’ communication with the air traffic controllers, made Sluka believe that Das was disoriented and believed he was going up as he was going down, until he got out of the air. clouds, when it was too late to correct course.

In an audio recording of Das’ interactions with air traffic control, a controller can be heard telling Das that his plane was too low and asking him to climb to 4,000 feet, then Das confirming receipt of the instructions.

“Low altitude alert, get on immediately, get on the plane,” the controller told Das.

However, the controller did not see any adjustments made and repeatedly urged Das to climb to 5,000 feet. When the aircraft remained at 1,500 feet, the controller warned, “You seem to be coming back down, sir. “

A security camera on the balcony recorded the moment a small plane crashed in a San Diego neighborhood a few blocks from a high school, killing at least two people and destroying several homes.

Sluka believes the reason for the crash was either disorientation or that Das had suffered a medical incident.

Either way, Sluka said, “the plane wasn’t falling from the sky, it was flying,” Sluka said.

Al Diehl, a former National Transportation Safety Board investigator, said the recording between air traffic control and Das indicated he was trying to cope with a major distraction or emergency on his own, breaking a rule of thumb that airmen should always tell controllers everything.

“The first thing you do when you’re in trouble is call, come up and confess – and he didn’t do any of the three,” Diehl said. “These are very basic rules that flight instructors tell their students.”

Diehl, who helped design a Cessna cockpit, said the twin-engine aircraft has a complex system that could lead to fatal errors.

Clouds and wind may have made it difficult for Das to handle the plane, Diehl said.

Das and another man, Steve Krueger, a local UPS delivery driver, were killed at the scene, and two other people were also injured. Two houses were destroyed and five others damaged.

On Tuesday, three National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators arrived in Santee to investigate the fatal crash.

NTSB officials will assess the crash scene, gathering as much information as possible to determine the cause of the tragedy.

“Part of the investigation will involve requesting radar data, weather information, air traffic control communications, aircraft maintenance records and the pilot’s medical records,” a spokesperson for the pilot said. agency in a press release. “NTSB investigators will view humans, machines and the environment as the framework for the investigation.”

The NTSB spokesman said a preliminary report of investigators’ findings is expected to be released on October 26 – 15 days after the crash.

The Associated Press contributed to this report – Ed.

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