The Brown Field Crash

June, 30, 2019 by

In August of 2015, a crash occurred at San Diego’s Brown Field. Here’s a note from the The San Diego Tribune:

A Cessna 172M was piloted by Qualcomm executive Michael A Copeland. An experimental Sabreliner was piloted by Jeffrey Percy, with co-pilot James Hale and passengers Carlos Palos and John Kovach also on board.

Four of those in the Sabreliner were employees of military contractor BAE Systems, while Hale worked as a BAE contract employee.

The planes collided about a mile northeast of Brown Field Municipal Airport in Otay Mesa. Debris was scattered across brushy hillsides, and all five men were found dead amid the wreckage.

The NTSB said the probable cause of the accident was the local air traffic controller’s “failure to properly identify the aircraft in the (departure) pattern and to ensure control instructions provided to the intended Cessna on downwind were being performed before turning Eagle1 (the Sabreliner) into its path for landing.”


The report added that a contributing factor was the controller’s “incomplete situational awareness” when he took over communications from a trainee due to the high workload at the time of the accident.

A third factor was the inherent limitations to a long-standing FAA “see and avoid” concept of relying on pilots to keep each other in view.

One thing you can take away from this is, know your limitations.

When the workload started to build, the experienced man took over from the trainee at 10:59 a.m. He was in communications with nine aircraft on the ground and in the air – two more than he was personally comfortable with, he later told NTSB investigators.

At that point, the NTSB said, he should have handed off control of some aircraft or directed traffic away from Brown Field.

Due to the high workload, the controller lost the plot, lost control, as noted. I’d recommend watching this video from the NTSB, of the incident.

Second thing that could be taken away is that, the airplane on the inside, closest to the runway should have turned base first, then outside, to avoid conflicts. N1285U should have turned base before Eagle 1. All though it is very tragic as passengers and pilots lost their lives, something can always be taken away and learned from an event such as this.

Kyle Boas is the Founder of the IFATC Education Group. He is an IFATC Supervisor and Infinite Flight Appeals team member. — More