Crash Rekindles Memories Of ’78 Collision With PM-Plane Crash Bjt
SAN DIEGO (AP) _ For PSA employees here, the deaths of 43 people in the crash of a commuter jet rekindled painful memories of friends they had lost in the 1978 collision of a PSA airliner and small plane over San Diego.
Libby Fraser, who answered calls at Pacific Southwest Airline’s corporate headquarters here Monday night, lost 15 friends and co-workers in the 1978 crash that left 144 dead.
This time, she said, ″I just hope I don’t know anybody″ aboard Flight 1771, which crashed Monday on a sparsely populated cattle ranch near Cayucos.
The airlines set up extra phone banks and mobilized 200 employees to handle telphone inquiries and other duties Monday night, said PSA spokesman Bill Hastings. It was only the second fatal crash in the airline’s history.
″PSA is a small company and we very much are a family. Two accidents in 39 years; that’s two accidents too many,″ he said.
On Sept. 25, 1978, a PSA jet went down in San Diego’s North Park section after it was clipped by a private plane. Seven of those killed were on the ground.
″It’s always devastatating. I had hoped never to go through this again,″ said a PSA employee who was answering phones and declined to give her name.
″I lost my best girlfriend in the first crash. This is really hard for me,″ she said.
Mike Doering, a ground safety crewman who was answering the telephones, said callers included flight crew members and relatives who wanted to know who was aboard the plane.
″The people I feel bad for are those people. They want to know where their brother is,″ he said.
Doering said the 1978 crash has never been forgotten by PSA employees.
″A lot of people around here, every year at the anniversary they talk about it, and there’s tears in their eyes.″
After news of the crash Monday, he said, ″Some people were standing around wondering what to do. Some people were standing around in shock.″
The plane that crashed Monday was one of two dozen BAe-146s operated by PSA, which has a fleet of 58 planes to serve 29 cities in six Western states and Mexico.
One of PSA’s BAe-146s experienced an engine failure last February during a flight from Los Angeles to Reno, Nev., and made a safe emergency landing in Fresno.
But Hastings said the airline has had no major problems with the four- engine BAe-146s, which PSA began using in 1984.
″It’s a great plane,″ added PSA mechanic Steve White. ″I would fly in it any day.″
The San Diego-based airline, whose planes carry a smile on their noses, also is in a transition period. Last May, Washington-based USAir announced it was buying PSA for $400 million. PSA is operating as a wholly owned subsidiary of USAir through the end of this year before merging into USAir’s network.
PSA, the dominant commuter airline in California, began service in 1949 flying a DC-3 once a week between San Diego and Oakland. Its stock has been publicly traded since 1963.