SAN DIEGO - The deep marine layer blanketing Brown Mountain in the Angeles National Forest near Altadena prohibited Los Angeles Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team from recovering the wreckage of a small plane that crashed Sunday morning and the pilot's body.
The single engine Cessna 182 went off radar about 8:30 a.m. while en-route from San Diego’s Montgomery Field to Santa Monica Airport. Rescue crews found the wreckage late Sunday afternoon. Dense fog made it impossible for rescue helicopters’ to reach the site.
“The terrain is steep and rugged,” said one firefighter. “It’s heavily wooded, most of the cover has grown over from the fires. Its tough walking and there are no trails there.”
“Right now we are just trying to get some answers,” said Shane Terpstra, who is a safety officer and flight instructor At Plus One Flyers - a flying club where the still unidentified pilot was a member and rented the plane. “How did this happen? How did a perfectly good airplane crash? From what we understand, he was a perfectly good pilot.”
According to Terpstra, the pilot was instrument trained (IFR) and had filed a flight plan.
“Effectively, what that means is that the intended path would have taken him into some clouds,” Terpstra said.
The aviation app Flight Aware shows the pilot's flight pattern. It has the Cessna 182-RG with the tail number N133BW flying by auto pilot heading North Easterly at 4,000 feet until the plane crashed into the mountain.
If visibility was poor, the pilot would have been relying on his instruments to find his way.
“It's very difficult. You are trying to negate what your body is telling you, so you trust those instruments to tell you what’s going on with the airplane when you can’t see outside," Terpstra said.
All the pilots that shared their stories with FOX 5 said the plane was in immaculate condition. The Cessna 182 is the next step up from a normal training plane – just faster.
Everyone at the flight school knows the deceased pilot - it’s a tight knit community – but will not reveal the identity until after it is officially released. Once that happens, the FAA and NTSB will lead the investigation. It could be months before they release their finding.