Friday, January 8, 2016

Cessna 172M Skyhawk, N1285U and Rockwell Sabreliner 60SC, N442RM: Fatal accident occurred August 16, 2015 near Brown Field Municipal Airport (KSDM), San Diego, California

Pilot’s family sues in fatal mid-air collision

Michael Copeland

Brown Field Municipal Airport (KSDM), San Diego, California

SAN DIEGO — The family of a pilot killed in August when two private planes collided in the air near Otay Mesa has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the air traffic control company and others.

Michael A. Copeland, a 55-year-old Qualcomm executive from San Diego, was the sole occupant of a single-engine Cessna 172 that collided with a twin-engine Sabreliner jet on Aug. 16 in the air above Brown Field.

All four people on the jet were also killed.

Copeland’s widow, Kathleen, filed the lawsuit this week in San Diego Superior Court along with their adult children Laura and Daniel Copeland.

The defendants named in the suit are New Jersey-based Serco Inc., which contracts with the U.S. government to provide air traffic control services at Brown Field; a manager at the airport’s control tower; and Maryland-based BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services, which owned and operated the Saberliner.

The pilot of the jet, Jeffrey Percy, 41, was a BAE employee. His co-pilot James Hale, 66, of Adelanto was a contract employee for BAE. Both were killed in the crash.

Copeland’s family contends that the defendants were negligent — Serco in particular —because the air traffic controllers failed to maintain a safe distance between the two aircraft.

Attorney David S. Casey Jr. , who represents the family, has said the control tower communicated with the pilots of both planes before the crash.

“We tragically learned that they made miscommunications,” Casey said, explaining that both aircraft had been cleared to land at the airport, and that Copeland had been cleared to perform “touch and go” maneuvers in the Cessna.

The attorney said Copeland would not have been able to see the jet, which was flying above and behind the Cessna at a higher rate of speed.

“Michael Copeland had no idea that another plane was coming at him,” Casey said.

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages.

Serco spokesman Alan Hill said in a statement Friday that Serco continues to support and cooperate fully with the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation and Safety Board as they work to understand the cause of the collision.

In a similar statement, BAE Systems spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said: “BAE Systems employees continue to mourn the loss of all of those killed in this tragic accident. We continue to support the investigation and because it is ongoing, we cannot comment further.”

Over the past few months, other lawsuits related to the fatal collision have been filed in Superior Court.

Hale’s family filed a lawsuit against Serco in November, while Percy’s family filed one against Serco and the airport’s control tower manager in December. The family of a passenger in the jet, John Kovach, 35, filed a lawsuit against the company in December.

The widow and teenage son of Carlos Palos, 40, the other passenger in the Saberliner, filed a lawsuit in September against Percy’s and Copeland’s estates as well as the Cessna’s owner, Plus One Flyers.

That lawsuit has been dismissed, but Copeland’s attorney said he expects it to be filed again with Serco named as the defendant.


NTSB Identification: WPR15FA243A
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, August 16, 2015 in San Diego, CA
Aircraft: CESSNA 172M, registration: N1285U
Injuries: 5 Fatal.

NTSB Identification: WPR15FA243B 

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, August 16, 2015 in San Diego, CA
Aircraft: NORTH AMERICAN ROCKWELL NA265-60SC, registration: N442RM
Injuries: 5 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On August 16, 2015, about 1100 Pacific daylight time, two airplanes, a Cessna 172, N1285U, and an experimental Sabreliner, (Sabre 60), N442RM, collided midair approximately 1 mile northeast of Brown Field Municipal Airport (SDM), San Diego, California. The two pilots and two mission specialists aboard the Sabreliner were fatally injured. The pilot of the Cessna, the sole occupant of the airplane, was fatally injured. The Sabreliner was being operated as a public use flight by the U.S. Department of Defense in support of the U.S. Navy. The Sabreliner was registered to BAE Systems Technology Solutions & Services, Inc. The Cessna was registered to Plus One Flyers, Inc., of San Diego, California, and operated by the pilot as a personal flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Both airplanes were destroyed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at SDM. Both airplanes departed SDM earlier that day and a mission flight plan was on file for the Sabreliner; no flight plan was filed for the Cessna 172. A controller in the SDM air traffic control tower (ATCT) was in contact with both accident airplanes prior to the collision.

Witnesses observed the accident airplanes on the downwind leg of the traffic pattern at SDM. The witnesses turned momentarily, but then observed an explosion followed by sections of the airplanes falling to the ground. Another witness located about 2 miles east-northeast of SDM observed both airplanes at the same altitude, flying towards each other. The smaller airplane was flying from the airport, and the larger airplane was flying to the airport and descending. He stated that both airplanes did not appear to have made any avoidance actions prior to the collision. After the collision, the smaller airplane broke apart; the larger airplane banked left, impacted the ground and exploded. 

The accident site consisted of two debris fields. The Cessna's debris field was located about 400 feet northeast of the Sabreliner's debris field. The Cessna's debris field was about 1,200 feet in length on a magnetic heading of 055 degrees, and contained parts from the Sabreliner. The Cessna was highly fragmented throughout the debris field. The Sabreliner's right wing was found in the Cessna's debris field. The Sabreliner's debris field was contained within a radius of about 100 feet, and no Cessna parts were located within that radius. The Sabreliner came to rest at a magnetic heading of 060 degrees. 

No comments: