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'Climb the airplane,' pilot told before California crash

“The first thing you do when you’re in trouble is call, climb and confess — and he did not do any of the three," Diehl said. “These are very basic rules that flight instructors tell their students.” ( More...

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The pilot got in over his head. This is clearly a case of spatial disorientation.

The controller was trying to help. The pilot did not comply - the reason ATC was saying CLIMB was that the plane was headed into the mountains.

I've flubbed an approach or two in my life - it is what it is. You do always FLY THE PLANE first, but then you call into ATC and tell them what you did and what you need. The pilot seemed flustered during the ATC exchanges as he approached the airport.

Listen to the transcript as he is starting his descent from 10,000 - crisp, clear, in control.

Now listen when he tries to repeat his clearance - Intercept the localizer for 28 Right, Circle to Land 23 - he flubs it.

What you have here is a pilot who while legal, was not sufficiently proficient in complex, Go Fast airplane to handle the IFR workload going into a California airport. Sorry folks.
Aaron Capps 5
N7022G was call sign. Review flight history and you’ll see that he was plenty qualified, flew to this airfield in this plane multiple times per week. You’ll also see that he spent two days in Vegas right before this flight. Hate to imply here but perhaps some exhaustion combined with IMC and an emergency made for an impossible solution.
Dan Grelinger 3
A 'plenty qualified' pilot declares an emergency when one occurs. He declared no emergency, AND kept saying he was complying with ATC directives when he really was, or could, not. This would suggest that he was either irresponsible by not declaring an emergency when he had one, or that no emergency occurred and he was not skilled enough to handle this particular situation in his airplane.

And I must add.... "There, but for the grace of God, go I."
ADXbear 10
Quite sad, the UPS driver ready to retire, the people on the ground... over that past 45 years of my aviation experiences, how many times have we seen accidents by Doctors?
This man is flying a very complex C340, add in IFR Wx and alot of fatigue from his day ay his practice, you have all the ingredients of an accident read to happen, we will never know, but I bet he has scared himself in that airplane many times.. RIP.
the recording of the atc and the pilot was played on the national news last night was terrrible to hear the frantic voice of the atc person and the almost "fragile" little voice of that pilot..he seemed to be disoriented and not understand..this was so sad..
srobak 0
the thing I got from that recording was that his altimeter was not correctly set. i think in the end that is what we are going to find was the root cause of all this mess - and it only compounded and exacerbated the other issues which followed.

"fragile" people wouldn't be able to get instrument rated in the first place, in reality - nor get qualified on that airframe.
Dan Grelinger 2
I don't think you've correctly assessed what happened. He was cleared for an ILS approach to 28R. He intercepted the localizer and he (or his autopilot) should have been flying the ILS, totally independent of altimeter. His large variations in altitude when he started having problems means that it was not an altimeter setting issue.
geroldn 16
Multi-tasking is a myth. The human mind can only do 1 or 2 things at time. Then you have to work sequentially through your tasks. If you get too many inputs - radio calls, passengers asking questions, requests to change heading, change altitude, change speed, put down the landing gear, change the radio frequency, put down the flaps, change fuel tanks, turn on a fuel pump, intercept a localizer course, etc. It leads to task saturation and tasks start to fall off the plate; one more thing happens and then pilot is no longer in control, but along for the ride...
Mark Kortum 6
Causes one to think about the talk about commercial airliners that are only going to require one pilot.
srobak 3
this is 100% true. one cannot multi-task. they can only task switch. there have been exhaustive studies on this.
Gary Harper 6
My simple airplane's autopilot has a "blue button" that when pressed will bring me straight and level. It can be a life saver. His autopilot, not so much.
Dan Grelinger 1
I think it was most likely he turned off his autopilot and was hand-flying the airplane. His autopilot would have likely saved him.
jbermo 6
No doubt the day also gave a bit of low-level turbulence when with +15knt winds (reported) combined with the area's rolling terrain perimeter . . . .but how the hell does a practiced multi-engined instrument pilot also have the time to be a busy cardiologist - let alone appropriate time for family and other aspects of life?
Frank Harvey 9
This is the first time I've seen "Call, Climb, Confess".

I was told it was Number 1 Fly the Airplane.
More explicitly "ANC". "Aviate, Navigate, Communicate".

Under Aviate the first bit was "Ararrs HitYou"
ArArRS ("arars"). Whats the Altimeter reading, Whats the Airspeed reading, Whats the Rate of Sink" and how are these readings changing "IDS" - Increasing, Decreasing or Steady.
Then HttHU ("hit you") Height (over terrain/towers) and Heading - (Is Compass Increasing, Decreasing or Steady) and Underneath (whats under me/where can I land).

David Buck 3
Yes. Aviate, navigate, communicate. Call first at low altitude is a good way to CFIT
Ken Lane 2
Yes, first fly the airplane. If called by ATC, fly the airplane. The "CCC" comes third after gaining altitude at a minimum. That means you must be aware of the MVA when entering any approach environment.
Pete Pereira 1
Actually it's the 5 C's: Confess, Conserve, Climb, Communicate, and Comply… used when the pilot is lost. ANC is used in emergencies.
bbabis 3
I would not count out that wake turbulence from the C-130 could have played a role. I crossed under a C-130 once at low altitude and even though belted in I cracked my head on the overhead. It had been smooth so I knew I had hit a wake and reported it to the controller. That is when she mentioned the C-130 traffic I never saw.
Gary Harper 5
It appears that the pilot replied more than once, that he was climbing, when he was actually in a banking right turn, probably pulling on the yoke in a tighter and tighter turn.
Dan Grelinger 1
ADS-B position reports don't support that hypothesis. His turn was shallow and his altitude was erratic, which does not indicate a graveyard spiral.
Chris Habig 4
Of course Aviate, Navigate, and Communicate are the three things every pilot must prioritize. But when lost I was taught and taught others to "Climb, Conserve, and Confess". Conserve makes sense as it is important to conserve fuel to preserve options. "Call" is redundant with confess, so that's not a very good C word in this case.
john baugh 4
Yuma "never " gets weather. Sand Diego "never" gets weather. The pilot "never" flies in weather. His instrument skills were sketchy and he may not have ever flown his toy in actual weather. He was in over his head, not completely competent for the situation. He should've told the controller what was going on and they would have helped him. As a professional pilot I tell tATC when I have a problem and ATC always does an amazing job helping us.
Tom Zaidman 1
John you are correct. He should have stopped the approach, get his act together and ASK FOR HELP. The C340
a heavy plane, needs an experienced, rested pilot to fly safely into deteriorating weather. Even the mention of another big aircraft above could have affected him.
GraemeSmith 6
"Al Diehl, a former National Transportation Safety Board investigator, said .....the first thing you do when you’re in trouble is call, climb and confess — and he did not do any of the three," Diehl said. “These are very basic rules that flight instructors tell their students.”

I hope not. I'd go for "Aviate, Navigate, Communicate" every time. I'll keep "CCC" for when I'm stabilized and in a position to communicate safely.
Mike Mohle 2
CLIMB first!
Dan Grelinger 1
Aviate includes climb, as necessary.
bentwing60 1
You are spot on from the 'old school'.
IMHO, getting your IFR endorsement should be the top priority of every pilot. Practicing ground based and GPS approaches with regularity is the best thing you can do to ensure your safety and the safety of your passengers. Once you have the practice of these approaches under your belt, distractions and other emergencies will have less of a chance to cause a serious accident. Also, I believe that getting checked out on your airplane's specific suite of avionics should be required yearly.
mike Renna 3
I am 60. In college I started taking flying lessons. Didn't get very far with it and didn't start back at it. I realize now - I have enough issues dealing with 2 dimensions (ie driving). I realize and am comfortable with knowing I shouldn't be a pilot.

But interested in the industry!

Dudley - I realize this is a bit off topic (this wasn't a commercial flight), but I was AMAZED when I learned just a few years ago that a commercial pilot doesn't have to have IFR?!

We were on a vacation in AZ and staying at a B&B. Another guest talked of being a commercial pilot for Grand Canyon sightseeing flights. Somewhere in the conversation, he mentioned something about he gets called when other pilots can't fly. Getting more details, that's how I learned... he had IFR and other COMMERCIAL pilots there didn't!?

Don't have to point it out to people here, but how many people would even think when getting on a commercial ride, that they might want to ask the pilot if he can fly in the clouds!?

There was a helicopter crash in NYC a few years ago? Long time commercial pilot returning from NYC to NJ. Turned out he didn't have the IFR rating.

That is amazing to me! The gov't puts up extra requirements before they will let you fly people for hire. But not requiring you to know how to deal with clouds?!

WOW! For people here - is that you see as a flaw?

In some forum years ago, I remember reading someone asking 'should I get my commercial or IFR rating'.

That they don't go together is amazing to me!
Jasper Buck 1
It's IFR rating. Written and flight test required. Not an endorsement.
Yes, I misstated thanks
Ken Lane 2
The pilot was issued a commercial certificate with an instrument rating and multiengine rating in October 2014. I'll be interested in the NTSB preliminary showing pilot experience.

I'd place a wager on his being no more than current on instruments and not even remotely proficient. I cannot count the number of pilots I came across who did nothing more than three approaches every three months, purely for currency. Currency ≠ Proficiency. Not even remotely close.

Far too often, I saw high income or wealthy students want to run out and buy an SR22 or other high performance bird when they've not even completed a practical test in a Skyhawk. Baby steps. Build skill. Experience. Proficiency. Then, add more airplane and power.

So many times, I've told students, "If you fly too fast, your errors happen even faster." That was just as evident in the 4,000 pilot who had a Bonanza whom I could not get to slow down for an ILS approach. He was crossing the final at 130. If I recall, Va was 129. I could not get him to slow down to an optimal approach at 90.

Just because you can does not mean you should. So many pilots want to buy more airplane than they are ready for. This 340 was last registered in July 2020. I suspect he was not remotely proficient as he should have been in this aircraft with so much to manage as a single pilot. Never mind his instrument proficiency was sorely lacking.

Additional resources:
linbb 4
Well seems that the pilot was not able to function for some unknown reason and probably never will be alble to figure out why. Video shows he lost control of it.
David Oakley 1
Does anyone know what the weather was at the time of the accident? From the local video of the crash, it look like VFR except for maybe a 2000 ft. ceiling. Typically if there is cloud cover, Montgomery (MYF) has a ceiling of 3000 ft. early mornings. At 11 AM, the marine layer usually burns off. At Santee Gillespie (SEE) the field may well have been VFR.
David Oakley 1
Answering my own question about the weather, this webpage is the reported weather at 11:53 AM PST; actually marginal VFR. Under these conditions at 5000 ft., local mountaintops and a level layer of stratus would be visible. From 5000 to 2800, the 22G would be on the ILS.

Looking at the N7022G track on you can see the last few minutes of the flight from Yuma. Problems seem to start when 22G descends to 3900 before beginning a right turn and a period of speed oscillations up from 155 mph up to 235 mph. Tough for the pilot to deal with in the soup. Prior to the weather above, METAR-TAF was reporting 18 kt. gusts at MYF.
What this diatribe of comments show is how easy it is for the uninformed to make rudimentary and speculative assessments based on their egos.
A. Highsmith 1
I have over 5000 hours as an Army aviator (now retired), both FW and RW, and many hours of IFR in the clouds in both types. All this in aircraft without all the electronic bells and whistles. If a pilot is "qualified" by FAA to fly IFR, then they must be proficient in hand flying the plane without a flight director or auto pilot. This means maybe shutting off the bells and whistles ever now and then and actually flying the aircraft IFR when you are in the clouds. If you can't do that well, you are an accident waiting to happen. Just my opinion from and old school pilot.
ericvap 1
With over two decades of flying a Cessna 340 for a corporation on a daily/weekly basis I can tell you that if you watch the videos of that crash that is the most unusual attitude for a Cessna 340 you could possibly get it into. I have over 100 hours at Flight Safety C340/421 simulator in the Cessna 340 with other pilots and never saw anybody get into that unusual of an attitude. Very very stable aircraft in the roll axis. The 340 won’t just roll on its own, even with an engine failure the plane will stall before VMC in clean configuration.
The 340 is a VERY good iFR platform and they ALL came from the factory with a three access auto pilot. Most have been upgraded over the years.
Before you all go speculating this is going to take some time to work through. I believe it is not going to be a normal result like some of the things mentioned (spatial disorientation etc.). I’ll wait to see what the experts at NTSB say. Very sad and sorry for all involved

P.S The pilot had flown that aircraft a lot on that same milk run. Something went way wacko for the tragic result.
Dan Grelinger 1
My analysis of his ADS-B data and audio is that he was confused by his approach clearance. It looks like the moment he intercepted 28R ILS, he disengaged his auto-pilot and attempted to fly towards an extended centerline for 23, the runway he had clearance to land on while he was still outside the FAF and in IFR conditions. When ATC cancelled his approach clearance, it appears he was still hand flying the aircraft and did not re-engage his autopilot, perhaps because he was trying to get it to cancel the approach and switch to heading and altitude assignments, since that was how he was being controlled by ATC. Unprepared for the deviations, he was distracted from flying the aircraft, became disoriented, and barreled out of the clouds at an orientation and speed at which he was unable to avoid hitting the earth.
Phil Caron -3
As stated by Dan G, the NTSB don't know crap about the real world of flying aside from riding mopeds. Of course the proper way is aviate, navigate and when time and circumstances permit, communicate. No wonder bureaucrats fly a desk and have no clues. Nuf said.
Ken Lane 3
Clearly, you have no clue about the qualifications of those tasked with investigating accidents.
Pete Pereira 2
Never thought I'd be agreeing with your statement, but over the past 7 or 8 years there have been occasions when I thought something was amiss @NTSB. On two occasions (that I know of) the NTSB abdicated it's duty to investigate. The first, a 2016 crash of a Piper Seneca on short final to Hartfort-Brainard Airport wherein the pilot, a Jordanian national who was getting a check ride from the owner/operator of the FBO that rented out the airplane, died. The instructor survived and claimed—dubiously—that the pilot was suicidal because his parents forced him into flying, so he deliberately crashed the plane. The NTSB & FBI arrived, and within hours the latter declared it a case of terrorism. (?!) The NTSB promptly packed up and left, after announcing that the FBI was handling things, so they did no investigation at all. A few months later there was another crash of a plane from the same FBO and another pilot died. This time the FBI came and seized the FBO's files. I can't help thinking that had the NTSB done an investigation of the first accident, the shoddy maintenance and fudged records that some had accused the FBO owner of would have come to light and the second pilot would not be dead. A few months after the first crash, an elevated section of the I-85 freeway in Atlanta fell through during evening rush hour, thanks to a fire below. No one was injured or died, but political fingers started to be pointed as to why combustible construction material was stored under the freeway. The NTSB said "nothing to investigate here" and didn't. No reason given!

But the most astounding was the NTSB's handling of the 737 MAX accident investigations, where they only had a supportive role, yet they produced an analysis of the pilot's performance and—based on a hypothetical human factors effect—concluded that multiple simultaneous alarms distracted the pilots [there's no evidence of that], they didn't know which problem to prioritize [no evidence], therefore they didn't execute the Stab Trim Runaway procedure when the runaway initially presented, therefore Boeing's assumption that they would do so was in error. They failed to notice that the FDR data showed that the pilots on both flights DID in fact counter the trim runaway, and did so each time it activated—24 times, on one flight—yet the pilots never ever executed the procedure to its final step--STAB TRIM SWITCH —> CUTOUT. They were distracted for 24 trim runaway cycles?! Basing an analysis on a hypothetical presumption instead of what actually happened on the flight is beyond incompetent. Their recommendation that the FAA require that multiple failures come with an indication of which problem to prioritize was ludicrous. If the airplane was outfitted with enough artificial intelligence to be able to prioritize pilot actions for any given combination of simultaneous failures, there would not be a need for a pilot. Furthermore, during a Senate Hearing, Senator Duckworth accused Boeing's CEO of stealthily removing the functionality present on previous models, whereby a nose-down stab trim runaway could easily be stopped by simply pulling on the control column to activate the column cutout switches. I wondered from where she got such a grossly erroneous understanding of the system. An hour later she checked with the Chair of the NTSB that from a meeting with him the previous evening her understanding of the column cutout was correct. He he confirmed it was, repeating her erroneous description exactly! (And he claimed he used to fly the 737). Any investigation the NTSB conducts or supports can't be considered valid if their understanding of a system's operation is fictional.
Jasper Buck 2
Wrong. NTSB investigators are very well qualified with most on the aviation side of the house being pilot, engineers, etc.

Same as FAA inspectors.

Capt J Buck

ATP DC-9 B757 B767
Flight Instructor
Ground Instructor
Aircraft Dispatcher
A&P Mechanic
Air Traffic Controller
FAA Aviation Safety Inspector (Ops & Aws) ((Ret.)
FAA certified accident investigator (Ret.)
ICAO Panel Member
Aviation Safety Consultant
srobak 0
Please tell me you did not actually post up publicly in support of Dan G. You surely cannot be that stupid.
James Harris 1
Uh oh keyboard warrior
George Zaboji 0
Has it occurred to anyone that engine failure may have occurred?That would have explained why the airplane couldn't climb.That would explain why it was having problems with directional control.Flying a light twin with an engine failed is a very demanding task.Being in the clouds makes it much harder.
Dan Grelinger 1
Irresponsible post. Engine failure as a potential cause has occurred only to the uninformed or unreasonable. 1. No report of engine failure by the pilot, even when routinely responding to ATC commands. Such a report is mandatory! 2. The flight profile (available on this very website, easy) shows 2 climbs at 1500+ feet per minute well above stall speeds in the few minutes before the crash. 3. The airplane climbed from below 2400 feet MSL to over 3500 feet in just 32 seconds. Not a sign of engine failure. 4. The last ADS-B output showed the aircraft travelling at 225 knots, well above the normal cruising speed of the airplane. Again, not a sign of engine failure.
Pete Pereira 1
Irresponsible?! And uninformed? At least the hypothetical nature of the comment was very clear. What's irresponsible is the gross speculation in the comments, by people who ARE uninformed but think their analysis based on a few tidbits of data—while much of the evidence is missing—can be considered valid. Why the race to come up with the cause(s) of the crash before the NTSB does? Ego trip or you win a bun or something if your analysis ends up matching the NTSB's? And how much harm is caused when others take the speculation as fact and start assigning blame or seeking retribution?
Mike Mohle 1
A/P failure?
Dan Grelinger 1
Possible, as a contributing cause. However, it could never be the real cause of the accident. If the Auto-Pilot failed and the pilot crashed, his inability to deal with an A/P failure is the cause of the accident. My guess is that any failure of the A/P to operate was due to it being purposefully disengaged by the pilot.
testtubetony 0
In b4 vaccident...
Ehud Gavron -9
Doctors who own planes are the worst air cockroaches.

They think they know it all; they don't listen to ATC; they are poor navigators, aviators, and communicators.

Every news story that starts with "This doctor owned an airplane" ends up with said doctor not paying attention to ATC, TFRs, NOTAMs, or terrain. That last one hurts the worst.

Tucson AZ US
FAA Commercial Helicopter Pilot
Medical License No. ... j/k don't have one :)

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

Greg S 20
"Co-pilot friend went blind and had mental confusion about a week after the Jab"

Pure fabrication, from start to finish.
Kevin Holly 8
You're full of $h1t
srobak -9
Yeah there have been several instances of these sorts of things. Of course you never hear about those in the news... you have to end up digging them up yourself. The doctors and nurses however get to see it firsthand, and it is why they are not vaxxing up in droves and even putting their careers on the line.

That being said - I highly doubt that is what this is. In listening to the tapes - it honestly sounds like this stemmed from an incorrect altimeter setting which then compounded everything that happened after it - including flying through clouds, fog and other weather.

[This poster has been suspended.]

srobak 4
while actively talking to atc? now that'd be a neat trick. how did you come to that conclusion, "Doctor" ?

[This poster has been suspended.]

[This poster has been suspended.]

Dan Grelinger 2
As an independent observer, it may be Game. Set. Match. But you're the one who lost. Perhaps it would be better if you corrected your obvious errors instead of ignoring them. Your comment, "I'm asserting Dr. Das fell asleep" is obviously ridiculous and everyone knows it. You'd do best for your credibility by admitting it as well.
Pete Pereira 1
When someone's error is so obvious and so ridiculous to you is when you should pause and consider that perhaps your understanding of things is what may be in error. A human brain that desperately needs sleep can take sleep breaks while a person is singing… and the singer won't be aware of it though others listening to the song will be. It was explained in one of the episodes of TV drama House M.D. when House asks a man to sing the fight song of his college sports team.


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