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Five Killed In Midair Plane Crash, San Diego

August 18, 2015 - On Sunday about 11 AM, two planes collided in mid air about 2 miles northeast of Brown Field Municipal Airport San Diego, California while on approach killing the pilot of a Cessna 172, N1285U, and all four onboard a twin-engine Sabreliner jet, N442RM. The Cessna was registered to Plus One Flyers, Inc., of San Diego, California.

Authorities have identified the pilot, the sole occupant onboard the Cessna 172 Skyhawk as 55-year-old Michael Alan Copeland of San Diego. Copeland was performing touch-and-go-landings when the two aircraft clipped wings. Copeland held a private pilot certificate that was issued in February 2004, although he had been flying since the 1980's. He was a senior manager at computer tech giant Qualcomm.

A Qualcomm spokesman said, "We are extremely saddened by the news. Michael was a much-loved member of our team. He was a talented marketer, brand strategist, editor and writer who helped bring Qualcomm's stories to life. He will be greatly missed. Our condolences go out to his family."


Onboard the Sabreliner jet were three employees of a defense contracting company, BAE Systems and a military contractor. The Sabreliner was being operated as a public use flight by the U.S. Department of Defense in support of the U.S. Navy.

BAE Systems has identified the employees onboard the Sabreliner jet as BAE Systems employees Carlos Palos, 40; John Kovach, 34; and Jeff Percy, the pilot, 41. All residents of the Kern County town of Mojave. The contractor, working for BAE Systems has been identified as James Henry Hale of Adelanto, CA he was the copilot.

BAE Systems is a British multinational defense, security and aerospace company headquartered in London in the United Kingdom and with operations worldwide. The mid-sized business jet, Rockwell Sabreliner 60SC was operated by BAE Systems Technology Solution & Services of Mojave, California. The aircraft powered by two Pratt & Whitney JT12A-8 Turbo Wasp engines was manufactured by North American Rockwell in 1974 and held an experimental classification.



The Cessna 172 was flying from the airport, and the Sabreliner was flying to the airport and descending. A witness reported 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. Both planes crashed to the ground, broke apart and caught fire causing several brush fires. The wreckage field was over a quarter-mile. All five victims died at the scene of the crash. The NTSB reported both pilots were in contact with the control tower just before the crash. The weather at the airport did not appear to be a factor in the midair collision.

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.
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