Aviation Attorney Michael Curran provides legal analysis on the tragic Santee plane crash

SANTEE (KUSI) – The tragic plane crash in Santee is raising a lot of questions on what could’ve happened.

Michael Curran, is familiar to KUSI News as a restaurant attorney, but his personal areas of expertise are civil litigation trial lawyer, subject matter varies between employment, business, personal injury, wrongful death and aviation cases.

As a professional pilot, Curran holds an Airport Transport Pilot certificate (ATP), multi-engine rating, certified flight and multi-engine instructor with several jet type ratings.

With his expertise, Curran joined KUSI’s Jason Austell on Good Morning San Diego to discuss what happens next in regard to the legal battles from victims of the Santee plane crash.

Curran told KUSI News, “In listening to the ATC recording the air traffic controller is heard issuing multiple instructions to the pilot Dr. Sugata Das, which the pilot acknowledges, however does not seem to comply.”

Adding that the pilot, “was given several instructions and clearances for an ILS (instrument landing Service) approach to Montgomery field runway 28 right, But was not aligned on the localizer meaning the straight in approach path to the runway.”

ATC issues instructions to the pilot to realign him with the runway, which the pilot acknowledged but again does not seem to comply.

ATC then instructs the pilot to climb and the pilot acknowledges, however again does not comply. ATC issued a more urgent warning to the pilot and a low altitude alert and advised the pilot to climb immediately, again the pilot acknowledged but did not comply.

Curran notes the speed of the aircraft was excessively high for a Cessna 340 on an ILS approach, explaining the stabilized approach speed for a Cessna 340 is approximately 120 knots.

On the video the Cessna 340, which is a cabin class twin engine piston aircraft with a two person cockpit and six seats in back is seen descending out of the clouds at a high rate of speed 250 knots + in a 30 to 40° nose down unusual attitude with the wings not parallel to the ground but perpendicular to the ground.

Curran concludes it is clear in the video that the pilot has lost control of the aircraft, explaining all of these factors indicate three potential causes in the accident chain.

He said, “one potential cause is a loss of an engine or an instrument in the clouds that caused the pilot to suffer spatial disorientation and lose control of the aircraft. Two, that the pilot suffered a medical event of some kind incapacitating him causing him to lose control of the aircraft. He did hold a first class medical certificate which means that within the past 6 months He was examined by a certified medical examiner a Doctor who cleared him as healthy for flight. And three the most likely, given the pilots failure to follow ATC instructions and the fact that he was in IMC, instrument meteorological conditions on the ILS approach, is simply a loss of situational awareness, we call spatial disorientation causing him to lose control of the aircraft.”

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