Local hero controller saves plane headed for disaster - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Local hero controller saves plane headed for disaster

Posted: Updated:

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A local FAA air traffic controller is being honored for his quick thinking in preventing what could have been a deadly plane crash.

It happened last fall after a flight instructor and his two students ran into some trouble in the air. The small plane with three on board was heading straight for a mountain, flying so low it disappeared from radar.

Air traffic controller Quentin Baca, sitting in a Kearny Mesa control room, knew he had to act fast.

The pilot, Michael Esdicul, was heading to Montgomery Field, but flying in thick clouds and couldn't see a thing. He had no idea he was about to crash.

Baca says he's trained for this moment -- a mean trick by Mother Nature called a downdraft.

"The pressure system going through was going over the top of the mountain, and then on the other side of it, it pushed down right where the pilot was so as he's approaching the mountain, he's fine, he's fine, but then once he got close enough to it, it started pushing him down and pushing him down so he couldn't keep his altitude," he said.

Baca's plan: steer the plane out of the downdraft so it can start climbing. Baca got the pilot to head south out of the downdraft, but could he climb in time? The plane, gaining altitude, was back on radar and climbing fast. Now clear of the mountain, the plane was finally out of danger.

"It feels pretty good. I'm really grateful," Baca said.

Baca received a prestigious National Air Traffic Controllers Association award last week for his calm under pressure that day. He tells News 8 he was never nervous.

  • CBS 8 FeaturesMore>>

  • Congratulations, News 8 Emmy-award winners!

    Congratulations, News 8 Emmy-award winners!

    Monday, June 26 2017 3:18 PM EDT2017-06-26 19:18:06 GMT

    Saturday night the Pacific Southwest Emmy Awards were held right here in San Diego and we're proud to announce that several members of the News 8 team walked away winners.

     

    Saturday night the Pacific Southwest Emmy Awards were held right here in San Diego and we're proud to announce that several members of the News 8 team walked away winners.

     
  • Nighttime Zoo: Stay up late this summer

    Nighttime Zoo: Stay up late this summer

    Monday, June 26 2017 1:17 PM EDT2017-06-26 17:17:35 GMT

    It's summer, that means bedtime and curfews go out the window for so many people. Now, animals are staying up late, too!

     

    It's summer, that means bedtime and curfews go out the window for so many people. Now, animals are staying up late, too!

     
  • Zoo Day: San Diego Zoo Safari Park kicks off Summer Safari

    Zoo Day: San Diego Zoo Safari Park kicks off Summer Safari

    Friday, June 23 2017 5:25 PM EDT2017-06-23 21:25:08 GMT

    News 8's Ashley Jacobs introduces us to a smorgasbord of exciting entertainment from around the globe as the San Diego Zoo Safari Park kicks off Summer Safari fun. 

     

    News 8's Ashley Jacobs introduces us to a smorgasbord of exciting entertainment from around the globe as the San Diego Zoo Safari Park kicks off Summer Safari fun. 

     
Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2017 Midwest Television, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.