All the passengers were loaded and the flight attendents were informed that there might be a short delay in takeoff. No one except for the flight crew in the flight deck knew there was an issue with the aircraft itself. Ground and maintained fixed the issue and cleared the Airbus A320 for pushback.
Once cleared for takeoff, the captain set the autopilot and settled in for a normal flight out near San Diego International Airport.
Twenty minutes after takeoff, Spirit 508 began its final 180 degree turn for a short final into KSAN! The controller cleared them for the turn. The captain implemented the new coordinates and heading into the autopilot. Here is the last five minutes of Flight 508 before disaster.
Last ATC contact:
Spirit 508: “Spirit 508 flying at 5000 requesting turn for straight in approach at San Diego.”
ATC: “Roger, Spirit 508 turn right heading 180 descend and maintain 3000!”
ATC: “Spirit 508 lost contact. Please contact San Diego Approach on 123.67!”
The blip on the radar stops.
ATC: “Spirit 508 do you read me? I’ve lost radar contact please contact San Diego Approach!”
Cockpit Voice Recorder…
_CAPTAIN: “What’s that noise?” _
_(A beeping is heard, picked up by the black box) _
_First Officer: “That’s the altitude warning. The grounds claimed to have fixed that!” _
Captain: “No look!! Bank man dammit bank! How did we get that close to them?”
Autopilot: “Terrain Terrain Terrain! PULL UP…PULL UP…”
First Officer: “I can’t control her! Good Lord! Julia I love you!”
Those were the last words of First Officer Robert as Flight 508 slammed into the ground just a mere 200 feet from San Diego’s Runway 27!
It was later determined the faulty altitude gage had in fact been overlooked in the final checklist. The controller had vectored them very near to a mountain range, trusting the pilots to fly accordingly and safely. The pilots trusted their altitude readings. The nearby mountains deceived the pilots and without their altitude readings working correctly they had no way of realizing the danger until it was to late.
The NITSB investigated the case. Over 2000 other A320’s were flying around the globe at that time. Was it simply a broken altitude for Flight 508 or was it a faulty mechanism in all of these Airbus aircraft?
Flight 508 slammed into the ground at 18:23 PM July 12th. All souls on board were lost. 138 people including flight crew lost their lives.
“Seconds before impact”