Federal aviation investigators continue to probe this week’s fatal crash in La Jolla involving a small private aircraft belonging to a Carlsbad physicist.
During a press briefing on Nov. 16 near the crash site in a residential San Diego neighborhood, the National Transportation Safety Board said it was investigating the cause of the incident but had no information about the identity of the pilot killed in the crash.
“On behalf of all of us at the National Transportation Safety Board, we offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the victim who lost their life in this tragic accident,” an NTSB spokesperson said.
The fixed wing single-engine Cessna P210, owned by Michael M. Salour of Carlsbad, departed from Buchanan Field in Concord at 5:33 p.m. on Nov. 15 toward an unknown destination, according to NTSB.
Flight tracking records show the plane appearing to circle French Valley Airport in Murrieta before heading further south. At approximately 9:30 p.m., the pilot radioed that he was low on fuel when communication was lost, according to initial media reports.
The flight records show the plane then flew near Gillespie Field Airport in El Cajon before emergency officials reportedly diverted the pilot to Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in Kearny Mesa.
The pilot then attempted an instrument approach, or a series of landing preparation maneuvers that rely on the aircraft’s instruments when visibility is low, followed by a missed approach at Montgomery Field before continuing toward La Jolla, the NTSB spokesperson said.
The plane collided with a hillside south of La Jolla Village Drive and Gilman Drive, roughly 100 yards away from several homes and condos in the La Jolla Shores Heights neighborhood.
Several neighbors on the scene told The Coast News they didn’t hear anything the night of the crash. At some point, a witness contacted authorities, and first responders discovered the plane’s wreckage using a drone unit at around 3 a.m. on Thursday morning.
San Diego police said the pilot of the plane was the only person on board, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet confirmed the pilot’s identity, and it is still unknown if Salour, the plane’s registered owner, was the pilot.
According to FlightAware, Salour’s plane flew over several airfields in San Diego County and crashed just a few miles from a potential airstrip at Gliderport in Torrey Pines. The Federal Aviation Administration’s preliminary accident/incident report shows the “aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances.”
The six-seat, pressurized Cessna P210 Centurion was manufactured in 1979. The plane’s tail fin, right wing and portions of the fuselage and cockpit were visible from the roadway, roughly 100 feet below the crash site, in the middle of a quiet neighborhood.
The light aircraft’s engine, or a portion of it, was next to the downed plane, but it’s unclear if the motor was ejected during the crash or removed as part of a third-party aircraft recovery team’s efforts to transfer the plane to another location for further examination.
NTSB investigators said they were in the process of “factual evidence gathering” from the wreckage and were unable to comment further on the circumstances surrounding the crash. According to investigators, the agency’s inquiry is focused on three main areas: pilot (qualifications and flying history), plane (condition and maintenance records) and environment (weather and terrain).
The federal agency anticipates issuing a preliminary report in two weeks and a final report in about 18 months.
Some unverified reports at the scene indicated a possible communication breakdown between the pilot and dispatchers mid-flight, but NTSB said they had no information related to any radio discussions.
Salour, 74, is the founder of several companies headquartered in Carlsbad, including Linkatel, Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) and Integrated Photonic Technologies (IPITEK), specializing in manufacturing and servicing fiber-optic-based technology for the defense and aerospace industries, as well as numerous U.S. government agencies.
Salour earned his masters and doctoral degrees in physics at Harvard University, studying under Dutch-American physicist and Nobel laureate Nicolaas Bloembergen. Salour has published over 87 research papers in peer-reviewed journals and holds 19 patents in electro-optic and integrated optical technologies, according to his website.
Salour has also reportedly logged over 17,700 hours of flight time and holds a federal airline transport pilot license from the FAA and certifications in larger transport and passenger aircraft, including DC-3, DC-9, DC-10, B-727, B-737, and B-747 airliners.
Salour also holds senior-level flight certifications as an engineer and instructor and is deemed a technical expert “thoroughly familiar with the operation and function of various airplane components.”
The Coast News’ attempts to contact Salour have been unsuccessful.