New data show misdirected jet's close call with Mount Wilson

Rob Hayes Image
ByRob Hayes via KABC logo
Thursday, December 22, 2016
EMBED <>More Videos

An EVA airliner operating under incorrect instructions flew close to Mount Wilson with its television towers that rise 6,100 feet above the ground.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- New information shows just how close a plane that left LAX came to striking Mount Wilson after it was given incorrect instructions.

An EVA jetliner was misdirected by an air traffic controller in San Diego to turn left instead of right after it left Los Angeles International Airport in the early morning hours Friday.

That sent it toward the flight path of an Air Canada plane that had just left LAX as well as toward the San Gabriel Mountains before it had gained substantial altitude.

Mount Wilson rises about 5,700 feet above the ground - while the multiple television transmitters on top add another 400 feet of height for a plane to clear. The mountain also hosts the Mount Wilson Observatory.

Data from indicates the plane was around 4,800 feet and climbing as it approached the mountains.

"It definitely took me by surprise that the aircraft passed that close to the terrain," said Ian Petchenik with

Astrophysicist Steve Padilla was working that morning at the Mount Wilson observatory and recalled a nerve-wracking sound around 1:25 a.m.

"It was the loudest sound of a plane I have ever heard up here!" he recalled.

Most of the television stations in Los Angeles, including ABC7, have transmitters on Mount Wilson.

Padilla notes that had there been a crash at Mount Wilson, beyond the aviation disaster affecting the plane and its passengers, it also would have affected millions of Southern Californians by knocking out television and other communication signals.

"With all those TV towers and communications it would be quite a catastrophe for LA," he said.

The controller who gave the incorrect direction realized the plane was headed the wrong way and relayed instruction to the crew to head southbound. But she had to repeat the instructions several times before the plane finally changed direction.

Officials say the EVA plane did not come too close to the Air Canada flight, but the FAA is investigating whether it in fact flew too close to the mountains under the agency's regulations.

Sources tell Eyewitness News the controller has been temporarily relieved of air traffic control duties.