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In 1978, a Pacific Southwest Airlines aircraft collided with a Cessna 172 while approaching the San Diego airport in California. The GA aircraft was piloted by a student, and crossed the approach trajectory of the B727, killing 144 people.

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To my understanding, ATC was not aware of the Cessna actual location, The airliner crew didn't see the Cessna, and the Cessna was not wrong being in this airspace near a busy regional airport.

What changed after this accident to make such situation impossible?

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  • $\begingroup$ Are you looking for changes specifically in the San Diego area, or more generally? $\endgroup$ – DeltaLima Sep 6 '17 at 23:21
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    $\begingroup$ The Cessna was being piloted by two licensed pilots, both of which held commercial pilot certificates. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Sep 7 '17 at 3:21
  • $\begingroup$ @DeltaLima: More generally. $\endgroup$ – mins Sep 7 '17 at 5:41
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The recommendations from the NTSB report are:

  • Implement a Terminal Radar Service Area (TRSA) at Lindbergh Airpot, San Diego, CA
  • Review procedures at all airports which are used regularly by air carrier and general aviation aircraft to determine which other areas require either a terminal control area or a terminal control radar service area and establish the appropriate one.
  • Use visual separation in terminal radar service areas only when a pilot requests it, except for sequencing on the final approach with radar monitoring.
  • Re-evaluate its policy with regard to the use of visual separation in other terminal areas.

The most direct change stemming from this accident is the establishment of a TRSA at Lindbergh on May 1, 1979. (It is now a class B area).

Also in 1979 the Lindbergh tower was equipped with some upgrades, including minimum safe altitude warning and conflict alert enhancements.

The other recommendations are fairly vague and I find no indication what, if any action was taken on them. But as Gerry pointed out in comments, this accident put emphasis on the FAA's effort to create TCAS. From the TCAS II V7.1 Intro booklet:

In 1978, the collision between a light aircraft and an airliner over San Diego served to increase FAA's efforts to complete development of an effective collision avoidance system.

The see-and-avoid system is still very much in use. Visual approaches are still used. There really were no immediate systemic changes made in response to the accident. Mostly it was just airspace configuration around KSAN and enhancements to the radar system there. But, like every accident, the NTSB and FAA learned from it and took steps to improve safety. The FAA releases pamphlets appropriately titled, "Lessons Learned," about what can be taken from different types of accidents.

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  • $\begingroup$ It also put emphasis on the FAA's effort to create TCAS. From the TCAS II V7.1 Intro booklet: In 1978, the collision between a light aircraft and an airliner over San Diego served to increase FAA's efforts to complete development of an effective collision avoidance system. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Sep 7 '17 at 12:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Gerry Good find. Thanks. Edited your quote in to improve the answer $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Sep 7 '17 at 13:43

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