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DEEPER DIVE: Air traffic control audio provides insight into Santee plane crash

Flight instructor says Dr. Das may have been disoriented - News 11's Cody Lee reports

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - We're learning more about Dr. Sugata Das' history as a pilot. He would often travel to many destinations on his private jet. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued his commercial pilot’s license in October of 2014.

Based on audio News 11 obtained between Dr. Das and an air traffic controller at Montgomery Field in San Diego the doctor was flying dangerously low and not staying on the path.

"It looks like you are drifting off course. Are you correcting?” The air traffic controller asked.
New air traffic control (ATC) audio details the minutes before a plane piloted by Yuma cardiologist Dr. Sugata Das crashed in Santee, California.

RELATED: Continuing Coverage: YRMC grieves Dr. Sugata Das

"Low altitude alert. Climb immediately. Climb the airplane.”

The controller requested that Das increase his altitude but for some reason, he's not able to comply.

“Maintain 5,000. Expedite the climb. Climb the airplane please,” more of the ATC audio revealed.
We spoke to Robert Katz, a certified flight instructor, who after listening to the audio, believes the doctor could have been disoriented due to the high overcast in the sky.

“He was not following instructions, issued by the controller, whose job it is to keep everybody moving and everybody separated at the same time,” Katz said.
In the audio, Dr. Das was cleared for landing but didn't leading the air traffic controller to circle him back around to re-align with the runway.

RELATED: NTSB arrives on scene of Santee plane crash

Katz says a pilot is required to have six hours of landing approaches and holding maneuvers, within six months.

“It’s up to the pilot police himself to keep himself in compliance with their regulations.”

Yuma International Airport officials say neither the FAA nor NTSB have contacted them as of Tuesday morning.

The airport adds, “Dr. Das was a huge supporter of the airport, a great person and phenomenal aviator. It is a huge loss to all of us.”

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Cody Lee

Cody Lee joined 13 On Your Side and KYMA News 11 in March 2020, but he’s no stranger to Arizona. He grew up in the Phoenix area and enjoys everything Arizona has to offer.

You can contact Cody at


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