Pilot's husband doesn't think she survived crash

Posted at 12:54 PM, Feb 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-07 14:58:21-05

With bright sunshine, warm temperatures and a deep blue sky, Friday was the kind of Southern California day made for just about anything. For Mary Falstrom, a longtime pilot, that meant flying.

She told her husband where she was headed, and that was the last he saw of her. Hours later came news that authorities believe two small planes collided in the skies off San Pedro, just outside Los Angeles Harbor.

A massive search was launched and some debris from a plane carrying two men was quickly found. But there was no sign of Falstrom or her plane.

The Coast Guard suspended the active search for survivors Saturday but sheriff's divers were in the water Sunday as part of the ongoing recovery effort. Richard Falstrom believes his wife died doing something that gave her great joy.

"She loved flying. It was a passion," he told The Associated Press.

His wife was a member of The Ninety-Nines, Inc., an international organization of women pilots, and he said she volunteered at the Western Museum of Flight at Torrance Airport, from which she and the other plane took off Friday.

Authorities have not released any identities, saying only that a plane piloted by a 72-year-old woman was seen on radar colliding with a craft carrying men ages 61 and 81.

The plane carrying the men was a Beech 35 Bonanza and the second was a Citabria, said Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. Falstrom said his wife flew a Super Decathlon, an aerobatic plane by the same maker of the Citabria.

On Friday, divers found wreckage and a pilot's logbook from the Beechcraft, Coast Guard Capt. Jennifer Williams said. Falstrom said a Coast Guard representative told him crews found part of the tail number of his wife's plane.



Williams said both pilots were experienced and all three people lived in the area.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department was using sonar and remotely operated underwater vehicles to search the area where debris and oil were spotted Friday. Capt. Jack Ewell of the sheriff's Special Operations Bureau said the planes could have gone down in different areas or the ocean currents could have moved debris miles away.

The crash site was near the Angels Gate light, a lighthouse at the San Pedro Breakwater that is on the National Register of Historic Places. The area is popular for flight students.