This Week In History: September 24-30


This week in history: Supreme Court is Established and a Mid-air collision kills 153 over San Diego. Read more below and dive deeper with The Great Courses Plus.

September 24, 1789- Supreme Court Established

Signed by George Washington toward the end of his presidency, the Judiciary Act of 1789 is passed by Congress establishing the Supreme Court of the United States. At the time, the court was made up of six justices. With a lifetime term of service, with exception to death or retirement, these justices would be able to rule based on the legality of the case at hand regardless how unpopular the decision may be. The original six justices were John Jay as chief justice, and John Rutledge, William Cushing, John Blair, Robert Harrison, and James Wilson as associate justices. On September 26, all six appointments were confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Since then, the court has grown in size and importance. It is now considered that nine justices are expected to serve (first established in 1869) and women are able to serve as well. The SCOTUS plays a definitive role in resolving Constitutional issues for the country and its people.

Learn more about the SCOTUS with History of the Supreme Court

September 25, 1978- Mid-air collision kills 153 over

The first of two images taken of PSA Flight 182 by Hans Wendt as it fell to Earth.

Clearly a sad story of miscommunication in the air, in 1978 a Cessna flying over San Diego made a grave mistake. During a flying lesson, David Lee Boswell and his instructor, Martin Kazy, were practicing approaches to the San Diego Lindbergh Field airport. Flying over 3,500 feet altitude despite the air-traffic controllers orders, the Cessna would soon meet its end.

As the Cessna made its third pass, Pacific Southwest Flight 182, a 727 carrying 144 passengers including crew, was approaching as well. The 727 pilots saw the Cessna briefly but lost sight of it and didn’t inform the controllers. Meanwhile, on the ground, the conflict-alert alarms began to flash; these were common as false alarms in the control room, and were therefore ignored. It would be a matter of minutes from the alarm that the two planes collided.

The devastation was terrific as the 727 burst into a fireball on impact and both planes nose-dived into San Diego’s North Park neighborhood. In total, the crash destroyed 22 homes, killed 7 people on the ground, 144 people in the 727, and the two in the Cessna.

Learn more about how flight works (and doesn’t work) in The Science of Flight