Published Friday, Aug. 22, 2008 | 7:29 a.m.
Updated Friday, Aug. 22, 2008 | 7:12 p.m.
North Las Vegas Airport has operated for 67 years. Some recent crashes include:
- Dec. 25, 2003: The airport's deadliest crash occurred on Christmas Day when a six-seat, single-engine Beechcraft A-36 Bonanza crashed shortly after takeoff, killing two children, their parents and two grandparents.
- May 22, 2004: An American Blimp Corp. Airship crashed when a gust of wind hit the blimp and its landing gear clipped an airport fence. It landed on a one-story building. No injuries were reported.
- May 6, 2005: A 49-year-old pilot suffered a heart attack and his two friends who were not pilots took the controls of the Gulfstream turbo-prop and crash-landed at the airport. The pilot died later at University Medical Center.
Investigators will sift through the wreckage of an experimental aircraft that crashed Friday morning into a North Las Vegas house, killing three people, and expect to have a preliminary report on the crash finished in the next seven days.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigator said the wreckage will be stored at a North Las Vegas facility during the investigation.
"From there I will be performing a wreckage examination sometime over the next few weeks," said Eliott Simpson, the principal investigator of the crash.
A pilot departing from the North Las Vegas Airport about 6:28 a.m. Friday radioed the control tower that he was unable to gain altitude and he was going down. He crashed into a house a half-mile southeast of the airport, sparking an intense fire, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
Two people died at the scene. The third, taken to University Medical Center, died in the trauma unit.
Late Friday afternoon, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the pilot of the airplane is believed to be a 40-year aviation veteran with piloting, instruction and mechanic experience in aviation. The identity of the pilot has not yet been released by the Clark County coroner's office.
The Las Vegas and North Las Vegas fire departments responded to the house fire at 2313 Langdon Way, near Lake Mead Boulevard and Simmons Avenue, said Tim Szymanski, spokesman for the Las Vegas Fire Department. Clark County Assessor's records show that John Costa and Pauline Sgueglia have owned and lived in the house since April 2007.
Three residences surrounding the damaged home still were evacuated Friday evening as a wrecking crew removed rubble. The residents were asked to stay out of their houses until cleanup is completed later in the day.
Authorities decided to clear the remains of the damaged home because of possible jet fuel contamination.
Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Brame of the North Las Vegas Fire Department said Friday that a team from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash. (Related story: Plane maker ‘saddened,’ says design not at fault)
Initially, a hazardous materials team was called to the fiery crash because of possible dangerous materials involved, Brame said.
The type of plane that crashed has a 70-gallon fuel tank and the craft had just lifted off from the North Las Vegas Airport. Aviation fuel can cause "a very significant fire," Brame said.
However, the hazardous materials team was released from the scene once firefighters began battling the blaze, he said. Lake Mead Boulevard was shut down to traffic in the vicinity of the fire.
Clark County Aviation Director Randall Walker said he will seek congressional help to give local airport authorities more control over experimental and smaller aircraft.
"We have a system that we could do that now, but we are not allowed to under the regulatory system," he said.
Walker said the plane that crashed had logged five hours in the air. It had flown from Boulder City and Jean airports in the past, but this was its first flight from North Las Vegas.
The rear-propeller Velocity 173 RG plane, a type of plane that can be built from a kit, was certified for flight in 2002. (See a similar plane.)
According to the FAA, North Las Vegas Airport is the second busiest airport in Nevada. Between May 2001 and November 2006 there were 26 crashes or near crashes in the vicinity of the North Las Vegas Airport, most of them due to pilot error.
On May 4, 2007, a Piper Archer single-engine plane crashed after takeoff and hit three vehicles on the ground. There was one injury in that crash.
A similar accident involving a single-engine Mooney with three people aboard crashed into a home at 3249 Sisk St. The plane burst into flames at the house near Cheyenne Avenue and Torrey Pines Drive. No one in the home was injured, but only one person survived from the plane.