Thursday, June 7, 2012 | 3:33 p.m.
Three “mayday” calls and a reference to the “canopy” were made in the moments immediately preceding the crash of a military trainer jet last month near Boulder City that left two people dead, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.
The report reveals few details of what caused an Aero Vodochody L-39 to crash shortly after leaving the Boulder City Airport around 12:30 p.m. May 18.
The jet, built as a high-performance military trainer, went down in a mostly barren desert area near a string of power lines, about a half mile northwest of the airport.
Two people died in the crash – pilot Douglas Gilliss, of Solano Beach, Calif., and his passenger, Richard Winslow, of Palm Desert, Calif.
A second jet, also an L-39, was able to successfully take off and then safely land after the crash.
Winslow is one of eight people who had purchased a flight package to ride in one of two jets operated by Mach 1 Aviation and Incredible Adventures, the report said.
The L-39 is classified under federal regulations as an experimental exhibition aircraft, and because of this designation, is prohibited from “carrying persons or property for compensation or hire.”
According to the NTSB’s report, the two L-39 jets took off from Van Nuys Airport in California on the morning of May 18 and met the group of paying customers at the Boulder City Airport. However, no flight plan was filed, the NTSB report stated.
After conducting two successful rounds of flights out of the Boulder City Airport in the morning, the pilots and the customers took a break for lunch, the report said.
On the first flight after lunch, the two airplanes took off in formation, in what a passenger in the surviving jet described as a “normal” takeoff, the report said.
However, shortly after takeoff, the passenger said he heard Gillis say “mayday” three times and that a reference to the plane’s canopy also was made immediately before Gilliss’ L-39 crashed, the report said.
The crashed L-39 received extensive damage to its fuselage and wing assembly, the report said, creating a 480-foot long debris field.
The NTSB’s report is still preliminary and is subject to change.