Pilot of experimental aircraft told tower he was going to crash
LAS VEGAS – An experimental aircraft crashed into a house and exploded shortly after takeoff Friday, killing the pilot and two people inside the home, authorities said.
The pilot of the home-built plane radioed that he was in trouble shortly after taking off from the North Las Vegas Airport, said Ian Gregor, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman in Hawthorne, Calif.
A review of tower audio tapes showed the pilot told air controllers that he was going down, Gregor said.
Gregor said the plane couldn’t gain altitude.
Firefighters quickly doused an intense fire in the single-family stucco home in a working-class neighborhood southeast of a main runway at the airport. No other homes appeared damaged.
The plane appeared to have crashed through the roof over the living room.
A deputy fire chief, Kevin Brame, said authorities believe three people lived in the home, but one was not home at the time of the crash.
Neighbor Letizia Gonzalez, 17, said she awoke to a sound “like a bomb.”
“We came outside and we saw flames coming out of the house. We went to look and it started exploding even more,” she said. “They were nice people. It’s really sad.”
Gonzalez described the residents as a couple and the man’s adult son, who kept the yard neat and were friendly to neighbors.
The pilot and one resident of the house died in the 6:28 a.m. crash, and another person in the house died after being taken to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Brame said.
The names of the dead were not immediately released.
Gregor characterized the rear-propeller Velocity 173 RG aircraft as “experimental” and said it can be built from a kit. FAA records showed the aircraft was certified for flight in 2002, he said, and was owned by a Las Vegas resident. The name of the owner was not released.
Gregor said FAA and National Transportation Safety Board investigators were traveling to North Las Vegas to investigate the crash.
North Las Vegas Airport is the second-busiest airport in Nevada after McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, according to the airport’s Web site. It’s a busy hub for small planes and jets, and serves as a base for sightseeing flights to the Grand Canyon and other attractions.