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Four Dead in Midair Collision at North Las Vegas

Details leave little room for speculation

A detail of the airport diagram chart at North Las Vegas (KVGT). - Four Dead in Midair Collision at North Las Vegas
A detail of the airport diagram chart at North Las Vegas (KVGT). The thresholds of Runways 30L and 30R are circled to show their relative positions.

Four people were killed following the midair collision between a Piper PA-46 Malibu and a Cessna 172 at North Las Vegas. The two planes collided while on short final after they had both been cleared to land on separate, parallel runways.

ATC recordings indicate that the Piper, a JetProp conversion with a turboprop engine, was cleared to land on Runway 31L but apparently continued toward 30R, the runway which the Cessna had been cleared to land on. The controller even reminded the pilot of the Piper that they had been cleared to Runway 31R, a clearance the pilot confirmed, but still looked to headed for 30R. Shortly afterward, the two planes collided. The 172 crashed into a flood-control channel and burned. Both occupants were killed in the crash. The JetProp crashed in a field near the airport, and both occupants of that plane perished, too.

The NTSB will investigate, and while this one seems to many observers to be a clearcut case of the pilot of the Piper flying to the wrong runway, there will likely be larger issues looked at, too, including the radio communications among both planes and the tower controller, which was rapid fire, even when the heads-up was given to the JetProp that it appeared to be headed for the wrong runway.

This tragic loss of life should serve to remind us all to be vigilant in the traffic pattern, to ensure that we are headed to the correct runway, and that we understand and comply with the controller’s clearances.

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