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NTSB Issues Preliminary Report on North Las Vegas Midair

Four perished in the crash and the factual report leaves little doubt to the cause

Las Vegas Mid-Air Flight Path
The flight paths of the two aircraft that collided in midair at North Las Vegas in July. Graphic courtesy of NTSB.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) came out with its preliminary report on the July 17, 2022, midair collision at North Las Vegas Airport between two small planes, a Cessna 172 and a Piper Malibu. The four occupants of the two planes, two in each one, died in the crash, which based on the preliminary report seems completely preventable.

The two planes collided, wings hitting, near the threshold of Runway 30R. The two northwest facing runways, 30L and 30R, are parallel, but the left side runway can be hard for pilots to identify right away because its threshold is much farther north than that of 30L, which seems under most lighting conditions to be the more prominent of the two.

The Cessna 172, a local flight, had been cleared to land on runway 30R, a clearance the pilot acknowledged, and was in the process of doing. It’s common practice at many airports with multiple runways to route training traffic onto one runway and reserve the other for takeoffs and transient arrivals. The Malibu, in fact, was arriving from Idaho, according to the report.

Even though the Piper had been cleared to land on the parallel runway, 30L, a clearance the pilot read back correctly, the plane was headed for a landing instead on 30R the same runway the Cessna was on short final to land on.

From ATC recordings, it seems clear that the tower controller was aware the Malibu was headed to the wrong runway. He even tried to alert the pilot of the Malibu that their flight track seemed to be taking them toward Runway 30R by reiterating the clearance to the closer parallel runway, and the pilot of the Piper read back the clearance correctly. However, he continued toward the wrong runway anyway and the fateful collision with the Cessna 172.

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