Pilot reports losing a cylinder before fatal crash

The pilot of the fatal single-engine plane that crashed in the desert west of the airport killing both on board declared an emergency after losing a cylinder and said he was going to try to land at the Boulder City Airport, according to the preliminary accident report released this week by the National Transportation Safety Board.


The debris path was about 80 feet long and 80 feet wide with the wreckage resting upright 40 feet from the first identified point of contact, according to the report. The three-bladed propeller separated and was in the  beginning of the debris field.


Both victims were off-duty Nevada Army National Guardsmen: Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Edwards IV, 41, of Las Vegas, and Pfc. Cody Hall, 23, of North Las Vegas died when a Beechchraft T-34 Mentor crashed 1½ miles short of the runway June 23 around 2:45 p.m. The planes was flying from Phoenix are to North Las Vegas Airport.


According to the report,  “the pilot requested priority handling because an engine chip light had illuminated” and then reported losing a cylinder, “declared an emergency, and he was going to attempt to land.”


The pilot reported the situation was under control as he approached the airport with the landing gear down. Las Vegas air traffic controllers, with whom the pilot had been in communication with, approved him to switch to Boulder City’s common traffic advisory system, but then lost contact. 


Boulder City does not have an air traffic control tower.


While the report did not identify the pilot by name, it did state that the “commercial pilot with a certified flight instructor certificate and one passenger sustained fatal injuries.”  

According to the FAA website, Edwards had various pilot licenses but Hall, who turned 23 the day before the accident, did not. 


Edwards and Hall were assigned to the 1st Detachment, Bravo Company, 3rd/140th Security and Support, a small Nevada National Guard helicopter unit based at the North Las Vegas Airport. The detachment flies OH-58, observational helicopter. Their mission includes entails reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence gathering and is often used in support of civilian law enforcement agencies.


Edwards and Hall were not helicopter pilots with the detachment. Hall was an aircraft electrician specialist and Edwards was a helicopter repairman.


The plane, Beechcraft Model A45, was registered to and operated by Jet Test and Transport, a limited-liability company based in Henderson. According to the company’s website, it delivers and ferries aircraft for third-party clients.


The final investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration should be completed next year.


June 23 was the third fatal plane crash in Boulder City since 2010. On March 12, 2010, 45-year-old Brett Beuckens of Phoenix died when his Beechcraft BE35 Bonanza crashed while trying to reach the airport. According to the NTSB factual report, the plane ran out of gas on the way from the Phoenix area to the Henderson airport.


On May 18, 2012, pilot Douglas E. Gillis, 65, of Solano Beach, Calif., and passenger Richard W. Winslow, 65, of Palm Desert, Calif., died after their military-style Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros went down in the desert half-mile northwest of the airport. According to a preliminary accident report issued June 6, 2012, by the NTSB says the pilot called “Mayday” three times and said “canopy” before the plane went down, killing both the pilot and passenger.


The final factual report on that accident has yet to be released.


According to the NTSB website database, which dates to 1982, there have been 15 fatalities in 10 aircraft crashes in Boulder City since July 1990. There have been 34 nonfatal accidents in the area since 1983, 18 since 2000.

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