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Pilot ‘lucky to be alive’ after vintage military jet crashes in Henderson

Updated July 24, 2017 - 5:37 pm

A vintage military plane on its way to an Air Force exercise in Washington state crashed Monday in Henderson, but the pilot survived with minor injuries and no one on the ground was injured, authorities said.

The BAC-167 Strikemaster jet crashed around noon, half a mile south of Volunteer Boulevard, shortly after taking off from the Henderson Executive Airport and caught fire, Clark County Department of Aviation spokeswoman Christine Crews said.

The Henderson Fire Department responded to the crash and quickly extinguished the flames. The pilot, the only person on the aircraft, suffered minor injuries and was treated at the scene.

He is “lucky to be alive,” Fire Department spokeswoman Kathleen Richards said.

Capt. Katrina Cheesman, spokeswoman for the Air Force’s 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida, said the Blue Air Strikemaster was “on the way to supporting a routine exercise for close air support combat training in the state of Washington” when it crashed.

The jet is registered to Blue Air Training, a military contractor that provides “close air support,” the company’s chief pilot, Scott “Tool” Hanes confirmed to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Blue Air and an affiliated entity, Attack Aviation Foundation Inc., own the only four Strikemasters registered in Nevada.

The cause of the crash was under investigation, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said. Neither company has any previous accidents, according to FAA records.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Blue Air Training said the aircraft — a single-engine tactical jet — was on its way to a routine Air Force training event for special operations controllers, who direct air strikes from the ground. They must be certified before overseas deployments.

“Blue Air Training is required to follow all Air Force guidelines and policy to safety, processes, and inspections, which are more stringent than FAA standards,” it said.

Blue Air’s Strikemasters can drop both live and inert munitions for the training course, in this case affiliated with Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Tacoma, Washington.

“We use them to fill in the gaps when the Air Force can’t provide aircraft,” Cheesman said.

The Blue Air jets do not participate in Red Flag air combat exercises at Nellis Air Force Base and the Nevada Test and Training Range.

Contact Art Marroquin at amarroquin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @AMarroquin_LV on Twitter. Contact Contact Keith Rogers at krogers@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308. Follow @KeithRogers2 on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Rachel Hershkovitz also contributed to this report.

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