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Pilot reported engine problems before fatal Las Vegas crash

Updated October 30, 2020 - 3:01 pm

The pilot of an airplane that went down in the south Las Vegas Valley early Thursday told air traffic controllers he was having engine problems just before the fatal crash, according to a transcript of air traffic controller communications.

Authorities have not named the two people on board the twin-engine Cessna 310 who died. The plane crashed in a desert lot near Raven Avenue and Hinson Street, southeast of Decatur Boulevard and Blue Diamond Road, just before 9:40 a.m.

Records show the plane was registered to Robert Golo, an experienced San Diego pilot and charter operator.

A friend of Golo, Robert Arce, of San Diego, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Friday that Golo was piloting the plane. Arce listened to an audio recording of Golo’s broadcast exchange with air traffic controllers. He recognized the pilot’s voice as his friend’s.

“I knew him for many years professionally,” Arce said. “He was a good guy. He seemed to be very safety conscious.”

Transcript details

A transcript of Golo’s exchange with air traffic controllers — first at North Las Vegas Airport, then at Henderson Executive Airport — can be found on the website Aviation Safety Network, a private initiative that tracks aviation crashes and incidents.

Golo’s Cessna was cleared for takeoff at 9:27 a.m.

At 9:30 a.m., he reported that he needed to redirect to the Henderson airport, according to the transcript. Five minutes later, he told the Henderson tower, “We have to shut down one engine so, like to come straight in.”

A Henderson air traffic controller immediately said that the plane was cleared to land and asked Golo, “Do you need me to roll the equipment?”

“Uh, negative,” Golo responded.

At 9:38 a.m., the air traffic controller then said, “Just lost your target, sir. Verify everything’s okay?”

There was no response.

Emergency response

Clark County Fire Department crews were called to the scene at 9:40 a.m. They found a destroyed aircraft engulfed in flames. A preliminary narrative from the Federal Aviation Administration, posted on Aviation Safety Network, attributed the crash to “unknown circumstances.”

“Both occupants suffered fatal injuries in the accident,” according to the narrative. “The pilot was forced to shut down an engine about five minutes before the crash and had requested a diversion to Henderson Executive Airport.”

The transcript appears to correspond with a witness account of the crash.

Witness Anthony Lianzo said he was driving through his neighborhood when he saw the crash. He described a two-propeller aircraft flying about 100 feet from the ground. He said the plane’s left propeller did not appear to be working.

“I saw the plane basically rear to the right,” Lianzo said. “He was way too low.”

He then heard a loud boom and saw a huge ball of flames.

Arce described Golo, in his early 70s, as a retired air traffic controller and kind professional with a love of flying. In fact, Golo loved to fly so much, he pursued it as a business endeavor through his San Diego-based aviation charter company, Air Charter Express, Inc.

“He had a long career,” Arce said.

Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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