Two killed in jet crash in Boulder City

Two people were killed Friday afternoon when a small jet crashed in the Boulder City desert.

The single-engine recreational jet crashed shortly after takeoff from Boulder City’s airport about 12:35 p.m. The wreckage was about a half-mile west of the airport.

A witness who spoke to police said the jet appeared to lose power, Boulder Police Chief Thomas Finn said. It crashed in a desert area near power lines.

“We’re still trying to gather the details,” Finn said.

The aircraft was a Czech-made Aero Vodochody L39 military-style jet trainer originally developed in the ’60s.

Finn said a small group had met at the airport and two planes – possibly both L39 jets – had taken off at the same time.

The plane appeared to stay mostly intact and “pancaked” as it struck the ground, he said.

“The L39 doesn’t have a great glide ratio,” Finn said. “When it loses an engine that’s pretty much it.”

The two-seat jet was manufactured in 1981 and purchased by Palmdale, Calif., resident Walter Woltosz in 2010.

The jet had been loaned to a friend of Woltosz, said his business assistant Renee Bouche.

Woltosz, who works in the pharma­ceutical technology industry, was traveling in Japan on Friday and could not be reached for comment. He had been told about the crash, she said.

Bouche declined to give details about the pilot, but said he was very experienced. She wasn’t sure why the jet was in Boulder City.

The jet was in prime condition, she said.

“He (Woltosz) owns two airplanes and they are absolutely maintained meticulously,” Bouche said.

Finn said he wasn’t sure who had been piloting the plane or why the pilot was in Boulder City. The airport doesn’t have air traffic controllers.

His department was not involved in the post-crash investigation and he deferred to the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board when asked for details.

Officials from the NTSB should arrive on scene this morning, Finn said.

Finn said a half-dozen Apache attack helicopters from the Arizona National Guard were fueling at the airport when the plane crashed.

One helicopter landed near the crash to attempt to help, but nothing could be done, Finn said.

The plane did not explode into flames, although there was a small engine fire that had to be extinguished, he said.

According to enthusiast website L39.com, more than 2,800 versions of the L39 “Albatross” were produced. There are more than 300 jets that are privately owned and remain flying.

The site lists 19 crashes from 1998 through January.

An L39 jet also crashed in Nevada during the Reno air races in 2007, killing the 47-year-old pilot.

Contact reporter Mike Blasky at
mblasky@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283.

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