Final Report: Controllers Blamed For Runway Collision

 - October 10, 2006, 10:01 AM

Piper PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage, North Las Vegas, Nev., Sept. 23, 2003–Piper Arrow N8604N was landing on Runway 12R at North Las Vegas Airport and Mirage N146PM (with a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-35 turboprop conversion) had started the takeoff roll on Runway 7 when they collided at the intersection of the two runways. The Arrow was cleared to land on Runway 12R, 54 seconds before the Mirage received a takeoff clearance on the intersecting runway. Meanwhile, the local controller and local assist controller were looking at the radar and through the tower’s rear windows for a helicopter that had entered the class-D airspace without authorization. The NTSB determined the probable cause was the failure of the FAA ATC tower to effectively monitor the runway operation and ensure proper separation between aircraft on intersecting runways.

The LC-1 controller cleared the Arrow to land when the airplane was approximately 2.25 miles from the airport. About 20 seconds later, the airplane began a left turn toward the airport and flew a standard base leg to final approach. When the same controller cleared the pilot of the Mirage for takeoff, the Arrow was about 1.5 miles northeast of the airport on final to Runway 12R, its radar data tag showing a groundspeed of 110 knots, about one minute from touchdown. This meant that the pilot of the Mirage had less than one minute to taxi on to Runway 7, begin a departure roll and travel about 725 feet to pass through the intersection of Runway 12R before the Arrow crossed the Runway 12R threshold. VMC prevailed.

The 412-hour private pilot in the Arrow and the 1,755-hour instrument-rated private pilot in the Mirage sustained serious injuries, and both airplanes were substantially damaged. The Malibu Mirage pilot helped the Arrow pilot from the burning wreckage of his airplane.

The local controller stated that he was exhausted from working overtime.