Aircraft Lined Up for Wrong Runway before Las Vegas Midair

The July 17 collision between a Cessna 172 and Piper PA-46 JetProp killed four people.

The July 17 midair collision between a Cessna 172 and turboprop-converted Piper PA-46 occurred as both aircraft were on short final for Runway 30R at North Las Vegas Airport (KVGT), according to a newly published NTSB preliminary report. The pilot and passenger aboard the Piper and the instructor and student in the Cessna were all killed in the accident.

The NTSB said that only the Cessna was cleared to Runway 30R, while the Piper had been cleared to Runway 30L. Up to the moment of the collision, the Piper pilot had repeatedly acknowledged the clearance to land on 30L.

The Piper was arriving from Pappy Boyington Airport in Idaho and the Cessna was already in the pattern for right traffic to Runway 30R. Before handoff to the tower, approach instructed the Piper pilot to overfly the airport midfield for left traffic to Runway 30L.

The Piper pilot contacted the tower and reported: “Descending out of 7,600 feet msl for landing on three zero left, and Nellis said to cross midfield.” The tower controller responded, “Continue for three zero left.” The pilot reported, “OK, continue for runway three zero left…we will cross over midfield.” The Cessna pilot received clearance for a “short approach” and for the option to Runway 30R.

About 20 seconds after clearing the Piper to land, the tower controller transmitted, “I think I said it right, runway three zero left, runway three zero left.” The Piper pilot responded with “Yeah, affirmative, runway three zero left. That’s what I heard.” There were no further transmissions from either airplane before they collided about a quarter mile from the approach end of Runway 30R.