BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — Officials say three people were killed after two planes collided in mid-air in Boulder County Saturday morning.
The crash scenes are in two separate fields in the area of North 95th Street and Niwot Road, according to a tweet from Mt. View Fire Rescue.
A single-engine Cessna 172 and a Sonex aircraft collided and crashed near Vance Brand Airport in Longmont, according to an FAA statement.
The Boulder County Communications Center received multiple emergency phone calls regarding the crash at 8:54 a.m., according to the Boulder County Sheriff's Office.
The first crashed aircraft, the Cessna 172, was found in the 10000 block of Niwot Road on the south side. Two people on board the plane were killed, according to the sheriff's office.
The second crash scene, the Sonex aircraft, is in the 9700 block of Niwot Road on the north side. One person on board the plane was killed, the sheriff's office said.
At a press conference Saturday, Air Safety Investigator Mike Folkerts, with the National Transportation Safety Board, said two pilots — a flight instructor and a student pilot — were aboard the Cessna 172 which took off from Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport at about 8:43 a.m.
A third pilot took off from the Platte Valley Airpark in Hudson aboard the Sonex aircraft at about 8:38 a.m.
Both planes climbed to about 2,000 feet above the ground, where they collided and “fell fairly straight down from that point” after the collision, Folkerts said. Weather conditions were good, with clear skies and light winds.
“We’ll review the operational background of the pilots, their flight training and experience, and then we’ll perform a medical study on each of the pilots including autopsies and toxicology reports,” Folkerts said.
Neither plane was equipped with a collision avoidance system, nor were pilots in communication with Air Traffic Control, Folkerts said. He noted, however, that given the planes being flown this is not required by the FAA.
The crash comes amid growing concerns from residents in the Boulder, Louisville, and Superior area over a large increase in recent years in training flights and air traffic overall.
Denver7 has previously covered complaints over noise from neighbors near the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, and several crashes and emergency landings this year have caused further concern.
“For the most part, most pilot incidents are very safe,” pilot Brad Walker said. “You know, we train to land the airplane in an emergency.”
Walker said that with an increase in operations, more incidents are likely to happen. However, he also said the community has heightened awareness of crashes and emergency landings.
“I would say that flying is still one of the safest hobbies and professions that you can actually undertake,” Walker said. “I live a mile and a quarter from [Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport]. The planes fly overhead all the time over my house. You know, I’ve never once felt unsafe."
“[This] accident, unfortunate as it was, was done in a remote area, and that’s on purpose. Because if there is an accident, it minimizes damage to people on the ground or our facilities. It reduces the risk,” he said.
None of the victims have been identified.
The NTSB is being assisted in the investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration, and a preliminary report is expected to be released within two weeks. The full report could take 12 to 18 months to complete. The NTSB asks any witnesses with information to email firstname.lastname@example.org.