5 dead in Arizona twin-engine plane crash; plane saw vapor coming from engine after takeoff

Wednesday, October 18th 2006, 9:27 pm
By: News On 6

PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) -- A twin-engine plane carrying five passengers on a flight to photograph a vintage Soviet jet fighter crashed Wednesday, killing everyone on board, a federal official said.

The Piper Cheyenne plane and a Mig-21 fighter took off from an airport in Prescott, about 60 miles north of Phoenix, about 1:30 p.m. for a photo shoot, said Ian Gregor, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.

As the Cheyenne ascended after takeoff, an air traffic controller radioed the pilot to warn him about vapor seen coming from the right engine, Gregor said. The pilot radioed back saying he didn't think it was a problem.

The MiG pilot told investigators he thought he had a problem with a landing gear door about 20 minutes into the flight and asked the pilot of the other plane to fly in close for an inspection, Gregor said.

The MiG pilot said the other plane flew under his jet but never reappeared. He radioed air traffic controllers that there may have been a mid-air collision at about 8,900 feet. But Gregor said there was no sign of damage on the jet after it landed safely in Prescott.

Searchers spotted a large column of smoke near Prescott and found the Cheyenne destroyed in a crash.

Investigators from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the accident.