- A twin-engine Air Force transport plane crashed early
Tuesday on Nellis Air Force Range, killing the civilian pilot and four
contract workers who were traveling from a remote airstrip to the Tonopah
Test Range, Air Force officials said.
- A statement from Nellis base officials said the Air Force
Beechcraft KA 1900 crashed at about 5 a.m. "while flying a routine
support mission," roughly 125 miles northwest of the Las Vegas Valley.
- The cause of the crash was unknown late Tuesday, but
a team of investigators had been dispatched to the crash site.
- "There were no survivors. Our immediate concern
is for the families of those on board," the statement read. The bodies
had been recovered but the names of the pilot and passengers were withheld
pending notification of relatives.
- A Nellis spokeswoman, 1st Lt. Amy Render, said the plane,
which belonged to the Air Force Material Command, was taking contract workers
for a Las Vegas company, JT3 LLC, from a classified airstrip on the Nellis
range to the Tonopah Test Range.
- She said the transport plane was in the middle of an
airlift mission in support of the Air Force's flight test program.
- Asked if the plane had departed the military's operating
location along Groom Lake, an installation widely known as Area 51, Render
said, "There is an Air Force operating location near Groom Lake but
beyond that everything is classified."
- While Air Force officials could provide only few details
about the operations the transport plane was supporting, sources familiar
with classified activities in remote parts of the sprawling Nellis range
said the Beechcraft 1900 was one of several transport planes that shuttle
workers from McCarran International Airport to the Groom Lake installation
and the Tonopah Test Range.
- One of the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity,
said the plane that crashed was known as the "Area 51 stretch King
- A telephone call about the crash to the JT3 company was
fielded by Alan Hunter, vice president of EG&G Technical Services,
who referred to the Air Force news release. "It was their aircraft.
I can't confirm anything that is not in the press release," he said.
- JT3 is a joint venture of the technical services subsidiaries
of two corporations, EG&G and Raytheon.
- According to JT3's Web site, the company's services include
flight test engineering and analysis.
- Tuesday's crash was the worst fatal accident on the Nellis
range since Sept. 4, 1998, when two rescue helicopters crashed killing
all 12 airmen on board.