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September 24, 2017

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FAA revokes license of pilot involved in crash near Boulder City


Leila Navidi

The scene of a plane crash near the Boulder City airport on Friday, May 18, 2012.

The Federal Aviation Administration has revoked the license of a pilot involved in the May crash of an experimental fighter jet near the Boulder City Airport that killed two people.

The FAA issued an emergency revocation order against David Riggs on Tuesday, stripping him of his commercial pilot certificate and any other FAA certificates he holds.

Riggs was flying one of two Aero Vodochody L-39 jets out of the Boulder City Airport on May 18. Shortly after taking off in formation around 12:30 p.m., the second plane, piloted by Douglas Gilliss, of Solano Beach, Calif., crashed about a half mile northwest of the Boulder City Airport. Gilliss and his passenger, Richard Winslow, of Palm Desert, Calif., were killed in the accident.

Winslow was one of eight people who had purchased a flight package to ride in the jets operated by Mach 1 Aviation and Incredible Adventures, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report released after the accident.

The L-39 is classified under federal regulations as an experimental exhibition aircraft and, because of this designation, is prohibited from “carrying persons or property for compensation or hire.”

Less than two weeks before the crash, Riggs told FAA Aviation Safety Inspectors that he was aware of the regulation and that he was not carrying passengers for hire, according to the emergency revocation order.

The order said that by carrying out the for-hire flights, Riggs “was reckless so as to endanger the life or property of another.”

Riggs has the option to appeal the ruling but is otherwise prohibited from applying for a new pilot’s license for one year. His license had previously been revoked on Jan. 12, 2009, for failing to comply with several FAA regulations.

According to the NTSB’s report on the crash, the two L-39 jets took off from Van Nuys Airport in California on the morning of May 18 and met the group of paying customers at the Boulder City Airport. However, no flight plan was filed, the report stated.

After conducting two successful rounds of flights out of the Boulder City Airport in the morning, the pilots and the customers took a break for lunch, the report said.

On the first flight after lunch, the two airplanes took off in formation, in what a passenger in the surviving jet described as a “normal” takeoff, the report said.

However, shortly after takeoff, the passenger said he heard Gillis say “mayday” three times and that a reference to the plane’s canopy also was made immediately before Gilliss’ L-39 crashed, the report said.

The crashed L-39 received extensive damage to its fuselage and wing assembly, the report said, creating a 480-foot long debris field.

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