I-Team: Fighter jet that crashed near Nellis was contractor-owned, served as aggressor during training


Plane crashes Monday, investigation underway

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) say it will likely take two weeks to receive preliminary details about why a jet crashed Monday near Nellis Air Force Base.

The jet, a Mirage F-1, was owned by Draken International, a military contractor based in Florida. It took off around 2:30 p.m., crashing soon after in a neighborhood south of the airfield on North Christy Lane near Washington and Nellis.

The pilot was identified Tuesday as Nicholas Hunter Hamilton, 43, of Las Vegas.

Most planes taking off from Nellis do so to the north, according to a 2017 environmental impact study and retired Brig. Gen. Robert Novotny, who commanded the 57th wing at Nellis until last year.

The Air Force contracts with Draken to serve as aggressor airplanes during training, Novotny said.

“Draken is one of about six or so companies in the United States that purchase old, usually foreign nation-air forces or some old American fighter jets,” Novotny explained. “They’ll completely refurbish them. They’ll try to bring them up to date as best they can, and they will fly as adversary forces for us on this contract.”

The Mirage F-1 was first manufactured in France in the 1970s.

“When I was the base commander, my airplane at the base was built in 1983 and — I was the base commander, so we do have concern for fatigue,” Novotny said. “That’s why those airplanes will go through so many rigorous and frequent inspections.”

Officials told the I-Team on Tuesday it was too early to suspect why the plane crashed. Several witnesses told 8 News Now they heard what sounded like engine trouble shortly become the plane went down.

A French Dassault Mirage F-1 pilot prepares to link up with a KC-135R Stratotanker attached to the 351st Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron May 3, 2013, over Mali. The French-led operation in Mali receives assistance from U.S. aerial refueling tankers deployed from the 100th Air Refueling Wing, who flew its 200th mission with the French May 5, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Mesnard/Released)

A spokesperson for Draken said the company is mourning the loss and said the NTSB would be releasing all information regarding the investigation.

NTSB officials said it could take two weeks to receive basic information about the crash, including the flight track and exact make and model of the plane.

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