August 28, 2008
Pilot Was Licensed, Fit to Fly
By Keith Rogers
By KEITH ROGERSREVIEW-JOURNAL
The pilot flying a home-built experimental plane when it crashed into a North Las Vegas home Friday, killing him and two people inside the house, held a current pilot's license, a flight instructor's certificate and a medical certificate, Federal Aviation Administration records show.
The pilot, identified by the Clark County coroner's office as 76- year-old Mack Creekmore Murphree Jr. of Dayton, just east of Carson City, also held certificates for an airline transport pilot with commercial privileges for multi-engine planes and a private privilege to tow gliders. His cause of death was blunt trauma injuries.
Murphree's flight instructor certificate was scheduled to expire Aug. 31. An FAA spokesman said there are a number of ways for instructors to renew their certificates, including passing a practical test.
What's important, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor, is that Murphree was licensed to fly and had a current medical certificate, meaning he was deemed physically fit to fly.
A family member declined comment, telling the Review-Journal it was too soon to talk about the crash.
Murphree's third-class FAA medical certificate required him to wear corrective lenses for near and distant vision.
In addition, he was a flight engineer and mechanic authorized for turbojet-powered and reciprocating-powered aircraft. He was also authorized to conduct power plant inspections on aircraft.
His registration records list a 1964 single-engine Stits Playboy SA3B, and an experimental "Murphree M C Velocity Elite XL" that was deemed airworthy on May 22, 2001, and certified on July 6, 2005.
But on Friday, he was flying a home-built Velocity 173 RG, owned by Mike L. Killgore, formerly of Las Vegas.
Killgore lived in Las Vegas until selling his house in February and moving to Show Low, Ariz. A woman who answered the door there declined to comment Friday, citing the advice of a lawyer.
Gregor said the FAA had found no enforcement actions taken against Murphree.
National Safety Transportation Board investigators are expected to take several weeks to complete their probe into the cause of the crash.
A search of the FAA database didn't show any records that airworthiness directives had been issued for problems regarding rear propeller-driven Velocity aircraft. That was the type of experimental plane Murphree was flying when it failed to gain altitude upon taking off from the North Las Vegas airport. It crashed into the home of Jack and Lucy Costa, near Lake Mead Boulevard and Simmons Street.
Gregor said FAA investigators are looking into whether the aircraft Murphree was flying was required to have 40 hours of test flights over unpopulated areas before it could be cleared for take- offs and landings over populated areas.
The plane's logbook shows an airworthiness certificate was issued in 2002. The aircraft, with tail number N415MK, had only five flight hours, 35 hours short of the safe test flight requirement.
Murphree lived at the Dayton Airpark at Legado, a privately owned community built around a runway, two miles from downtown Dayton. He lived with his family on Doolittle Street in a neighborhood designed for fliers, with street names such as Yeager and Lindberg.
Some homes have hangars where planes are parked a short distance from where they can taxi and launch from a 5,400-foot-long paved runway.
A neighbor said he had known the pilot for 11 years and described him as an avid aviator who had flown commercially for Federal Express and for Flying Tigers before it merged with Federal Express.
"He's been in aviation since he was a young teen-ager and flew for the airlines and retired and was flying privately like most of us here at the airport," said the neighbor, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
He said Murphree flew both the Stits Playboy SA3B and the experimental Murphree M C Velocity Elite XL out of the Dayton airpark.
Review-Journal writers Sean Whaley and Francis McCabe contributed to this report. Contact reporter Keith Rogers at [email protected] or 702-383-0308.
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