CHANDLER, ARIZ. >> A helicopter and a single-engine plane collided in midair today near a suburban Phoenix airport, sending the helicopter crashing into a field and killing both people on board. The plane landed safely, and the flight instructor and a student on board were not hurt.
The collision happened in the city of Chandler near its municipal airport, said police Sgt. Jason McClimans. He said no one on the ground was hurt but the airport would remain closed for several hours.
The Chandler Fire Department received reports of a fire in a field next to the airport shortly before 8 a.m. Crews found a large plume of smoke and the wreckage of the helicopter on fire but were able to extinguish it all relatively quickly, fire officials said.
They inspected the helicopter and found the bodies of the two people on board. The Maricopa County medical examiner’s office will determine their identities.
The chopper was operated by Quantum Helicopters and the plane by Flight Operations Academy. Both are flight schools, according to McClimans, of Chandler Police.
Richard Bengoa, owner of Flight Operations Academy, told The Associated Press the four-seat plane is used mostly for flight training. The only people aboard were the flight instructor and the student pilot.
Though officials did not allow Bengoa to get close to the plane, he said it appeared from a distance that the plane’s landing gear had been damaged. He said he had no information about how the collision happened and was not allowed to speak with the flight instructor or the student pilot.
Bengoa described his business as “more of a family business to kind of promote aviation and help people get their licenses.”
A statement from the Federal Aviation Administration also indicated evidence of damage on the Piper PA-28 aircraft’s landing gear. The agency listed the helicopter as a Robinson R22.
The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation into the cause of the collision and crash.
Police are seeking any witnesses or people who may have filmed any part of the ordeal.
Chandler Municipal Airport is a general aviation airport that does not provide commercial airline service. Most of the flights there are for chartered trips, private excursions and training.
Dodge City Community College in Kansas operates its DC3 Flight Instructor Program out of the Chandler airport. The school said in a statement on its Facebook page that “officials are working to notify the appropriate families of those involved in the incident.” Authorities have not mentioned any ties to a specific training program.