The municipal airport in Torrance reopened Friday, a day after two helicopters collided over a runway and crashed, killing two veteran aviators in one of the choppers and severely injuring the student pilot in the other.
Air traffic resumed at Zamperini Field after National Transportation Safety Board investigators removed the wreckage from one of the twin runways and a cornfield between them. The wreckage was hauled to a facility in Corona, where it will be studied for clues as to how the accident occurred.
One of the men killed was identified Friday as Brett Dean Boyd, 36, of Tempe, Ariz., an experienced pilot who was taking a flight-safety refresher course from the Robinson Helicopter Co., which built and owned the chopper.
The man who died with Boyd when their four-seat Robinson R-44 helicopter crashed and burned on Runway 29 Left was severely burned and has not been officially identified. However, the Robinson company, which is based at the airport, said he was an experienced flight instructor who had worked for the company for several years.
Which man was at the controls of the R-44 when the collision occurred has not been determined.
The smaller, two-seat Robinson R-22 helicopter that went down in the cornfield was owned by Pacific Coast Helicopters, a flight-training and aircraft-rental facility at Zamperini Field, FAA spokesman Donn Walker said.
Officials said the student pilot of that chopper, who was flying alone, was in critical condition Friday at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. His name has not been released.
"We at Robinson are deeply saddened by our loss," the company said in a statement released Friday. "Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the family members and friends of those lost and the student pilot
Officials at Pacific Coast Helicopters could not be reached for comment.
The precise circumstances surrounding the collision remained unclear, but Walker said the collision occurred about 200 feet above the runway at 3:25 p.m. as the solo pilot was coming in for a landing and the other chopper was taking off.
Walker said two controllers in the airport tower were directing traffic. NTSB spokesman Paul Schlamm said both controllers were being interviewed and recordings of radio communications between the tower and the helicopters were being studied.
Schlamm said that because the collision occurred at such a low altitude, investigators don't know yet whether recorded radar data will provide much information about the crash.
NTSB investigations of air crashes usually take months, and an official determination of the cause of the crash is not expected until next year.