Small Plane Crashes After Takeoff in California; Airport Official Reports 2 Dead

A small business jet crashed while taking off from Van Nuys Airport on Friday, killing two people, federal officials said. A witness said the door of a nose compartment on the plane was open as it took off.

The plane had been carrying only its two crew members when it went down around 11 a.m., said Joe Miller, a dispatcher with Sun Quest Executive Air Charter, which operated the plane. Fire Department spokesman Ron Myers said two bodies were located in the burned wreckage.

The plane's left-hand nose baggage door was "wide open" as it took off, and the jet was veering side-to-side at a low speed, said witness Steve Purwin, a corporate jet pilot with 25 years experience.

"He was right on the verge of stall," Purwin said.

The plane then banked to its right before crashing, he said.

Little remained of twin-engine Cessna Citation but smoldering debris in a field near the San Fernando Valley airport. No nearby structures appeared to be damaged.

The plane had been leaving the airport in the Los Angeles suburbs, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said. It was headed to Long Beach, about 25 miles south of Los Angeles.

Depending on the model, a Citation can hold four to eight passengers, plus two pilots.

Van Nuys is the busiest general aviation airport in the nation, with an average of nearly 500,000 takeoffs and landings annually. It is owned by the city's Los Angeles World Airports department and used by private, corporate, charter, flight instruction and maintenance operations.