A small plane crashed and burst into flames at the Van Nuys Airport Wednesday morning, killing two people aboard the aircraft.

The crash was reported at 10:37 a.m., and shortly after responders arrived at the scene in the 16300 block of Waterman Drive, they put out the blaze, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

It appears the plane was involved in a training flight carrying an instructor and a student inside the two-seater aircraft. The passengers were identified only as adult males.

“Fire crews quickly extinguished the flames, but, sadly, both occupants on board were found to be deceased,” the LAFD added. “This was a very high-impact crash that erupted into flames. “We have a very high impact, what was described as nose-first into the ground. So tragically, that likely quickly caused the death of both occupants.”

Footage shared to the Citizen app showed a dark plume of smoke rising from the area. Aerial footage from Sky5 showed a large amount of fire retardant around the heavily scorched aircraft.

  • Firefighters extinguished a plane fire in Van Nuys on Aug. 2, 2023. (KTLA)
  • The small two-seater single engine plane involved in a deadly crash that killed two people in Van Nuys on August 2, 2023. (KTLA)
  • The plane's exact path on FlightAware as it circled Van Nuys Airport twice before crashing the third time around on August 2, 2023.
  • plane fire out
  • Firefighters extinguished a plane fire in Van Nuys on Aug. 2, 2023. (KTLA)
  • Firefighters extinguished a plane fire in Van Nuys on Aug. 2, 2023. (KTLA)
  • Firefighters extinguished a plane fire in Van Nuys on Aug. 2, 2023. (KTLA)
  • Firefighters extinguished a plane fire in Van Nuys on Aug. 2, 2023. (KTLA)

According to a FlightAware tracker, the plane had circled around the airport twice when for some unknown reason, it looped back quickly on the third round and crashed.

Audio tapes during the incident reveal the pilot had contacted the airport tower saying the plane had apparently stalled before requesting an emergency landing. Moments later, and just 14  minutes after takeoff, the plane crashed straight into the ground. 

Keith Matsushita, a student pilot, explains how critical a stall can be when flying at low altitudes.

“You’re too low to fly back to the airport and you’re too high to survive the landing so we pray that doesn’t happen to any of us pretty much every time we fly,” Matsushita said.

Airport police and nearby law enforcement had witnessed the fiery crash at the time.

“We happened to have a police officer who was just standing just a few feet away when this occurred so he was actually able to hear and see the incident right away,” said Capt. Karla Rodriguez with L.A. Airport Police. “Unfortunately, he was not able to do anything because of the plane’s fire that occurred instantly.”

Another witness, identified only as John, also recalled the wreck saying, “I did see initially that there were a large amount of flames which indicates that the airplane was carrying a lot of fuel. Luckily, it didn’t hit any houses or apartment buildings.”

The Federal Aviation Administration indicated the aircraft was a single-engine CSA SportCruiser that was registered to the Van Nuys Airport.

Eyewitness John, who is part of the Van Nuys aviation community, believes the crash location is unusual.

“It’s not near the end of a runway,” he said. “The possibilities of what happened are pretty varied. The air person could have stalled the airplane. It could’ve been a mechanical issue or there could’ve been a medical issue.”

Fire officials said this incident marks the third crash at Van Nuys Airport in 2023 alone. Wednesday’s crash, however, marks the first deadly crash in nearly 20 years.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating. A preliminary report is expected to be released within the next few days.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct information about a stalled plane.