A chartered plane missed the runway and crashed into a hillside in the ski-resort town of Aspen, killing all 18 people on board Thursday night.

The Gulfstream III jet was flying from Los Angeles International airport.

Officials said there were 15 passengers and three crew on board the plane. All 18 bodies have been recovered.

Two passengers were still strapped to their seats and one body was sprawled on the hillside.

A witness who was driving near the Sardy Field airport said she saw the plane approach the runway and then flames just minutes later.

The plane appeared to have hit a six-metre hillside and lost its tail, falling apart while plunging across a 70-metre culvert between the hill and the airport.

The plane then slammed into a bluff about 450 metres short of the runway.

Debris was strewn over about 100 metres.

The U.S. National Weather Service reported light snow and mist in the Aspen area at the time of the crash.

The airport is surrounded by Rocky Mountains towering as much as 1,000 metres above the only runway. Approaching pilots are warned that "high rates of descent may be required due to terrain."