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Preliminary Report: Aircraft crashes near Chakachamna Lake; deceased pilot identified

Photo of Jason Walkush, 35, the pilot of the Aug. 23, 2017, downed Piper PA-18 airplane near...
Photo of Jason Walkush, 35, the pilot of the Aug. 23, 2017, downed Piper PA-18 airplane near Tyonek, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Teresa Walkush) (KTUU)
Published: Aug. 24, 2017 at 12:47 PM AKDT
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Update - Aug. 31., 3:45 p.m.:

According to an NTSB preliminary report, at 10:45 p.m., the Aug. 23 downed Piper PA-18 airplane was destroyed after "impacting remote tree-covered terrain," approximately 31 miles northwest of Tyonek, Alaska.

This crash resulted in the death of 35-year-old Jason Walkush, who was the plane's pilot and sole occupant, according to authorities.

Moreover, the airplane was "registered to and operated by the pilot as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 visual flight rules personal flight."

The preliminary report determined that the flight originated from a remote airstrip near Telaquana Lake, and it was en route to Merrill Field, in Anchorage. The pilot's wife later told NTSB investigators that Walkush was returning from a "solo sheep hunting trip."

According to NTSB, the wife reported that Walkush departed from Merrill Field on Aug. 19. She told them that the trip was "open ended with no set return date." Furthermore, no flight plan was filed with NTSB, according to the preliminary report.

On Aug. 23, around 9 p.m., the report states that Walkush used a satellite phone to contact his wife for weather information; however, he never did receive that weather information from his wife prior to taking-off, according to NTSB Alaska Region Chief Clint Johnson. And by 10:20 p.m., Walkush sent a text stating that he was flying over Kenibuna Lake and that he expected to "be home" around 11 p.m.

But 15 minutes later, the U.S. Air Force Alaska Rescue Coordination Center received a 406 MHz ELT signal from his registered N1905A aircraft.

The report also determined that 8 minutes after the crash time, the Kenai Municipal Airport reported visual meteorological conditions as "dark night."

On Aug. 23, sunset was at 9:37 p.m., and the end of civil twilight was at 10:27 p.m.

The next day, NSTB and AST traveled to the crash site, in order to recover the body and wreckage. The preliminary report states that the wreckage has been transported to a facility for continued examination.

Update - Aug. 25., 3:45 p.m.:

On Friday at approximately 3:25 p.m., the State Medical Examiner's Office identified the deceased pilot as 35-year-old Jason Walkush of Anchorage, according to the Alaska State Troopers. AST says next-of-kin have been notified.

According to NTSB's Clint Johnson, the body was recovered Thursday evening. Johnson says the investigation has entered the "wreckage recovery phase."

In the upcoming week, Johnson said NTSB will attempt to arrange a helicopter recovery of the plane wreckage. From there, he said the parts will be dropped off in either Anchorage or Wasilla, where the investigation will continue.

This is a developing story and will be updated with further information.
Update - Aug. 24., 4:05 p.m.:

NTSB received notification of a plane crash, between Tyonek and Port Alsworth, at approximately 11 p.m. Wednesday, according to NTSB Alaska Region Chief Clint Johnson. He confirmed the death of the pilot, after the Rescue Coordination Center arrived on scene Thursday afternoon.

More specifically, the plane crashed about 50 miles west of Tyonek, near the east end of Chakachamna Lake, according to Johnson.

The identity of the pilot is not being released currently, as AST is still working on notifying next-of-kin, said Johnson. He was able to confirm that the pilot was the sole occupant of the plane.

Additionally, Johnson described the downed Piper PA-18 as being personal-use.

"Things are very preliminary at this point," said Johnson. "We're tying to put those pieces of the puzzle together, but we just started the investigation."

While NTSB does not yet know how, or why, the plane crashed yesterday evening, Johnson did explain that rescue teams were able to locate the aircraft, because the plane emitted a "406 ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) hit."

By tomorrow morning, Johnson is hopeful that investigators will have more information about the crash.

"State Troopers and NTSB are actually on scene, as we speak right now," Johnson told KTUU. "They will be there pretty much all day recovering the remains and also starting our initial investigation."

This is a developing story and will be updated with further information.
Original Story - Aug. 24, 12:47 p.m.:

A plane has crashed between Tyonek and Port Alsworth and trooper helicopters are en route to locate the sole occupant aboard.

The plane went down sometime on Wednesday and did receive a search and rescue call overnight.

"There's a lot that we don't know right now," said Clint Johnson, Alaska chief for the National Transportation Safety Bureau.

"Probably about three minutes ago, the trooper helicopters took off to head to the crash site," Johnson said Thursday afternoon.

Right now, the identity and condition of the pilot and sole occupant are not yet being disclosed. The damage to the plane is not known.

The plane in question, a Piper PA-18 Super Cub, is "a very very popular aircraft in Alaska," Johnson said.

The cause of the crash is not immediately available, but Johnson noted that weather in the region is not favorable and has slightly slowed the investigation.

While the general area of the crash is known, investigators do not have a concrete location of the downed aircraft. The plane's flight path and departure location are also not available at this time.