NTSB completes preliminary investigation of fatal mid-air crash near Russian Mission

 From Alaska State Troopers
From Alaska State Troopers (KTUU)
Published: Sep. 8, 2016 at 12:42 PM AKDT
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A system that gives pilots situational awareness of other aircraft in their vicinity was not fully operational on board the

last week, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board. However, the technical issue was likely not a contributing factor to the crash.

The Cessna was equipped with a technology called “automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast” (ADS-B) which allows pilots to broadcast their locations, and receive information on the positions of other nearby planes that are also equipped with the same system.

According to the NTSB report, investigators found that the ADS-B system on the Cessna was only transmitting its location, and was not receiving any information from other planes. NTSB regional chief Clint Johnson said investigators are still working to understand why this was the case.

“That link coming back form the ground-based transceiver was not available," Johnson said.

However, even if the Cessna’s ADS-B system had been functioning normally, the aircraft’s instruments would still not have picked up the Super Cub’s proximity because the Super Cub wasn’t equipped with an ADS-B system at all, Johnson told KTUU.

“ADS-B is a wonderful tool that provides a tremendous amount of information to pilots but it’s not a save-all,” Johnson said, stressing that pilots should always be aware of their surroundings instead of relying solely on their instruments.

While investigators are still working to determine a specific cause for the crash, the NTSB’s report does reveal new details in the timeline of

The Cessna, operated by Ravn Connect departed from Russian Mission airport just before 10 a.m. on the morning of Aug. 31. On-board was the commercial pilot and two passengers en route to Marshall.

The Super Cub, operated by a guided hunting operation called Renfro’s Alaskan Adventures, had flown out of Bethel at 9:07 a.m. and was destined for a remote hunting location about 20 miles northwest of Russian Mission. On board was the pilot and a single customer.

Weather at the Russian Mission Airport was recorded as calm wind and clear skies with 10 miles of visibility, according to the report.

When the Cessna failed to make its scheduled arrival time in Marshall at 10:17 a.m., Ravn Connect’s operational control center contacted two company pilots in the Russian Mission air space and asked them to fly over to the overdue aircraft’s last known location.

“The two company pilots then flew their airplanes to the area of the last coordinates and obtained visual confirmation of the Cessna wreckage,” investigators wrote.

Meanwhile, another aircraft operated by Renfro’s Alaskan Adventures had flown over the remote hunting camp at around 10:30 a.m. and noticed that the Super Cub and its occupants were not at their scheduled destination.

“The operator/owner radioed the company headquarters for a status update on the Piper and was supplied the last latitude and longitude coordinates from the company's DeLorme flight following system,” investigators wrote. “The owner/operator flew to the area of the last coordinates and obtained visual confirmation of the Piper wreckage.”

NTSB investigators and Alaska State Troopers traveled to the two wreckage sites, located about half a mile apart in an area of rolling hills and dense vegetation. They found no survivors.

After a two-day investigation on scene, the wreckage was recovered and brought back to a secure facility in Anchorage for further examination, NTSB said.