NTSB releases preliminary reports for three deadly plane crashes
The National Transportation Safety Board has released three preliminary reports into three separate deadly plane crashes that happened in the month of December throughout Alaska. All three reports were released late Monday night. Here’s a summary of the findings.
The first crash happened on December 7th when a flight bound for Anchorage crashed into the open waters of Lake Clark. The NTSB says the Piper PA-28-180 airplane went down shortly after takeoff from Port Alsworth in the Lake and Peninsula Borough.
Four people were on board that flight: Port Alsworth residents Scott Blom, 45, his children, Kaitlyn Blom, 14, and Zach Blom, 13, and pilot Kyle Longerbeam, 25. The Blom family was reportedly flying to Anchorage for a volleyball tournament.
A family friend told the NTSB that four family members were originally going to fly on a scheduled air carrier on the day of the incident, but that morning, three of them chose to fly with a private pilot instead. The other family member took a different flight to Anchorage.
The NTSB says the plane was rented to Longerbeam, who was certified only for visual flight rules. “Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the airplane’s point of departure, but reduced visibility conditions were reported along the flight’s anticipated flight route,” the report says. There was also low-lying ice fog over Lake Clark.
Another pilot in the area said he spoke with Longerbeam while he was arriving in Port Alsworth from Anchorage. A few minutes later, when Longerbeam was departing the Port Alsworth Airport, he told the pilot that things were, “looking good under here, I’m gonna keep going.” That was the last transmission from Longerbeam.
The plane was reported overdue that afternoon. Searchers found personal items floating in Lake Clark the next day on December 8th. Four days later, the official search was suspended, but family friends and volunteers continued to search for the wreckage.
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On the same day and only about an hour after the Port Alsworth crash, the second fatal accident of the month happened in the interior. Former state legislator Mike Kelly was flying from the Chena Marina Airport in Fairbanks to the Tanana Flats southern training area at around 10 a.m.
The NTSB says that a maintenance technician who recently worked on the Bellanca Citabria 7GCBC that Kelly was flying said he, “was performing a post-maintenance test flight for recently-installed Micro Vortex Generators.” He also said he installed new skis, a new throttle cable, and a new alternator before the crash. The plane was flying without a transponder, which was taken out of the aircraft for repair.
At 10:31 a.m., Kelly activated his flight plan, according to archived radio communication recordings. His last transmission was a few minutes later, when he asked about restricted airspace.
Five hours later, two Army helicopters heard a Faint Emergency Locator Transmitter beacon, and a crew spotted the wreckage. Soldiers found Kelly dead.
The crash site was about seven miles south of Clear Creek Butte, the report says. All of the airplanes major components were found at the main wreckage site.
The weather conditions were clear and cold, with a temperature of about -26F, with very light winds.
Investigators examined a GPS system found on the scene. A preliminary examination shows the plane performed three full turns at different altitudes between 1,500 and 1,700 ft. The turns were followed by a “long, descending flight path… that included found speeds at 26 knots about 400 feet above the ground with some acceleration prior to ground impact.”
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Late last week, the third fatal crash happened in Southwest Alaska. The preliminary report offers few clues to what caused the plane to go down.
The crash happened Thursday afternoon about 40 miles south of Aniak. Two people on board were killed: the pilot, identified by Alaska State Troopers as Mark Matter, 62, and passenger Cecilia Matter, 63, both of Aniak. Concerned family members called Troopers Friday after the Piper PA-11 airplane failed to arrive at the destination of Marvel Creek.
According to the report, released late Monday night, the plane was found on the southwest side of Marvel Dome at an elevation of about 2,000 feet. The plane hit in a “near wings level attitude,” and came to rest, “inverted”. There were about 20 feet between the plane and the first noticeable piece of debris. The propeller was found about 80 feet uphill from the engine.
Fresh snow covered any ground scars, but the NTSB says Aniak Airport was reporting low winds and clear skies at the time of the crash.
A detailed examination of the engine and airframe is pending recovery of the wreckage.
Alaska State Troopers said Monday that the bodies have been recovered and taken to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Anchorage for autopsy.
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