K2 pilot in Denali crash had 43 years of aviation experience

 Courtesy Ken Stoltzfus
Courtesy Ken Stoltzfus (KTUU)
Published: Aug. 9, 2018 at 7:09 PM AKDT
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The K2 Aviation pilot killed in this week’s plane crash over Denali National Park was hired for his lifetime of aviation experience spanning 43 years, according to a PR firm speaking on behalf of the company.

Craig Layson first flew solo at the age of 16 in 1975, obtaining his private pilots license in 1977. However, he only obtained an instrument rating in 2012, and his commercial pilots license in February, 2017.

“He owned several of his own airplanes,” a spokesperson told Channel 2 in an email.

Layson took off from Talkeetna Airport in a de Havilland Beaver with four passengers at 5:06 p.m. Saturday evening, according to the National Park Service. The flight was expected to return to Talkeetna after an approximately one hour flight seeing tour through the Alaska Range.

Exact details on the intended course of the flight could not immediately be given, but NPS says it didn’t include a glacier landing.

“The flight paths we follow are always dependent on weather conditions, best viewing opportunities and air traffic in the area, so they differ according to each day’s conditions,” K2’s spokesperson said.

At around 6 p.m., the plane impacted steep, snow-covered terrain at an elevation of 11,000 feet on the north side of Thunder Mountain, about 14 miles from the summit of Denali, according to NTSB investigation Shaun Williams.

The aircraft’s emergency locator beacon was activated immediately upon impact, and Layson was able to call K2 Aviation’s office by satellite phone at around 6 p.m. as well.

The highly-fragmented wreckage came to rest hanging precariously on a glacier, the location of which has been a major obstacle to rescue and recovery efforts so far.

Details about what happened immediately after the crash remain uncertain, but NPS confirms that Layson made a second satellite phone call at around 7 p.m. When rangers were able to reach the crash site on Sunday, four of the occupants were confirmed deceased. They were unable to see the fifth occupant, but that person was presumed deceased as well.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story reported that the pilot, Craig Layson, held an A&P mechanics certification, according to a company serving as K2’s public relations firm; however, when KTUU inquired why there were no such certification records on file with the FAA, the PR firm’s owner, Jennifer Thompson, confirmed to KTUU Friday that Layson did not hold A&P certification.”