This month in Alaska, two fatal plane crashes claimed the lives of six people. On August 13, the pilot of a small plane was killed when his plane crashed near Birchwood Airport in Chugiak. Then weeks later on August 31, two small planes collided in western Alaska, killing five people. Investigators are piecing together what caused both crashes.
Five Victims Identified in Alaskan Mid-air Plane Crash
August 31, 2016
Five people were killed on Wednesday when two small planes collided mid-air and crashed in a remote part of western Alaska. The Alaskan mid-air plane crash was reported at around 11:00 a.m. local time just six miles from the village of Russian Mission, which is about 375 miles away from Anchorage.
The scene of the crash is only accessible by helicopter, according to local law enforcement officials who responded to the emergency. Alaska State Troopers confirmed that none of the five people aboard the two planes survived.
According to the Alaska Dispatch News, the Alaskan mid-air plane crash involved a Hageland Aviation Cessna 208 Caravan, which was operated by Ravn Alaska, and a Piper PA-18 Super Cub, operated by Renfro’s Alaskan Adventures.
Authorities identified the deceased as 48-year-old Harry Wrase, the pilot of the Caravan; 32-year-old Steven Paul Andrew and 21-year-old Aaron Jay Minock, passengers aboard the Caravan; 44-year-old Super Cub pilot Zach Babat; and 40-year-old Super Cub passenger Jeff Burruss. The bodies will be sent to the Alaska State Medical Examiner’s Office in Anchorage for autopsies.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) arrived at the crash scene on Thursday and removed the wreckage on Friday for analysis. Investigators told the media that they will begin reconstructing the wreckage on Tuesday in an effort to better understand what may have caused the Alaskan mid-air plane crash.
Neither plane was equipped with a black box recorder or a cockpit voice recorder, so officials will be examining in-flight radar data to piece together the sequence of events leading to the plane crash.
The NTSB is expected to release a preliminary report on the Alaskan mid-air plane crash in the coming weeks. A full report on the collision will likely take a year or more to complete.
Pilot in Birchwood Airport Plane Crash Identified
August 13, 2016
A small plane crashed near Birchwood Airport on Saturday, August 13, killing 43-year-old pilot Christopher Lampshire. Mr. Lampshire was the only person aboard the single-engine Champion Citabria plane at the time. At this time, it is unclear where he was traveling.
The crash was reported at around 1:32 p.m. on the north side of Birchwood Airport. When emergency responders arrived at the crash site, they found the small plane completely engulfed in flames, eliminating any possibility of making a rescue attempt.
NTSB spokesman Mike Hodges told the media in the immediate aftermath of the crash that it was possible a second person had been aboard the Champion Citabria, as the extensive fire damage to the aircraft made it all but impossible to clearly determine the number of occupants. Officials would later say that Mr. Lampshire was the only fatality from the crash.
Wreckage from the Alaskan plane crash has been moved to a facility in Wasilla, where the engine will be scrutinized by investigators from the NTSB and the engine manufacturer, Lycoming. Witnesses who saw the plane take off reported hearing two popping noises in the moments prior to the crash.
According to the NTSB, nothing is off the table in terms of what they will focus their investigation on. However, with witnesses reporting the popping noises, the plane’s engine will be a point of emphasis.
FAA Warns Alaska Air Charters After Spike in Plane Crash Injuries and Deaths
Earlier this year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an unprecedented warning to Alaska charter and commuter aviation operators after a 12-month period produced a spike in Alaskan plane crash injuries and deaths.
Accidents involving aircraft operating under the FAA’s Part 135 designation resulted in 24 deaths or serious injuries between May of 2015 and May of 2016, according to the Alaska Dispatch News. Part 135 operators include commuter flights and on-demand sightseeing or charter flights.
Many of the crashes were listed as ‘Controlled Flight into Terrain,’ or CFIT, which is the designation for an airworthy plane under the control of a pilot flying into rising or flat ground. Often, these types of accidents happen in low cloud ceilings or when visibility is reduced.
The FAA’s warning letter urged carriers to bolster their safety cultures from the top down and review their operations in order to identify any potential hazards. Clint Wease, who manages the FAA’s Alaska Flight Standards Division, signed the letter by saying most CFIT crashes are preventable, and the result of “inappropriate or nonexistent safety cultures.”