The National Transportation Safety Board says a cargo plane that crashed near Dillingham, leaving both of the Anchorage men flying it dead, was under an instrument flight rules flight plan when it “impacted rising terrain” Friday morning.
According to a preliminary NTSB report, the Beech 1900C operated by ACE Air Cargo crashed after its crew told Federal Aviation Administration personnel they were on approach to Dillingham. Alaska State Troopers named the men on board last week as pilot Jeff Day, 38, and first officer Neil Jensen, 21.
The instrument flight rules called for in the aircraft's flight plan, which involve flying by instrument and navigational data, are usually used when weather makes it unsafe to fly an aircraft visually.
The flight originated in Anchorage at about 5:45 a.m. Friday and made a scheduled stop in King Salmon. It then headed for its next scheduled stop in Dillingham, contacting the FAA’s Air Route Traffic Control Center in Anchorage at about 7:57 a.m. A controller told Day and Jensen to approach an initial approach fix point as they prepared to land in Dillingham, advising them to stay above an altitude of 2,000 feet.
“A short time later the flight crew requested to enter a holding pattern at the IAF so that they could contact the Flight Service Station (FSS) for a runway conditions report, and the ARTCC specialist granted that request,” NTSB officials wrote. “The ARTCC specialist then made several attempts to contact the aircraft, but was unsuccessful and subsequently lost radar track on the aircraft.”
An emergency locator transmitter signal was subsequently received from the plane, in the Muklung Hills region about 20 miles northeast of Dillingham, at about 9:15 a.m. Friday.
The plane was reported overdue to the 11th Air Force’s Rescue Coordination Center in Anchorage, prompting a major search effort in the area. Ground searchers were turned back by poor weather, and on Friday afternoon aircraft were above the crash site but couldn’t see through dense cloud cover. It wasn’t until Saturday that the fate of the crew was confirmed.
“Once the crew of a HH-60G helicopter from the Air National Guard's 210th Air Rescue Squadron, (based in) Anchorage, Alaska, reached the steep, snow and ice-covered site, they confirmed that both pilots sustained fatal injuries,” NTSB officials wrote.
A weather report from the Dillingham airport as of 7:45 a.m. Friday listed weather conditions as light rain, with winds from the east at 17 knots and gusts to 30 knots. Visibility was reported as seven miles, with a cloud ceiling at 1,500 feet.
Contact Chris Klint