By CASEY GROVE
Published: September 2nd, 2011 07:09 PM
Two planes flying from separate Southwest Alaska villages collided today in the air near Nightmute, according to the National Transportation Safety Board and Alaska State Troopers. A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration says one pilot was apparently able to land his aircraft on tundra, and flaming debris from another plane was seen nearby.
The incident was reported to troopers as a midair collision about 4 p.m., said troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters. Troopers and medics responded in a helicopter from Bethel, about 100 miles east of the Nelson Island village, she said.
"We're on our way to see what we're up against," Peters said as the helicopter flew toward the crash site.
The planes are about 10 miles north of the village, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
One is a Cessna 207 operated by rural freight carrier Ryan Air, said the company's president, Wilfred Ryan. The Ryan Air pilot -- the only person onboard -- landed, got out and was talking to other pilots flying over the area, Ryan said.
"The report we had was that he was safe and walking around," said Ryan Air president Wilfred Ryan.
The other plane -- a Cessna 208 Caravan operated by air taxi and cargo operator Grant Aviation -- was reportedly on the ground in flames, NTSB investigator Clint Johnson said. Grant Aviation reported the Caravan's pilot was alone on the plane, Johnson said. The pilot's fate is unknown, according to troopers, the NTSB and the FAA.
The Ryan Air plane took off from Tununuk headed to Bethel, Johnson said. The Grant Aviation plane departed from Toksook Bay, also flying toward Bethel, the investigator said.
Another second Ryan Air pilot reported the incident to the company, which immediately notified federal and state authorities, Ryan said.
Ryan said the company has so far been unable to talk to their pilot. They don't know the circumstances of the accident, he said.
The cause of the collision and the extent of any injuries remains unknown, according to troopers and the NTSB.
Johnson said he would be heading to the crash site early Saturday to investigate further.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.