Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Saturday, August 13, 2011 in McGrath, AK
Aircraft: CESSNA 207, registration: N91099
Injuries: 2 Fatal,4 Serious.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On August 13, 2011, about 1940 Alaska daylight time (ADT), a Cessna 207 airplane, N91099, impacted mountainous, brush-covered terrain, about 37 miles west of McGrath, Alaska. Of the six people aboard, the pilot and one passenger died at the scene, and four passengers received serious injuries. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The flight was operated by Inland Aviation Services, Inc., Aniak, Alaska, as a 14 CFR Part 135 visual flight rules (VFR) on-demand charter flight when the accident occurred. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the airplane's point of departure, and instrument meteorological conditions were reported along the airplane's flight route. The flight originated at the McGrath Airport, about 1920, and was en route to the Anvik Airport, Anvik, Alaska, before continuing on to Aniak, the airplane's home base. VFR company flight following procedures were in effect.
During a hospital room interview with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), on August 16, a passenger related that the purpose of the flight was to transport a group of school teachers to Anvik before the start of the school year. His wife and two children were also aboard the accident airplane.
The passenger stated that he was seated in the front, right seat, next to the pilot. He said that about 20 minutes after leaving McGrath, as the flight progressed into mountainous terrain, low clouds, rain and fog restricted visibility. At one point the pilot told the passenger, in part: "This is getting pretty bad." The passenger said that the pilot then descended and flew the airplane very close to the ground, then climbed the airplane, and then it descended again. Moments later the passenger said that the airplane entered "whiteout conditions." The next thing the passenger recalled was looking out the front windscreen, and just before impact, seeing the mountainside suddenly appear out of the fog. He said that all of the survivors lost consciousness during the impact, and he was the first to regain consciousness.
The passenger noted that while boarding the airplane in McGrath, he happened to notice a SPOT satellite personal tracker that was clipped to the pilot's sun visor. He said that after the accident, he was able to find the SPOT device in the wreckage, and began pushing the emergency SOS button.
According to the operator, the pilot routinely carried his own SPOT satellite personal tracker. About 2030, family members in Wasilla, Alaska, the pilot's hometown, received an emergency SOS message from the pilot's SPOT device. A family member then immediately called the operator in Aniak to alert them of the distress message.
When the airplane failed to arrive in Aniak by 2045, company personnel initiated a phone and radio search to see if the airplane had diverted to another village. Unable to locate the airplane, company personnel initiated an aerial search along the pilot's anticipated route, but poor weather and dark night conditions prohibited a search of the entire flight route.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an alert notice (ALNOT) at 2200 Alaska daylight time.
Rescue personnel aboard an Air National Guard C-130 airplane tracked an analog, 121 MHz ELT signal to an area of mountainous terrain, but poor weather prohibited searchers from reaching the site until the next morning. The four seriously injured passengers remained at the accident site overnight.
The following morning, an HH-60G helicopter from the Air National Guard's 210th Air Rescue Squadron, Anchorage, Alaska evacuated all personnel from the accident site.
On August 14, the NTSB IIC, along with two Alaska State Troopers, and an FAA operations inspector from the Anchorage Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), examined the airplane wreckage at the accident site, and no preaccident mechanical problems were found.
The airplane was not equipped with, nor required to be equipped with, a digital, 406 MHz ELT that instantly transmits a distress signal to search and rescue satellites, thereby alerting rescue personnel within minutes of the location of the crash. As of February 1, 2009, analog, 121.5 MHz ELT's stopped being monitored by search and rescue satellites, and the installation of the 406 MHz has been voluntary.
The closest weather reporting facility was the McGrath Airport, 37 miles west of the accident site. At 1853, a weather observation from the McGrath Airport was reporting, in part: Wind, variable at 4 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, 2,800 few, 4,900 broken, 5,500 feet overcast; temperature, 57 degrees F; dew point, 50 degrees F; altimeter, 29.88 inches Hg.
A McGrath plane crash's survivors shared an amazing family story of survival and recovery Saturday at St. Elias Specialty Hospital's third annual patient reunion.