Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Tuesday, March 13, 2012 in Ketchikan, AK
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/09/2012
Aircraft: DEHAVILLAND BEAVER DHC-2, registration: N82SF
Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor.
NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
The pilot departed from an off-airport site in marginal visual flight rules conditions. Shortly after departure, the weather worsened, and flight visibility dropped to near zero in heavy snow. He attempted to follow the shoreline at a low altitude but was unable to maintain visual contact with the ground. He stated that he saw trees immediately in front of the airplane and attempted a right turn toward what he thought was an open bay. During the turn, the right float contacted a rock outcrop, and the airplane impacted the water. The pilot did not report any mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's decision to depart in marginal visual meteorological conditions, and his continued visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions.
On March 13, 2012, about 1040 Alaska daylight time, a float-equipped de Havilland DHC-2 (Beaver) airplane, N82SF, collided with water and terrain approximately 23 miles southwest of Ketchikan, Alaska. The airplane was being operated by Southeast Aviation, Ketchikan, as a visual flight rules on-demand charter flight under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135. The pilot sustained serious injuries and the sole passenger sustained minor injuries. Marginal visual meteorological conditions were reported at the time of departure, and company flight following procedures were in effect. The airplane departed the Niblack mine site, bound for Ketchikan, about 1033.
After the airplane failed to arrive in Ketchikan, company personnel initiated a search to see if the airplane had diverted due to weather. A worker stationed at the mine where the airplane departed from initiated a search by boat to try and locate the airplane. He found the airplane partially submerged in a cove, approximately 1.5 miles from the departure point, and picked up the pilot and passenger, who had evacuated the airplane.
During a telephone conversation with the NTSB investigator-in-charge on March 22, the pilot reported that he was departing from the Niblack mine site in marginal weather conditions. Shortly after departure, the weather worsened, and flight visibility dropped to near zero in heavy snow. He attempted to follow the shoreline at low altitude, but was unable to maintain visual contact with the ground. He then stated that he saw trees immediately in front of the airplane, and attempted a right turn toward what he thought was an open bay. During the turn, the right float contacted a rock outcrop, and the airplane impacted the water. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the wings, fuselage, and the horizontal stabilizer.
The closest weather reporting facility is the Ketchikan International Airport (PAKT), approximately 23 miles northeast of the accident site. At 1042, approximately the same time as the accident, a special Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR) was reporting, in part: Wind 150 degrees (true) at 9 knots; visibility 2.5 statute miles; light snow; sky condition, few clouds at 1,600 feet, broken clouds at 2,800 feet, overcast at 3,700 feet; temperature, 36 degrees F; dew point, 27 degrees F; altimeter, 29.21 in Hg.
About 16 minutes after the accident, at 1056, another special METAR reported conditions at Ketchikan as; Wind, 140 degrees at 15 knots, gusting to 21 knots; visibility, 1.5 statute miles; light snow; sky condition, broken 2,000 feet, overcast 2,800 feet.
At 1131 on 3/13/2012, Alaska State Troopers received a report of a float plane crash in the Niblack Mine area approximately 30 miles southwest of Ketchikan. U.S.C.G., Alaska State Troopers, Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad, Temsco Helicopters, and Guardian Flight Services responded. The plane and the two occupants were located on a beach near the Niblack mine by a Good Samaritan vessel. The pilot Ernest Robb, age 64, of Ketchikan, and passenger Murray Richardson, age 56, of Vancouver, BC sustained moderate non-life threatening injuries and were transported to Ketchikan Peace health Medical Center by Guardian flight services and later airlifted to Harbor View Medical Center in Seattle. Robb was flying a DeHavilland Beaver owned by Southeast Aviation of Ketchikan. Initial investigation revealed that weather was a factor in the accident due to heavy snow and zero visibility closing in around the plane shortly after take off. The FAA, and NTSB have been notified.