Sunday, September 11, 2016

Hefty Polar Cub, N62905: Fatal accident occurred September 10, 2016 in Anchorage, Alaska

Curt Hefty: 

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Anchorage FSDO-03

NTSB Identification: ANC16FA065
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 10, 2016 in Anchorage, AK
Aircraft: HEFTY Polar Cub, registration: N62905
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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 September 10, 2016 about 1630 Alaska daylight time, a float-equipped, experimental amateur-built, Hefty Polar Cub airplane, N62905, was destroyed following a loss of control and subsequent impact with tree-covered terrain in a residential neighborhood in Anchorage, Alaska. The pilot was fatally injured, and a postcrash fire incinerated the airplane. The airplane was registered to, and operated by, the pilot as a visual flight rules (VFR) personal local flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The flight reportedly originated in southwest Anchorage from Jewell Lake, about 1500, but the actual departure time and route of flight are unknown. 

According to a friend of the pilot, the purpose of the flight was to fly over a proposed hunting site near Willow, Alaska, and then return to Anchorage. The friend related that the pilot and a group of friends were planning a fly-in hunt later in the week.

During on-scene interviews with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on September 10, multiple witnesses consistently reported that they observed the accident airplane complete two, low level, high speed, 360-degree right turns over the lower hillside neighborhood. The witnesses said that the accident airplane's first 360-degree turn was accomplished at an altitude between 150 and 200 feet above ground level (agl), but the second pass was much lower. One homeowner stated that as the airplane passed over his home, it was about 50 feet above his roofline. 

The witnesses also reported that the accident airplane's bank angle increased significantly on the second 360-degree right turn. One pilot-rated witness that observed the airplane's steep turns estimated the bank angle in excess of 60 degrees during the second 360-degree turn.

Multiple witnesses reported hearing the airplane's engine operating in a manner consistent with high power settings throughout both 360-degree right turns. 

Witnesses near the accident site reported that as the airplane completed the second, steep, 360-right turn, the nose of the airplane pitched down, and it began a rapid nose down descent. The engine rpm then increased significantly, and the wings rolled level just before impacting a stand of tall trees adjacent to a home. During the collision sequence the airplane's floats were severed, and the airplane subsequently descended onto a neighborhood road, coming to rest inverted. A postcrash fire ensued about 30 seconds after impact, which quickly engulfed the entire airplane. 

The closest official weather observation station is located at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. On September 10, 2016, at 1553, an Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR) was reporting, in part: Wind 230 degrees at 4 knots; visibility 10 miles; ceiling and clouds, few at 2,500 feet; temperature 63 degrees F; dew point 43 degrees F; altimeter 30.14 inHg.

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by,  and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

The Anchorage Police Department says a float plane crashed near O’Malley Road on Hillside. APD confirmed the pilot, 75-year-old James Hefty, did not survive the crash. 

AFD Assistant Chief Erich Scheunemann said fire crews on scene had confirmed Hefty was the only person onboard when the plane crashed. National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Clint Johnson said a dog was also onboard and died as well.

APD said multiple calls were made to 911 reporting the crash around 4:30 p.m., spokeswoman Jennifer Castro said in a phone interview. The crash occurred in the area of Crooked Creek Drive and O’Malley Road, officials said.

Scheunemann confirmed the aircraft was on fire, but has since been put out.

“It appears no residential homes were affected by the crash,” police said in a statement.

Roger Heiligenthal was walking his dog Chinook when he heard the plane overhead.

“He circled once and then a second time,” Heiligenthal said. “And as he’s circling, instead of flying level with the horizon — I’m not a pilot — but he was sort of tipped like this, so the wings were tipped inward and he kept circling as if he might have been in distress.”

Heiligenthal said when the pilot circled a third time, he knew there was a problem.

“The next thing I know, he was right there in front of us. Hit the trees, and just came barreling in,” he recalled.

The plane crashed through trees and came to rest on the roadway near Heiligenthal, catching fire.

“I kept yelling and yelling, ‘help, help!’” he said. “Called 911 and they were there in less than five minutes.”

Carolyn Nickles said she also witnessed the crash after hearing the plane pass by.

“I stood up and decided to go around that house and that’s when I saw the plane nose dive,” she said. “I didn’t see the whole plane. I knew it was definitely going to go. And then the huge impact afterwards.”

Heiligenthal said he believes if he had gone on his walk a minute later, he and Chinook would likely have been victims as well.

“I had no clue that he was going to be coming in my direction,” he said. “But it happened so fast and I’m just thankful for myself and my dog but I’m also grieving for the family of the pilot. I do grieve for the family because it’s just one of those things that you never know. You never know.”

The NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration have been notified of the crash and are investigating. Johnson said the scene would cleared by the end of the night and the wreckage moved to a hangar for further examination.

He said the plane has been identified as a homebuilt “Polar Cub,” which is similar to a Piper Super Cub plane in structure and appearance. Johnson said it was too early in the investigation to rule anything out for the cause of the crash, and they have not yet identified any major contributions.

The NTSB is asking that if anyone witnessed the crash or saw the plane flying in the area just prior to the crash to please call 907-782-4849 if they have not already been interviewed.

Johnson said there was no property damage outside of the trees the plane struck, and no one else was injured by the crash.


A small, homemade floatplane crashed and burst into flames on a street in a major residential subdivision on the Anchorage Hillside Saturday afternoon, killing the pilot, the only person on board, and his dog, authorities said.

No home was struck or damaged and a man walking his dog on the street just as the single-engine plane came down was uninjured, they said.

The crash was reported at 4:30 p.m. on Crooked Tree Drive just north of Treeline Court. The site was less than 1 mile from the O'Malley Road fire station, and crews were on scene within minutes and quickly extinguished the blaze, said Assistant Anchorage Fire Chief Erich Scheunemann.

Neighbors reported hearing and seeing the plane circling low over houses and treetops. One said it made a pass at a safe altitude before making a second pass much closer to the ground just before it crashed.

The skeletal aluminum frame of the plane was upside down on the side of the road, a blackened, downed spruce tree nearby.

A woman from the State Medical Examiner's Office first removed the dog from the incinerated plane, wrapping it in a white cloth she carried with both hands. Then the pilot's body was removed in a shroud on a stretcher.

The cause of the crash wasn't immediately known. Clint Johnson, chief of the National Transportation Safety Board's Anchorage regional office, was on scene and leading the investigation with assistance from the Anchorage Police Department, which had interviewed some of the witnesses.

Johnson said the aircraft was a homemade plane similar to a Super Cub. The plane first clipped some trees before crashing and its floats remained stuck in the trees.

Johnson said the plane was fueled by gasoline stored in wing tanks, which ignited and burned the plane's fabric shell and partially melted its aluminum frame.

Authorities had not determined the identity of the pilot Saturday evening and Johnson said they were assuming it was man, though they weren't positive. Police had an idea about who the pilot was, and some officers were with the family of that person, Johnson said.

Though the plane was badly burned, some cockpit instruments might yield clues about what happened, he said.

Johnson said he hadn't determined where the plane had begun its flight. He said he wasn't sure yet about the plane's registration number.

Keith Kniegge, who lives on Double Tree Court, a nearby street, said he was sitting at his computer when he heard the plane.

"It was really low, really close to our house," Kniegge said.

He said the plane came from the south and banked right as it headed toward Crooked Tree Drive.

Johnson said he was at his home in South Anchorage when he heard sirens. Then he got the call it was a plane crash.

While a lot of the clues that might explain the crash were burned, the investigation would benefit from the neighbors who saw and heard what happened, Johnson said.

"We're blessed with a number of witnesses, a lot of them pilot-rated," Johnson said at an impromptu news conference at the scene. The witnesses told authorities the pilot had made a couple of low passes over the neighborhood before crashing, Johnson said, barely missing the pedestrian and his dog.


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