Sunday, October 30, 2016

Cessna 172 Skyhawk, N6353E: Fatal accident occurred October 29, 2016 in Palmer, Alaska 

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Anchorage FSDO-03

NTSB Identification: ANC17FA003
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, October 29, 2016 in Palmer, AK
Aircraft: CESSNA 172, registration: N6353E
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 October 29, 2016, about 1445 Alaska daylight time, a Cessna 172 airplane, N6353E, sustained substantial damage after impacting terrain following a loss of control after takeoff from a remote, gravel-covered site adjacent to the Knik River, about 12 miles southeast of Palmer, Alaska. The sole occupant, the student pilot, sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was registered to the student pilot, and was operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) personal flight under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 when the accident occurred. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated from the Wasilla Airport, at an unknown time. 

According to various witnesses near the accident site, they observed the accident airplane flying in the Knik River valley. The witnesses reported that the airplane did a touch-and-go landing on the gravel bar, and just after a southeasterly takeoff, as it climbed to 100 feet above ground level (agl), it turned to the left. During the left turn, the wings of the airplane rolled perpendicular to the ground, and it descended, nose low, before colliding with the gravel-covered site. 

The airplane sustained substantial damage to both wings and the fuselage.

The witnesses reported gusty southeasterly wind conditions at the time of the accident, estimated between 20 and 25 knots. 

A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) air safety investigator and the Alaska State Troopers traveled to the accident scene on October 29 via helicopter. The NTSB investigator-in-charge and a Federal Aviation Administration aviation safety inspector traveled to the accident scene on October 30 via helicopter. The wreckage was located in an area of flat, gravel-covered terrain north of the Knik River, with heavy vegetation to the north of the wreckage site. The wreckage was recovered and transported to a secure facility for future examination of the airframe and engine.

The closest official weather observation station is located at the Palmer Airport, about 13 miles to the northwest of the accident site. At 1453, an Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR) was reporting, and stated in part: Wind 340 degrees (true) at 9 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, few clouds at 6,000 feet, overcast at 8,000 feet; temperature 39 degrees F; dew point 25 degrees F; altimeter 29.72 inHg.

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


Last updated at 2:20 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30

A Wasilla man is dead after the plane he was flying crashed on a dry river bed near Palmer on Saturday.

The crash was reported to Alaska State Troopers at 2:48 p.m. where the Friday Creek meets the Knik River, according to an online dispatch.

Ray Justen, 25, was the pilot and only person on board, according to troopers.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Clint Johnson said the pilot’s brother was at the scene with a few other people and described the crash.

“[He] indicated that the airplane touched down on a gravel-covered surface, took off again, had a fairly steep climb,” Johnson said. “There were wind conditions, maybe 15-20 knot winds at the time, gusty winds, and what he was able to explain to me was a loss of control, or a stall. Unfortunately the plane descended nose-first and ultimately impacted the riverbank.”

When a LifeMed helicopter from Wolf Lake responded around 3:17 p.m., Justen was dead, according to troopers. Johnson said Justen’s brother and those with him attempted life-saving measures, which were unsuccessful.

Johnson flew out to the scene with troopers to examine the crash site. The dispatch noted the aircraft, a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, had sustained significant damage during the crash.

Justen’s body was recovered from the wreckage and taken to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Anchorage. His next of kin have been notified of his death.

The NTSB is continuing to investigate the crash. Johnson said a helicopter would remove the wreckage from the scene and take it back to a hangar for a more in-depth look at the plane.


A 25-year-old man was killed when the small plane he was piloting crashed into a Knik River gravel bar Saturday, according to Alaska State Troopers and federal investigators.

In an online dispatch, troopers said they were alerted to the crash at 2:48 p.m. Saturday. A LifeMed helicopter responded to the scene in a remote area of the Knik River close to Friday Creek, southeast of Butte.

Ray Justen of Wasilla was the pilot and sole occupant of the Cessna 172 Skyhawk aircraft, troopers said. He died at the scene.

"Witnesses said this airplane came in, made a touch-and-go on a gravel bar and during a fairly steep climb out there was an aerodynamic stall," said Alaska National Transportation Safety Board chief Clint Johnson, who traveled to the scene via trooper helicopter Saturday. "The airplane descended nose-first and struck the gravel bar."

Friends and family traveled to the scene on ATVs, Johnson said. Winds in the area were gusty at the time of the crash.

Justen's body has been transferred to the  state medical examiner. The NTSB continues to investigate the crash.


BUTTE / KTUU One man is dead after a Cessna 172 Skyhawk crashed in the Knik River Valley.

The first report of a downed plane near Friday Creek and Knik River came in just before 3 p.m. Saturday.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Alaska State Troopers arrived on scene about 30 minutes later, finding the sole occupant of the plane, 25-year old Ray Justen of Wasilla dead on arrival.

Troopers say Justen's body was recovered and airlifted to the State Medical Examiners office.

According to Jason Sharlow and Don Umbarger, they were flagged down by a woman while driving their 4-wheelers. The two men were taken to the plane and proceeded to pull out the pilot who they say, after checking his vitals, was dead.

Sharlow and Umbarger told KTUU reporter Patrick Enslow that the pilots brother and friends were 4-wheeling and watching the plane fly around all day before it crashed, confirming only the pilot was on board at the time of the incident.

NTSB officials began their investigation into the cause of the crash Saturday afternoon, they say weather permitting, the investigation will continue Sunday.


On 10/29/2016 at approximately 1448 hours, the Alaska State Troopers were advised of an aircraft crash at Friday Creek and the Knik River within the Palmer area.  AST was advised Ray Justen (25 yoa of Wasilla) had been the pilot and sole occupant.  A LifeMed helicopter responded from Wolf Lake and arrived on scene at approximately 1517 hours.  Justen was found to be deceased upon their arrival.  An Alaska State Trooper along with an NTSB investigator responded to the scene by means of an AST helicopter.  The Cessna 172 aircraft had significant damage.  NTSB is investigating the incident. The body was recovered and turned over to the State Medical Examiner's office in Anchorage. Next of kin has been notified.

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