Monday, October 3, 2016

Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, Hageland Aviation Services dba Ravn Connect, N208SD: Fatal accident occurred October 02, 2016 in Togiak, Alaska

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Anchorage, Alaska
Pratt & Whitney Canada; Montreal, MB
Hageland Aviation Services, Inc.; Anchorage, Alaska
Hartzell Propellers; Piqua, Ohio

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: ANC17FA001
Scheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Sunday, October 02, 2016 in Togiak, AK
Aircraft: CESSNA 208B, registration: N208SD
Injuries: 3 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 2, 2016, about 1154 Alaska daylight time, a turbine-powered Cessna 208B Grand Caravan airplane, N208SD, sustained substantial damage after impacting steep, mountainous, rocky terrain about 12 miles northwest of Togiak, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as flight 3153 by Hageland Aviation Services, Inc., dba Ravn Connect, Anchorage, Alaska, as a scheduled commuter flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135 and visual flight rules (VFR). All three people on board (two commercial pilots and one passenger) sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the Togiak Airport, Togiak, and company flight following procedures were in effect. Flight 3153 departed Quinhagak, Alaska, at 1133, destined for Togiak.

Earlier, flight 3153 had originated in Bethel, Alaska; made scheduled stops in Togiak and Quinhagak; and was scheduled to return to Togiak before returning to Bethel, the intended final destination for the day. 

According to the director of operations for Hageland Aviation Services, Inc., about 1214, he received a notification from the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) that it received a signal from a 406 megahertz (MHz) Emergency Location Transmitter (ELT), which activated about 1208 and was registered to N208SD. After accessing the aircraft location data provided by an on-board flight tracking system and discovering the aircraft had been stationary for about 20 minutes, the Hageland director of operations contacted the Hageland Operational Control Center (OCC) in Palmer, Alaska, to verify the information. At that time, the operator initiated a company search for the airplane.

At 1326, the Alaska State Troopers (AST) were notified by the RCC personnel of an ELT activation near the village of Togiak, within the confines of the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. 

Shortly before 1430, an AST helicopter was dispatched from Dillingham, Alaska, about 67 miles east of Togiak, to the coordinates associated with the ELT signal, but poor weather conditions kept the searchers from locating the accident airplane until about 1630. Alaska State Troopers were able to access the scene on foot shortly before 1730 and subsequently confirmed there were no survivors. 

On October 3, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), along with another NTSB investigator and two Alaska State Troopers reached the accident site. The airplane's fragmented wreckage was located on the southeast side of a steep, loose rock-covered mountainside, adjacent to the Quigmy River, about 12 miles northwest of Togiak. 

An area believed to be the initial impact point was discovered on the northwest side of a mountain ridgeline at the 2,300-foot level. The initial impact point was located north of and about 200 feet below the 2,500-foot mountain summit. The initial impact point contained fragmented portions of fuselage and two severed propeller blades. From the initial impact point, the wreckage path extended southeast to the main wreckage, which was located downslope on the southeast side of the ridgeline at the 1,550-foot level. The outboard portion of the left wing had separated and was located about 200 feet further downslope below the main wreckage site. A postcrash fire incinerated a large portion of the fuselage and right wing.

The airplane was equipped with a Spidertracks flight tracking system, which provides real-time aircraft flight tracking data. The flight tracking information is transmitted via Iridium satellites to an internet-based storage location at 6-minute intervals. According to the Spidertracks data, the airplane's last known location was reported at 1153, about 19 nautical miles northwest of the Togiak Airport, at an altitude of 1,043 feet, traveling at 144 knots across the ground, on a heading of 140 degrees.

At 1156, an aviation routine weather report (METAR) from the Togiak Airport (the closest weather reporting facility) reported, in part: wind calm; visibility 7 statute miles; light rain; sky condition, scattered clouds at 3,900 feet, overcast at 4,700 feet; temperature 45 degrees F, dewpoint 43 degrees F; altimeter, 29.88 inHg.

A detailed wreckage examination is pending. 

The airplane was equipped with a Pratt & Whitney PT6 series engine.

BETHEL – The Ravn Connect plane that crashed Oct. 2 was on an unusual route over the mountains between the Southwestern Alaska villages of Quinhagak and Togiak — a connection that only exists because of a U.S. Postal Service program that subsidizes the cost of air freight in rural Alaska.

It's a route that other air carriers didn't want. Yute Air, with smaller planes, considered it too risky. Grant Aviation, which flew it about a year before Ravn took over, says it didn't pay off.

Operators of stores that benefit from the postal subsidy say the routing doesn't work for them, either. Often, planes cannot fly over the mountains at all because of weather, which, in Quinhagak, means the shelves at the village store go empty.

The Postal Service designated Togiak as a hub for Quinhagak's goods in April 2014 to save money.

"That's something that the Post Office created," said Susan Hoshaw, director of cargo services for Everts Air Cargo. Once Togiak became a hub, Everts began transporting freight there twice a week direct from Anchorage in its big, Douglas DC-8s, she said. From there, Ravn picks up the goods for the rest of the journey to Quinhagak as part of the Alaska bypass mail program.

Before the federal agency acted, there was no regular commercial traffic between the two communities, according to air carriers. And there still aren't regularly scheduled passenger flights, though passengers can travel on the same small planes with the cargo.

The bypass mail isn't mail at all but rather bulk shipments – mainly groceries – going to rural villages and, as the name implies, bypassing the regular U.S. mail delivery system.

It's an expensive and controversial subsidy that dates to the 1970s, which supporters defend as the Alaska equivalent of government-funded highways. The lucrative bypass program, mandated by Congress, not only brings goods to Bush villages, it also keeps fares lower for passengers who otherwise often have no other way in or out.

So far this year, the service says it has delivered more than 83 million pounds of bypass mail across Alaska – and has lost almost $81 million doing so.

"Transporting mail to customers and post offices in remote areas of Alaska is a part of the Postal Service's universal service obligation," John Friess, a Denver-based spokesman for the agency, said in an emailed response to questions.

The route at issue is over the Ahklun Mountains, a far western range with small glaciers that are rapidly disappearing.

On Sunday, a Cessna 208B Caravan slammed into a nearly 2,500-foot peak near a GCI cell tower on what's known locally as Caribou Ridge, killing the two pilots and sole passenger on the flight from Quinhagak to Togiak.

The Ravn plane was operating under visual flight rules. When Alaska State Troopers arrived at the crash site later on Sunday, it was initially so foggy that they couldn't see the crumpled and charred fuselage.

Ravn officials have not answered questions about the purpose of the flight or the routing.

No mail was on the flight, according to the service. The plane was heading to Togiak to pick up store goods for a return trip to Quinhagak, according to Warren Jones, president of Qanirtuuq Inc., the village corporation that owns the Quinhagak store.

Back in 2014, the community of Quinhagak was caught unaware when the service decided to switch its freight hub, he said. Residents petitioned the service to keep it in Bethel, Jones said. Bethel still serves as the freight staging area for numerous other Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta villages.

"The move has cost us thousands of dollars because when the weather is bad, we don't get groceries," Jones said recently. "Our shelves are empty. We don't sell any of it."

Sometimes goods sit so long they run past their expiration date. Frozen chicken wings may arrive in what looks like a thawed-then-refrozen block, Jones said.

The service sent a representative to Quinhagak for a community meeting, but stuck with Togiak.

"All of a sudden we went from having three air carriers competing in hauling all the bypass mail from Bethel to Quinhagak to having one out of Togiak," said Dan Knesek, Yute Air's operations director.

After the community meeting, the service looked into the delivery concerns and made recommendations about product-ordering cycles, Friess said.

The Alaska Commercial Co., which runs the Togiak store, says the arrangement doesn't benefit its operation either.

Before, planes flew first to Dillingham, then went to Togiak. Dillingham, the hub for Bristol Bay, gets much more air traffic than Togiak, a village of about 800 people, so goods were assured of at least making it there, said Walt Pickett, AC's vice president of operations. It was a convenient staging area for the short flight to Togiak.

"We had absolutely nothing to do with it," he said of the change. "We didn't solicit it with the Post Office. We didn't solicit it with the Department of Transportation."

'A rough route'

While Togiak is in the Bristol Bay region, Bethel and Quinhagak are tightly connected Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta communities. The route between them is over low tundra. There are multiple passenger flights a day. Quinhagak still gets regular mail through Bethel. Alaska Native organizations based in Bethel serve Quinhagak.

"To get to Quinhagak is just always a challenge for us because it's on the Bethel side of the world," said Susanna Henry, the Dillingham-based manager of the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. "We nearly always have to charter or go through Anchorage."

Quinhagak and Togiak are only about 72 miles apart, but the route is challenging.

"If you ever flew between these mountains there are some areas where the plane starts hitting every turbulence," Jones said. Look out the windows and "there are mountains on both sides."

Yute Air, with its six-passenger Cessna 207s compared to Ravn's bigger nine-passenger 208s, decided not to compete for postal business to Quinhagak.

"For us flying the 207s, we didn't want to do the route for safety reasons," Knesek said. The weather can turn marginal fast. "It's a rough route."

Plus, the route didn't attract passengers, he said.

Grant Aviation originally flew bypass mail between Togiak and Quinhagak but the company says the route wasn't profitable.

"All the passenger flow to Quinhagak comes from Bethel," said Bruce McGlasson, one of Grant Aviation's owners. "The Togiak-to-Quinhagak route was so inefficient that we just couldn't afford to fly it."

Ravn doesn't list Togiak as one of its destinations on its website. If someone from the Bethel region wants to go there, a reservation agent said Ravn puts the person on a list and calls when the next mail plane is headed that way.

Quicker to Togiak

Flight 3153 originated in Bethel, then flew to Quinhagak to pick up Louie John, a Bristol Bay fisherman from Manokotak near Dillingham. The afternoon of Oct. 2, it took off for Togiak. Besides John, Ravn pilots Timothy Cline, 43 of Homer, and Drew Welty, 29 of Anchorage, were killed in the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board expects to release a preliminary report on the crash Tuesday.

While Togiak is a bypass mail hub, Quinhagak is the only Bush village served out of it, according to the service. Shippers must send at least 1,000 pounds to get the discounted postal rate of about $375 for that size load. The service, not the shippers or the retailers, then must pay the air carriers.

The savings come because agency was able to delete the Dillingham leg on the way to Togiak. That eliminates the expense of a separate small plane trip between Dillingham and Togiak.

"Togiak mail is now transported from the acceptance point in Anchorage directly to Togiak on more efficient mainline equipment rather than Bush aircraft which reduces transportation costs for the Postal Service," Friess said in an emailed response to questions.

Togiak alone, with about 800 people, didn't have enough goods to support the cargo flight, according to air carriers. But with goods for the village of Quinhagak and its 700 residents on the same plane from Anchorage, the arrangement penciled out.

Goodnews Bay is much closer to Togiak, but it's smaller and didn't have enough cargo, Knesek of Yute Air said.

Friess couldn't provide information on how much is saved by the routing.

Back in 2010 when the change was being proposed, the service projected it would save almost $800,000 a year.

Source: Flight #3153 Operated by Hageland Aviation Services d.b.a. Ravn Connect:


FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Anchorage FSDO-03


Date: 02-OCT-16

Time: 21:53:00Z
Regis#: N208SD
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 208
Event Type: Accident
Highest Injury: Fatal
Damage: Substantial
Activity: On Demand
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
Aircraft Operator: HAG-Hageland Aviation Services
State: Alaska

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

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – Alaska authorities have released the names of two pilots who died in a weekend crash of a commercial flight in southwest Alaska.

Alaska State Troopers say 43-year-old Timothy Cline of Homer and 29-year-old Drew Welty of Anchorage were killed Sunday in the crash of a Cessna 208B operated by Hageland Aviation.

Also killed in the crash was 49-year-old passenger Louie John of Manokotak. The men were the only three on board the aircraft.

The Cessna was on 70-mile flight to Togiak from Quinhagak when it crashed on a mountainside 12 miles northwest of Togiak.

The crash site has been described by troopers as steep and challenging.

Alaska State Troopers have identified the passenger killed in Sunday's crash of a Ravn Connect flight near Togiak.

Manokotak resident Louie John, 49, was killed when the Hageland Aviation Cessna 208B en route from Quinhagak to Togiak slammed into a mountainous area northwest of Togiak between 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. The pilot and a co-pilot also died in the crash.

Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said Wednesday that all three bodies have been recovered from the aircraft, which National Transportation Safety Board investigators said was "highly fragmented" in the crash. Although troopers believe that relatives of the pilot and co-pilot have been notified by Ravn, troopers haven't been able to contact them directly because they may be en route to Alaska.

"We haven't verified that any law enforcement has done the next-of-kin notification," Peters said. "We're still trying to track them down so we can make sure that they know."

Ravn issued a statement Tuesday afternoon offering condolences to the families of those killed in the crash of Flight 3153. The company said its priorities since the crash have included working with "family and friends involved," as well as agencies investigating the crash.

"While Alaska is the largest state in the union, it still has the connectedness and heart of a small community, so these losses are far-reaching and felt deeply," Ravn Group chair and CEO Bob Hajdukovich said in the statement.

Ravn officials weren't immediately available Wednesday morning to say whether the company had notified the pilot and co-pilot's next of kin.

ANCHORAGE – Updated at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 5

Alaska State Troopers have identified one of the victims in Sunday’s fatal plane crash near Togiak. Louie John, 49, of Manokotak was identified as the only passenger, according to an online dispatch sent Wednesday.

“The names of the pilot and copilot will be released when verification of next of kin notification has occurred,” troopers wrote.

Update: 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 4

Alaska State Troopers say the bodies of two pilots and a passenger killed in a plane crash near Togiak have been recovered from the crash site. Their bodies were in transit to the State Medical Examiner’s office in Anchorage Tuesday.

“On behalf of the employees of Ravn Alaska I would like to offer heartfelt condolences to the communities, friends and families for those aboard flight #3153,” Ravn Air Group CEO Bob Hajdukovich said in a statement Tuesday.

The names of the deceased are being withheld until their families can be notified, troopers said. AST spokeswoman Megan Peters said Tuesday that they were still working to speak with their families.

Johnson said the plane, a Cessna 208 operated by Hageland Aviation Services, was reported missing Sunday afternoon.

“Ravn Connect — which is Hageland Aviation Services doing business as Ravn Connect — contacted us about 1:30 this afternoon indicating they had lost contact with one of their flights in between Quinhagak and Togiak,” Johnson said in a phone interview.

Troopers from Dillingham found the wreckage of the plane about 12 miles northwest of Togiak in steep, mountainous terrain, Johnson explained, adding that troopers were on the ground there before 6:45 p.m.

Johnson said two NTSB investigators were headed to the scene. They arrived Monday and “were blessed” with good weather for their investigation. He also noted the crash site was located near a cell tower, allowing investigators to communicate from the scene.

Images from the crash site show the wreckage scattered across a steep mountain side. Peters said troopers were unable to land immediately near the site, forced instead to land a helicopter roughly a half mile away and hike in to the wreckage. She said a helicopter with hoisting capabilities was chartered out of King Salmon to remove the bodies from the site.

“During the last 48 hours, our priorities have been to work with the family and friends involved as well as state and federal agencies in the recovery of the aircraft,” Jim Hickerson, President of Hageland Aviation, said in a statement Tuesday of the recovery efforts.

Another Ravn Connect flight utilizing a Hageland Aviation Services plane crashed in midair with another plane on Aug. 31. There were no survivors.

“This is the second accident for this operator, but you have to understand, we look at each one of these events on a case by case basis,” Johnson said of the two crashes. “That’s exactly what we’re doing in this case. It’s way to early to see if there’s any similarities between this accident and the other accidents that have happened with Hageland or Ravn Connect.”

Johnson touched on other crashes involving Hageland Aviation Services, after which emergency recommendations were made for an audit of their operations, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration in Alaska. He said, “to their credit,” immediately following the recommendations, Hageland and Ravn Alaska installed a state-of-the-art operation control center in Palmer.

“It’s one that Alaska has never seen the likes of,” he said of the tower.

He said the process of investigating the recent crash was in the early stages and that it would take time to determine the cause of Sunday’s crash. He said once the NTSB’s on-scene investigation concluded, the wreckage would be moved to Dillingham or Anchorage for further examination.

Quinhagak is roughly 70 miles from Togiak by air.



The passenger killed in a small plane crash near Togiak on Sunday has been identified as 49-year-old Louie John from Manokotak.

The two pilots on board the Cessna have not yet been publicly identified pending notification of their family members, troopers say.

Investigators arrived today at the steep, rocky site where a Cessna 208 crashed Sunday in Western Alaska, killing all three people on board.

The crash is the second fatal accident this year for Hageland Aviation, doing business as Ravn Connect, following a deadly mid-air collision Aug. 31 near Russian Mission. The operator, along with parent company HoTH Inc., was the subject of an urgent safety recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board surrounding a series of accidents between late 2012 and 2014.

At that time, the NTSB called on the Federal Aviation Administration to audit HoTH Inc. – a collection that represents the busiest commuter airline in Alaska and included Hageland, Frontier Flying Services and Era Aviation and does business as Ravn Alaska, Ravn Connect and Corvus Airlines. Safety investigators had found shortcomings in the implementation of operator’s risk assessment program, such as flights being approved without proper safeguards, as well as flaws in how the FAA handled oversight of the carriers.

[NTSB issues ‘urgent safety recommendation’ to improve oversight of Alaska operators]

“I have to say, since that time, Hageland and Ravn have installed a state-of-the-art control center in Palmer,” said NTSB Alaska region chief Clint Johnson. “It's one Alaska has never seen the likes of.”

HoTH Inc. and affiliated air carriers reported no flight accidents from the time the NTSB published its recommendation until the August mid-air collision with a Renfro’s Alaska Adventure Super Cub, according to a review of NTSB records.

“I believe after the audit came out, and the inspection came, the company took some very unusual steps and made some remarkable tools to reverse the trend,” said Harry Kieling, of the Alaska Aviation Safety Foundation.

The investigation into the Monday crash, meantime, is just beginning.

“We look at each one of these events on a case-by-case basis, and that's exactly what we're doing in this case,” Johnson said. “(It’s) way too early to see if there are any similarities between this accident and the other accident that happened with Hageland or Ravn Connect.”


Three people are dead following a small plane crash near Togiak on Sunday afternoon, Alaska State Troopers say.

The Cessna 208 was travelling from Quinhagak to Togiak carrying three people on board, two of which were Hageland Aviation pilots, troopers wrote in a dispatch posted online.

Troopers in Dillingham were notified at around 1:26 p.m. yesterday that the plane’s emergency locator beacon had been activated. A trooper helicopter responded and successfully located the crash site about 12 miles West of Togiak. No survivors were located, troopers said.

“The National Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration have been notified and will be responding to the crash site to assist in the investigation already being conducted by the Alaska State Troopers,” troopers wrote.

According to NTSB regional chief Clint Johnson, two NTSB investigators will travel to Dillingham at daybreak on Monday. Troopers will the transport the investigators to the crash site which is located on very steep rough terrain that is only accessible by helicopter, Johnson said.

The aircraft was operated by Hageland Aviation Services doing business as Ravn Connect flight #3153, the airliner confirmed on Sunday.

As of Monday morning, authorities have not yet publicly identified the victims pending notification of family members. Efforts to recover the bodies and the wreckage will begin on Monday. Troopers say the investigation is ongoing.

Togiak is a village in Western Alaska about 130 miles south of Bethel.

Another Cessna 208 operated by Ravn was involved in a fatal mid-air collision with a Super Cub last month.


Update 8:30 a.m. Monday:  National Transportation Safety Board investigators hoped Monday to reach the site of a plane crash near Togiak that killed three people Sunday afternoon.

Clint Johnson, the NTSB's Alaska chief, said two investigators – Shaun Williams and Noreen Price — reached Dillingham Sunday evening and consulted with Alaska State Troopers. They planned to fly to Togiak via helicopter Monday morning, using the village as a base of operations from which to visit the crashed Cessna 208B.

Troopers were able to initially reach the scene Sunday in steep terrain, Johnson said, by landing nearby then hiking to the site.

"They made it in via helicopter — they were contending with less-than-stellar weather conditions," Johnson said. "All we know at this point is that the wreckage is highly fragmented."

Investigators based in Washington, D.C., are collecting radar and radio data from the fatal flight, including Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast or ADS-B tracking information being transmitted by the aircraft.

Original story:  All three people aboard a Ravn Connect flight died Sunday afternoon when the aircraft they were traveling in crashed northwest of Togiak, Alaska State Troopers reported.

The Hageland Aviation Cessna 208B, operating as Ravn Connect, was carrying a pilot, a co-pilot and one passenger from Quinhagak to Togiak. Ground controllers from Hageland lost contact with the flight between 1 and 1:30 p.m., said NTSB Alaska Chief Clint Johnson.

An emergency locator transmitter was activated aboard the Cessna just before 1:30 p.m., troopers said.

Troopers reached the crash site — which Johnson said was located in "steep terrain" about 12 miles northwest of the village of Togiak in Southwest Alaska — later Sunday.

"No survivors were located," troopers said in an online dispatch.

Federal investigators with the NTSB will travel to the scene early Monday morning, Johnson said.

A statement from Ravn Alaska Sunday evening confirmed that there were two pilots and a passenger aboard the plane. The victims of the crash were not immediately identified Sunday pending notification of their families.

Just over a month ago, another Hageland flight carrying three people collided in midair near Russian Mission with a plane operated by Renfro's Alaskan Adventures. Five people were killed in that crash, which is still being investigated.


1 comment:

Brenda Beggs said...

Any updates on the identities of the victims of the crash yet?