Thursday, September 1, 2016

Lodi Parachute Center Facing Investigation; Instructor Certifications Revoked, Others Under Review

The United States Parachute Association has announced at least 10 tandem skydiving instructor certifications have been revoked following a fatal tandem skydiving accident in Lodi.

Those 10 tandem skydiving instructors have had their certifications suspended and must undergo new training, 107 are being required to undergo refresher training within the next 30 days, and another 15 are being required to go through the refresher training and send in proof of original course completion, according to Ed Scott, executive director of USPA.

A number of these instructors attended courses at the Lodi Parachute Center.

USPA officials say some courses may have been abbreviated or incomplete and post-course ratings may have been submitted with forged signatures.

The re-examination comes after a recent fatal tandem skydiving accident in Lodi, in which it was revealed an instructor lacked the proper certification required by the Federal Aviation Administration.


‘We’ll get you there’: New carrier strives to be region’s hometown airline

Plans are on course for a smooth takeoff next month when Southern Airways Express begins operating Johnstown commuter flights. 

With six flights a day from Johnstown, four from Altoona and six from DuBois, travelers from the west-central Pennsylvania area will have many options to connect with larger carriers and low-rate airlines at three major airports, Executive Vice President Mark Cestari said.

Three daily round-trip flights from John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport will go to Pittsburgh International Airport and the other three will continue the connection with Dulles International Airport outside Washington.

Fares will range from $29 to $59 a seat for every Pittsburgh flight and $39 to $89 for Dulles.

“The $29 is not a sale price,” Cestari said. “We will control availability of fares based on peak times, but there will be $29 seats on every flight.”

Southern flights from Altoona and DuBois will go to Pittsburgh and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

“We are offering all of our markets two hub airports,” Cestari said. “We’ll have service to three airports from the market area. That’s the way to do business.”

Earlier this week, the federal Department of Transportation announced Southern Airways Express had been selected to serve Johnstown, Altoona and Johnstown airports under the federally subsidized Essential Air Service program. Within days, the three airports were informed they were being dropped from the EAS program because of low ridership or high costs. 

“Instructions on how to apply for a waiver were included in the order,” Johnstown airport Manager RaNell Fenchak said. “I’ve already begun the process.”

Airport officials said they are confident the local airports will receive a waiver because the current carrier, Silver Airways has been unreliable. 

“We are very excited about (Southern),” Johnstown-Cambria County Airport Authority Chairman David Kalina said. “We have an additional destination with Pittsburgh and they do have a track record of service and reliability.”

Southern will operate nine-passenger Cessna Caravan aircraft, Cestari said, adding that the smaller planes allow the low-cost regional airline to offer more options from each airport. 

“It was developed for Federal Express,” Cestari said. “They fly to hundreds of airports. It is a nine-passenger plane with large baggage pods. We are not going to have any trouble carrying large suitcases, golf bags or fishing poles.”

Southern does not charge a baggage fee, he added. 

The Cessna Caravan’s dependability has been proven not only by FedEx, but also by its service connecting remote areas of Alaska, Cestari said. 

Johnstown’s airport authority agreed to allow Southern to operate the single-engine Cessna because of its proven dependability, Kalina said. 

“I have no concerns with that at all,” said Kalina, who is a pilot. “Worldwide, the Cessna Caravan has, arguably, the best single-engine aircraft reputation out there.”

As an independent air carrier, Southern’s passengers will have a few more steps in transferring to other airlines. Although most take their baggage to the connecting gate, Cestari said, most checked bags won’t require a baggage fee on the other airline. 

Transferring passengers will get priority check-in, he added. 

Southern’s business plan focuses on getting travelers to the greatest number connecting flights and options. Some travelers prefer the major airlines’ service and are willing to pay for the amenities, Cestari said. Others are looking for low cost airlines.

“You decide what you want; either way, we’ll get you there,” he said. “We are the hometown airline.”

Dulles is home to a United Airlines hub, offering connections worldwide. Pittsburgh features a selection of low-cost airlines. 

“Those two airports really represent the best of both worlds,” Kalina said. “It really opens up opportunities.”

Basing two planes in Johnstown will also improve dependability,    

“Our flights are all nonstop.” Cestari said. “Our pilots are based in the city they serve. Our pilots will live in Johnstown. Our planes will sleep in Johnstown.”

A spare crew and plane based in Pittsburgh will available if there are problems.

“Those are the reasons we think our service level is going to be exceptional,” he said. 

Although there have been no discussions with current Silver Airlines employees at the airport, Cestari said Southern would prefer to hire those with experience in the market.


Allegiant Air, with ultra-low fares, draws Federal Aviation Administration attention over safety concerns

Just over a year ago, Allegiant Air pilot Jason Kinzer was sitting in the cockpit of a 24-year-old McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft bound for Hagerstown, Md., having just taken off from St. Petersburg, Fla.

As the plane climbed through 2,500 feet, a cabin attendant alerted Kinzer to a strong burning smell. Alarmed, Kinzer turned Allegiant Air Flight 864 back toward the airport. Fire and rescue crews met the plane on the runway as smoke wafted from an engine. Kinzer told the 144 passengers to disembark. He then helped a flight attendant carry a paraplegic passenger to the exit.

It seemed to be model behavior. But Allegiant Air did not praise Kinzer. It fired him.

In a dismissal letter, the airline called the evacuation of the plane “unwarranted” and faulted Kinzer as not “striving to preserve the Company’s assets, aircraft, ground equipment, fuel and the personal time of our employees and customers.” Later, the company’s attorneys would call Kinzer’s account an “inaccurate and self-serving recitation of events.”

Kinzer’s saga, now the subject of a court case in Nevada, involves one of dozens of incidents that have prompted scrutiny of the safety and maintenance practices at Allegiant Air, a low-cost carrier that has found a profitable niche in serving airports in small-to-midsize cities.

In an industry that has habitually struggled to make money, Allegiant’s soaring earnings stand out. Last year, its profits jumped 154 percent, to $220.4 million, as the carrier — relying heavily on cheaper, previously used planes — flew more than 300 routes. In June, Allegiant announced a dozen new routes and three new cities, for the first time competing with major carriers at airports in Newark and Denver.

But observers with various interests and viewpoints are asking whether Allegiant has pursued fast growth and financial success at the expense of other considerations.

Unwanted attention has come from federal regulators worried about safety, investors betting against the stock, a pilots union concerned about maintenance, and corporate governance experts who fault the airline’s cozy board of directors as not doing more to head off problems.

About 300 pages of Federal Aviation Administration records for Allegiant show a pattern of safety problems that triggered a relatively large number of aborted takeoffs, emergency descents and emergency landings from Jan. 1, 2015, through this March. The Allegiant records were obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Robert MacArthur, owner of Alternative Research Services, a consultancy that caters to short sellers — investors who benefit when company share prices drop.

Allegiant had about nine times as many serious incidents over that period as Delta Air Lines had with similar types of planes of similar vintage — even though Delta was flying about three times as many such planes, according to a Washington Post analysis of FAA documents relating to both companies.

“I don’t think there’s a safety problem,” Allegiant’s chief operating officer, Jude Bricker, said in an interview. “Our unscheduled landings in particular are a result primarily of an abundance of caution, and our pilots are entitled to put their planes into landing anytime they feel unsafe.”

But leading experts said Allegiant needs to pay closer attention to its aging aircraft.

“They just have a lot of problems with leaks, doors not closing properly, things not working properly,” said Mary F. Schiavo, an aviation lawyer who served as inspector general for the Department of Transportation from 1990 to 1996. “They have electrical smells every day, which means they’ve got old wiring. It’s just kind of a poorly maintained fleet.”

Allegiant said that its “safety protocols emphasize putting the safety of passengers foremost.” And in July, the company said it had agreed to depart from customary practice and buy 12 new Airbus A320s for delivery by 2018.

A swift ascent

The chief executive of Allegiant Air is Maurice “Maury” J. Gallagher Jr., who ran ValuJet until one of its planes plunged into the Florida Everglades in 1996, killing all 110 people aboard. In 1999, after ValuJet was merged into AirTran, Gallagher started building a new carrier, Allegiant Air, which now has about 80 planes serving about 113 airports.

The Las Vegas-based company became the darling of Wall Street. It was the subject of a glowing article in Fast Company. It made Fortune’s list of fastest-growing companies. Aviation Week in 2013 named it the top-performing small carrier in the world. Although the stock has lost nearly half its value since its peak of $234 a share last year, it has increased more than fivefold in the past decade.

Analysts hailed Gallagher’s strategy of buying older MD-80s, often for a tenth of the $40 million to $50 million its competitors were paying for new aircraft. The average age of Allegiant’s MD-80 fleet is 26.49 years; recently added Airbus planes also are used, with an average age of 14.2 years.

But Allegiant Air has run into trouble.

Allegiant aircraft this year made unscheduled landings on Feb. 28; on March 2, 3 and 14; and twice on March 13, according to FAA documents.

On March 5, a crew aborted a takeoff after a loud bang, warning signs from the right engine and smoke in the cabin. One flight attendant was treated by emergency medical technicians for smoke inhalation.

All airlines must file reports about safety and maintenance incidents with the FAA. After Allegiant’s spate of midair incidents, the agency moved up a periodic evaluation of the airline that had been scheduled for 2018.

“The purpose of these reviews is to verify a company is complying with the applicable regulations; determine whether it is operating at the highest possible degree of safety; and identify and address any operational/safety issues,” the FAA said, although it would not comment on Allegiant.

Later, in a July 18 letter to Allegiant, the FAA said it had “identified several element design and element performance deficiencies” — such as software that did not meet FAA specifications and a failure to notice fractures in a right-engine pylon — and ordered the airline to come up with a “mitigation plan” by Sept. 30. The FAA said two findings “revealed possible regulatory issues” but did not describe them.

Schiavo — author of “Flying Blind, Flying Safe,” a book critical of the FAA — said the agency needs to take a tougher stance.

“I think that the FAA bears some responsibility for this horrible track record,” said Schiavo, who works at the law firm Motley Rice, which specializes in class-action lawsuits but has not been involved in any cases involving Allegiant. “The FAA sees its job as promoting the airlines and keeping them flying. They really try to keep just about any hunk of junk” flying.

The FAA documents suggest that the agency had expressed concerns before. When Allegiant Air sought FAA approval of a new safety chief, the agency in a Feb. 1, 2016, report described qualifications for the position — “the education” and “vast experience” needed to “help lead the airline in providing the public with the safest means of commercial travel” — and then said it approved the appointment “with concern and trepidation.”

An Allegiant spokesman, Hilarie Grey, referred The Post to the FAA for comment. The FAA did not elaborate.

Gallagher said the findings of this year’s FAA inspection were “minor or less than minor.”

“So when you send 30 people around for 90 days in any organization, they’re going to find stuff, as well they should. And we’ll respond and adjust it,” Gallagher said in a July 29 conference call with securities analysts. But he said “there’s nothing that operationally we’re going to do substantially different.”

The FAA said it “will closely monitor” the carrier’s efforts.

Operational incidents

The FAA’s Service Difficulty Reports cover issues ranging from a burned-out light bulb on a cabin exit sign to an engine failure.

The Post examined FAA reports from Allegiant for 15 months ending in March and focused on the three types of operational incidents that aviation experts deem most significant: emergency descents, unscheduled landings and aborted takeoffs.

The Post then compared Allegiant’s record with Delta’s by obtaining and reviewing reports filed by Delta for the same aircraft models for the same period. Delta flies more than twice as many MD-80s and MD-88s and more than four times as many of the Airbus models, but Allegiant had many more serious incidents.

Allegiant told the FAA that its 50 McDonnell Douglas planes — including DC-9s and MD-80s — had 50 unscheduled landings, five emergency descents and eight aborted takeoffs. From Jan. 1, 2015, through the end of March 2016, Delta reported that its 117 MD-88 aircraft had six unscheduled landings, one emergency descent and no aborted takeoffs.

For its 30 Airbus jetliners, Allegiant reported five unscheduled landings, two aborted takeoffs and one emergency descent. Delta reported that its 126 Airbus planes had one unscheduled landing, no aborted takeoffs and no emergency descents.

Allegiant’s Bricker said that “the reporting criteria [to the FAA] is open to interpretation and therefore is vastly different from fleet to fleet.”

In less than a year, a single Allegiant MD-88 had almost as many incidents as the entire Delta fleet of MD-88s, FAA records show. In August 2015, that plane took off from Memphis and was at 16,000 feet, climbing to cruising altitude, when one of its two engines shut down. The crew declared an emergency and landed the plane.

In November, the same plane made an unscheduled landing after flight attendants said the air in the cabin had grown hazy and they smelled something burning.

Three weeks later, the plane’s pilot made another unscheduled landing after a gray haze filled the cabin.

During a flight 12 days after that, the plane had reached cruising altitude when the cockpit crew noticed the “odor of evaporating oil,” which led to the replacement of the left engine before the plane was flown again.

Repeated problems with other Allegiant MD-88s were common. One aircraft made three unscheduled landings. Another was met by firetrucks this year after an engine failed in flight. Six months earlier, the same plane made an emergency descent and an unscheduled landing after its instrument panel started to smoke. That incident occurred 10 days after the same plane made an unscheduled landing when the tail compartment next to the plane’s engines overheated.

“I just don’t like the look, feel or smell of their track record,” Schiavo said.

A caller to the FAA’s hotline said that an Allegiant DC-9-83 suffered engine failures twice, on July 31 and Aug. 3, 2015, both times en route to Richmond from St. Petersburg. On one of those flights, the crew reported the smell of burning rubber and a grinding noise followed by the failure of an engine. A maintenance crew later found a compressor “severely damaged,” and the engine was replaced, the FAA said.

Bricker said that Allegiant takes “older airplanes to isolated areas, where we don’t have our own mechanics” and therefore they are more likely to turn back if there’s trouble.

Clashes with union

Allegiant says the controversy about its safety record is due in large part to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The airline’s pilots voted to join the Teamsters in 2012 and, after prolonged negotiations, reached an agreement with the company on June 21.

A company spokesman said the union had made a “significant effort” to create “negative media coverage” of Allegiant. The company said that “one of those tactics” was to issue safety reports about the fleet.

“There’s never been any denial or doubt or rebuttal by the company to refute the number of engine failures, aborted takeoffs or near crashes,” said Daniel C. Wells, president of Teamsters Local 1224. “No one ever said those were false reports.”

The union has issued safety reports on Allegiant for the past three years that are based on what its members have reported. Wells said the contract would “not lessen our concern about getting the safety issues fixed with Allegiant, first for our members and, of course, the flying public.”

The company said in a statement: “Allegiant is a very safe airline. We have robust internal and external auditing programs and are investing heavily in new training programs and technologies that are industry leading.”

Allegiant says it will spend more on maintenance this year. According to the MIT Airline Data Project, Allegiant’s maintenance spending hit $72.7 million in 2011, then fell to $33.6 million and $38.7 million the next two years, less than in any other year since 2008, when it was a much smaller company. Maintenance spending climbed again, to $62.3 million, in 2014.

Allegiant spokeswoman Wheeler said the fluctuations were “largely driven by scheduled maintenance events.” She said that in 2011, the airline “underwent a large-scale engine overhaul project.”

The company said that it is in regular contact with the FAA and that its maintenance programs are “in accordance with all standards of the airline industry.” On Aug. 5, it cut the ribbon on a new training center in Florida for pilots, flight attendants and mechanics.

Higher maintenance spending could cut into profits — and the company’s stock price.

The fortunes of chief executive Gallagher are tied to that performance. Although he does not take a base salary, he owns about 20 percent of the company and received more than $4 million in dividends last year. On March 9, he sold shares of Allegiant worth $47.8 million.

Despite the string of safety incidents in 2015, the company’s board also gave him a nearly $3 million bonus, putting his total compensation for that year at the same level as his counterpart’s at low-cost rival JetBlue, which is about four times larger.

Waiting for a resolution

Kinzer isn’t flying these days. Broke and unable to get a job in aviation, he is trying to start a photography business and is waiting for the court case to begin.

Bricker and Wheeler declined to comment on the litigation. Allegiant’s attorneys in Nevada moved in federal court to have the case dismissed. A judge rejected the motion and sent the case back to state court.

On July 18, Kinzer’s attorneys filed depositions, including one by Capt. Cameron Graff, a witness for Allegiant, who in reply to a question said: “It’s my opinion that Capt. Kinzer was terminated to quell the pilot group, to silence the pilot group, to in a way ‘take one out’ to keep the pilots from reporting safety events, emergencies, those types of events.”


Rockwell International 114, N5814N: Accident occurred Sunday, June 12, 2016 at Munday Municipal Airport (37F), Knox County, Texas

NTSB Identification: GAA16CA385
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, June 12, 2016 in Munday, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/31/2016
Aircraft: ROCKWELL INTERNATIONAL 114, registration: N5814N
Injuries: 3 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot reported that during the takeoff rotation the airplane started to drift left and he immediately applied more right rudder, the left wing dipped, and the stall warning horn sounded. The pilot further reported that he decided to abort the takeoff and pulled the mixture to idle cutoff. The airplane collided with a fence, and sustained substantial damage to the firewall and left aileron.

The pilot reported that there were no pre impact mechanical failures or malfunctions with the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to maintain directional control during takeoff, which resulted in an aborted takeoff, runway excursion, collision with a fence, and substantial damage.

American Airlines, Airbus A321: Incident occurred August 31, 2016 in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Boston FSDO-61


Date: 01-SEP-16
Time: 01:17:00Z
Regis#: AAL1806
Aircraft Make: AIRBUS
Aircraft Model: A321
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: Unknown
Damage: None
Activity: Commercial
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
Aircraft Operator: AAL-American Airlines
Flight Number: AAL1806
State: Massachusetts

Cessna 150L, N19492: Incident occurred August 31, 2016 in Rotan, Fisher County, Texas

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Lubbock FSDO-13


Date: 31-AUG-16
Time: 23:20:00Z
Regis#: N19492
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 150
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: Texas

De Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver Mk.1 (L20A), Rustair Inc., N121KT: Incident occurred August 31, 2016 in Cantwell, Alaska


FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Fairbanks FSDO-01


Date: 01-SEP-16
Time: 04:15:00Z
Regis#: N121KT
Aircraft Make: DE HAVILLAND
Aircraft Model: DHC5
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: None
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: Alaska

Cessna 170, N1726D: Accident occurred August 31, 2016 at Range Regional Airport (KHIB), Hibbing, Saint Louis County, Minnesota

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Minneapolis FSDO-15

NTSB Identification: CEN16LA343
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, August 31, 2016 in Hibbing, MN
Aircraft: CESSNA 170A, registration: N1726D
Injuries: 1 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 may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On August 31, 2016, about 1300 central daylight time, a Cessna model 170A single-engine airplane, N1726D, was substantially damaged while landing on runway 31 at Range Regional Airport (HIB), Hibbing, Minnesota. The private pilot was seriously injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight. The accident flight's departure airport and time are currently unconfirmed.

HIBBING — The investigation into what caused a small plane to crash at Range Regional Airport (RRA) Wednesday afternoon has begun.

Barrett Ziemer, assistant director of the Chisholm-Hibbing Airport Authority (CHAA), confirmed Thursday that a safety inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) office in Minneapolis had arrived and began digging into the incident.

“The investigation is underway,” he said, adding he had spent part of the day with the inspector. “… It’s pretty much a routine investigation.”

Ziemer noted the inspector is acting on behalf of both the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The investigation thus far included looking over the aircraft, visiting where it went off the runway, looking through pilot logbooks and speaking with Hibbing police, who documented and photographed the site. Some additional information is still being sought, Ziemer said.

“At this point, the aircraft has been released back to its owner,” he said.

The pilot, identified as Side Lake resident Randy Beissel, was the plane's only occupant and is still recovering at a Duluth hospital. Extent of his injuries in unknown.

The Cessna 170 flew off the runway while trying to land and landed in the grass just before 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Beissel had appeared to be “doing touch and go practices” when the plane took a nosedive.

Wind is believed to be a factor, according to CHAA Executive Director Shaun Germolus. The plane landed about 75 feet off the edge of the pavement.

Beissel was conscious and later flown by Lifelink III to Duluth.

Response by emergency services was quick, Germolus said, and included airport personnel, Hibbing Fire Department, Hibbing Police Department and the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office.

There was no fire in the incident, but fuel leaked from the plane, according to fire officials.

Operations at RRA were back to normal by late afternoon Wednesday, said Germolus.

“We’re back to business as usual,” he said Thursday.

Germolus anticipates calling a briefing session of emergency responders to review the incident in the near future.

“We’ll take a look at how it went, and see if we can learn a couple of things,” he added.


HIBBING, Minn. -  The Hibbing Fire Department responded at 12:57 p.m. to the report of a small general aviation plane crash.

The department responded with two engines, a battalion Chief vehicle and one medic unit.

The plane was reported to have crashed while landing and was confirmed to have one occupant, the pilot.

There was no fire, but there was fuel leaking from the plane. The Range Regional Airport ARFF fire truck responded and applied a blanket of foam to keep the fuels from igniting.

The male was flown by Life Link 3 helicopter to Duluth for injuries sustained during the crash. Airport staff says wind might have played a factor in the accident.

"This is the first time in 10 years we've experienced an aircraft accident here at this airport," said Airport Executive Director Shawn Germolus. "We're happy with the quick response today."

Story and video: 

Hibbing, MN ( - A small plane crashed on a runway shortly before 1:00 p.m. Wednesday afternoon at Hibbing's Range Regional Airport, injuring the pilot, according to police.

The pilot was the only person in the plane at the time, and is from the Iron Range area.

The extent of the pilot's injuries are unknown, however, the man was flown by Life Link 3 to a Duluth hospital for precautionary purposes.

Airport Executive Director Shaun Germolus says the pilot has facial injuries, and was conscious throughout the event.

According to the Hibbing Fire Department, the plane crashed near the runway before landing in grass just south of the runway.

Germolus says the crash likely happened after a wing got caught on the grass because of the wind.

The plane did not burn, however fuel was leaking from the plane after the crash, and fire crews applied a foam blanket to keep fuels from burning.

Authorities have documented the scene, and have removed the Cessna aircraft from the site and brought it to an aircraft hangar before being investigated by the NTSB on Thursday.

The runway at the airport was temporarily closed, but reopened at 4:30 p.m. when the scene was cleared.

Germolus says this is the first crash that has happened during his ten years at the airport.

Story and video:

How a deadly 1986 California midair collision ultimately made air travel safer for all

Gary Schank was piloting an airliner from San Francisco to Memphis when he received an urgent warning over the cockpit alert system that his plane was climbing dangerously close to a twin-engine airplane's altitude.

After the system commanded Schank to descend, he guided the plane downward by 500 feet — and a potential midair collision was averted.

"It was resolved quickly," said Schank, an airline captain and practicing attorney who lives in Coto de Caza.

That life-saving technology, known as a traffic collision avoidance system, was introduced in the U.S. in the late 1980s after an Aeroméxico airliner and a small plane collided over Cerritos.

The crash — which 30 years ago today killed 82 people in the air and in the neighborhood where both planes went into the ground — would become a pivotal moment in aviation safety history.


Blame for the crash was shared equally by the pilot of the smaller plane and the Federal Aviation Administration, a jury found.

Later, the FAA would implement a series of major changes, requiring jetliners to install automatic crash-avoidance systems; mandating the use of transponders operating within certain areas; and consolidating approach spaces for more organized airspace management.

"It highlighted some of the deficiencies that have been corrected ... in areas that technology could help," said George Perry, senior vice president of the Air Safety Institute, part of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Prior to those changes, federal investigators concluded that a few minutes before noon on Aug. 31, 1986, the small plane, a single-engine Piper Archer, entered unauthorized airspace and went undetected.

Ultimately, the Piper collided with Aeroméxico Flight 498, which was starting its descent to Los Angeles International Airport after originating in Mexico City. The Piper then crashed into an empty elementary school playground, but the airliner, a DC-9, crashed into a residential neighborhood in Cerritos. Homes were destroyed or damaged, a fire was started, and 15 people on the ground were killed.

"The sights, sounds, smells, the burning material — the destruction made an impression on me," recalled John Lauber, who surveyed the wreckage as a National Transportation Safety Board member.

Lauber, who is now retired in Seattle, says aviation safety standards and protocols have since "come a long way."

The biggest lesson aviation officials drew from the Cerritos crash, he said, was that traffic in high-density airspace in major metro areas had to be more "actively managed."

"I am ... and was a pilot," Lauber said. "So I understand how air traffic control worked and their shortcomings and limits" at the time.

Perhaps the most significant change prompted by the tragedy was the implementation of traffic collision avoidance systems, which were mandated for all jetliners in a 1989 FAA rule.

The system identifies potential midair crashes based on readings of aircraft transponders and instructs pilots to either climb or descend to avert a collision, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor in an email to the Register.

"It is not an exaggeration to say this has been one of the most important aviation safety improvements in commercial aviation in recent decades," Gregor added.

What's more, following the Cerritos incident, the FAA required all aircraft flying within 30 miles of major airports to have transponders, which wasn't mandated in 1986. The Piper aircraft was not equipped with a transponder that reports altitude and "was not in radio contact with any air traffic control facility when the accident occurred," the federal investigation concluded.

According to Gregor, other major changes included:

Implementing systems that alert air traffic controllers about potential aircraft conflicts.

Establishing dedicated routes for small-plane pilots who want to fly through the busy airspace around major airports.

The consolidation of several approach operations into one facility in San Diego, which makes it easier for air traffic controllers to track all aircraft.


Since the Cerritos tragedy, there has not been another midair crash between a major commercial air carrier and a general-aviation aircraft — thanks to these aviation reforms, some experts say.

The number of all types of midair crashes in U.S. airspace has fallen from 29 to the single digits over the past three decades, according to data from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Potential midair collisions — where an incident likely would have occurred had neither pilot taken action — have also dramatically decreased. In 2014, there were a little more than 80 such near-misses reported by pilots — down from 420 the year before the Cerritos crash, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Air safety standards have continued to change over the years with better technology, said Schank, the Orange County pilot.

He recently purchased a device that contains a relatively new technology that allows general-aviation pilots to see other aircraft in the sky, up-to-the-minute weather reports and other important flight information.

The satellite-based technology — called automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast — is similar to the crash avoidance technology available to jetliners but is far more affordable. The key difference is that the satellite-based devices do not provide pilots automated resolution advisories.

The average cost of such a system is $2,000, according to Perry, the Air Safety Institute executive.

The new system wasn't developed specifically to address midair collisions, but it certainly has the "capability to mitigate those" types of situations, Perry added.

By 2020, all aircraft, including airliners and general aircraft, that plan to fly in high-density airspace are supposed to be equipped with this technology, according to an FAA rule.

With the technology, "I can see every airplane in the area," Schank said.


NTSB Identification: DCA86AA041A
The docket is stored on NTSB microfiche number 31249.
Accident occurred Sunday, August 31, 1986 in CERRITOS, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/07/1988
Aircraft: McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32, registration: XAJED

NTSB Identification: DCA86AA041B
The docket is stored on NTSB microfiche number 31249.
Accident occurred Sunday, August 31, 1986 in CERRITOS, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/07/1988
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-181, registration: N4891F

Injuries: 82 Fatal, 8 Minor.

The Safety Board's full report on this investigation is provided as Aviation Accident Report number AAR-87/07. To obtain a copy of this report, or to view the executive summary online, please see the Web site at 


The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:


Contributing Factors:

Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, N752RV, Hageland Aviation (and) Piper PA-18-150 Super Cub, N82452, Renfro's Alaskan Adventures: Fatal accident occurred August 31, 2016 near Russian Mission Airport (PARS), Alaska

National Transportation Safety Board - Aviation Accident Preliminary Report: 

National Transportation Safety Board - Aviation Accident Preliminary Report:



FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Anchorage FSDO-03

NTSB Identification: ANC16FA061A
Scheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Wednesday, August 31, 2016 in Russian Mission, AK
Aircraft: CESSNA 208, registration: N752RV
Injuries: 5 Fatal.

NTSB Identification: ANC16FA061B
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, August 31, 2016 in Russian Mission, AK
Aircraft: PIPER PA 18-150, registration: N82452
Injuries: 5 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 August 31, 2016, about 1001 Alaska daylight time (AKD), a turbine-powered Cessna 208B (Caravan) airplane, N752RV, and a Piper PA-18-150 (Super Cub) airplane, N82452, collided midair while both airplanes were en route about 6.5 miles northwest of the Russian Mission Airport, Russian Mission, Alaska. The Cessna 208B was registered to N752RV, LLC, Fairbanks, Alaska, and operated by Hageland Aviation Services, Inc., dba Ravn Connect, Flight number 3190, a scheduled commuter flight operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) Part 135 and visual flight rules (VFR). The Piper PA-18-150 was registered to DioAir, LLC, Bethel, Alaska, and operated as a guided hunting operation flight under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 and VFR. The airline transport pilot and the two passengers on board the Cessna 208B sustained fatal injuries. The commercial pilot and the sole passenger in the Piper PA-18-150 sustained fatal injuries. Both airplanes sustained substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed in the area at the time of the accident. The Cessna 208B departed from Russian Mission Airport about 0958, destined for the Marshall Don Hunter Senior Airport, Marshall, Alaska, and company flight following procedures were in effect. The Piper PA-18-150 departed the Bethel Airport, Bethel, about 0907, destined for a remote hunting camp about 20 miles northwest of Russian Mission, with company flight following procedures in effect.

In a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on September 7, a representative of the operator of the Cessna reported that the flight was scheduled to arrive in Marshall at 1017. When the airplane did not arrive as scheduled, the Ravn Connect operational control center (OCC) initiated overdue airplane procedures. The Ravn Connect OCC contacted the pilots of two company airplanes flying near Russian Mission and provided the pilots with the last latitude and longitude coordinates supplied from the Cessna's automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) system. The two company pilots then flew their airplanes to the area of the last coordinates and obtained visual confirmation of the Cessna wreckage.

In a telephone conversation with the NTSB IIC on September 7, the owner of the hunting/fishing expedition company that operated the Piper reported that he was flying a customer to a remote hunting camp and that he departed from Bethel about 15 minutes after the Piper departed. The operator/owner reported that he delivered his customer to his hunting camp about 1030 and then flew by the hunting camp that was the Piper's destination and observed that the Piper and the occupants were not present. The operator/owner radioed the company headquarters for a status update on the Piper and was supplied the last latitude and longitude coordinates from the company's DeLorme flight following system. The owner/operator flew to the area of the last coordinates and obtained visual confirmation of the Piper wreckage.

The NTSB IIC, two NTSB air safety investigators, and a team of Alaska State Troopers traveled to the accident scene. Both wreckage sites, about 0.5 mile apart, were located in an area of rolling hills with heavy vegetation about 10 feet tall populated with various alder trees, spruce trees, and birch trees. The wreckage for both airplanes was recovered and transported to a secure facility for future examination.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented national ADS-B technology in Alaska, and the Cessna was equipped with an avionics package as part of that program. Formerly known as Capstone, the joint industry/FAA program (which includes ground-based stations, satellites, and airplane avionics) currently provides pilots with situational awareness by displaying the airplane's position over terrain, and warns pilots of the presence of other ADS-B-equipped aircraft which may be present, while using global positioning system (GPS) technology, coupled with an instrument panel mounted, moving map display. The preliminary examination of the ADS-B equipment installed in the Cessna revealed that it included two Garmin multi-function display units, commercially known as the G1000. According to management personnel with Ravn Connect, at the time of the accident, the ADS-B capability of the Cessna consisted of the transmit function only (ADS-B out). ADS-B track data from the Cessna was requested from the FAA.

A Garmin GPSMap 296 unit was recovered from the Piper and shipped to the NTSB vehicle recorder laboratory in Washington, DC. Radar data for the two airplanes was also requested from the FAA.

The closest official weather observation station is located at the Russian Mission Airport. At 0956, an Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR) reported, in part: wind calm; visibility 10 statute miles; clouds and sky condition clear; temperature 52 degrees F; dew point 46 degrees F; altimeter 30.09 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

Harry Wrase

Jeff Burruss of Haines was a passenger in a Super Cub plane that was involved in a midair collision Wednesday morning. There were no survivors. Burruss was 40. (Facebook)

Federal investigators planned Thursday to revisit the site of Wednesday's deadly midair collision near Russian Mission, which claimed the lives of five men and left the wreckage of two small planes in rugged terrain near the Western Alaska village.

A Hageland Aviation Cessna 208 Caravan flying from Russian Mission to Marshall collided with a Piper PA-18 Super Cub operated by Renfro's Alaskan Adventures headed from Bethel, according to the Alaska Air National Guard. The crash, about 6 miles northwest of Russian Mission, occurred shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Alaska State Troopers identified the victims Wednesday night. The Caravan was flown by Wasilla pilot Harry Wrase, 48, and carried passengers Steven Paul Andrew, 32, of Russian Mission and Aaron Jay Minock, 21, of Russian Mission. The Super Cub was flown by Montana resident Zach Justin Babat, 44, and carried Haines passenger Jeff Thomas Burruss, 40.

Renfro's Manager Nate DeHaan said Burruss worked as a hunting and fishing guide for the company. State records show Burruss currently registered as an assistant guide.

Andrew, one of the passengers aboard the Caravan, worked as a ramp agent at Ravn since 2007, his father Tom Andrew said in a phone interview. His immediate family lives on the Kenai Peninsula, he said.

Tom Andrew worked as a public school teacher when his son was growing up and the family lived in multiple Alaska towns including Pilot Station and Kodiak, where Steven Andrew attended school.

The family is originally from Marshall. Steven was headed to the Yukon-Kuskokwim community to moose hunt. He considered the village home, his father said.

"He was a good, kind and loving person," Tom Andrew said.

Clint Johnson, the National Transportation Safety Board's Alaska chief, said Thursday that three NTSB investigators were working on the crash. Two Federal Aviation Administration investigators were also on-site Wednesday, according to FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer.

Crews were only able to reach the Cessna's crash site Wednesday evening, Johnson said. Both NTSB investigators and troopers had to wait for weather to clear in Bethel before they successfully reached the scene Thursday afternoon.

"The conditions where this thing is are very challenging — high alders, steep mountainous terrain only accessible by helicopter," Johnson said. "These guys have their work cut out for them."

Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said the troopers who responded to Russian Mission Wednesday were involved with the recovery of bodies from the crashed aircraft, a task that was continuing Thursday.

Johnson said the Cessna operated by Hageland was equipped with map displays for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADS-B, which lets pilots see the locations of other nearby aircraft on a screen similar to those used by air traffic controllers. Washington, D.C.-based investigators were working to determine whether the PA-18 operated by Renfro's was also equipped with ADS-B.

ADS-B transmitters will be required for flight in many areas of U.S. airspace by 2020. Johnson said the technology is "widespread" in Alaska, but only displays the location of other ADS-B aircraft.

"Both aircraft has to be ADS-B equipped, so if one has it and the other doesn't, the one that has it won't see the other aircraft," Johnson said.

Hageland Aviation operator Ravn Alaska wasn't immediately able to answer questions Thursday morning. The company said Wednesday that it had established an emergency support number for family and friends of the crash victims at 888-346-7502.

Renfro's released a statement Thursday afternoon about the collision, along with photos of Babat and Burruss, on its Facebook page. The company also offered condolences to the three people killed on board the Hageland aircraft.

"There are no words to express the anguish felt by everyone within the Renfro's Alaskan Adventures family in the wake of this immense loss," Renfro's staff wrote. "Zach and Jeff were amazing men that lived life to the fullest and they will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families and friends as well as those of Harry, Steven and Aaron. We greatly appreciate the support of the community during this difficult time."

The NTSB is preparing for an extended investigation of the wreckage, due to the difficult terrain and the two separate crash sites involved.

Realistically, our guys will probably be out there through the weekend," Johnson said.


The investigation continues into a mid-air plane collision northwest of Russian Mission on Wednesday that left no survivors.

Alaska State Troopers and investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are heading to the crash sites today.

“Our focus is on body recovery efforts,” said Megan Peters, public information officer for the Alaska State Troopers.

“The NTSB is the agency that actually investigates the cause and circumstances of aircraft crashes.”

The recovered bodies will be sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Anchorage. Alaska State Troopers have identified the two aircraft and the five victims.

The Renfro’s Alaskan Adventure Super Cub flying from Bethel to a hunting camp carried pilot Zach Justin Babat of Montana, 44, and passenger Jeff Thomas Burruss of Haines, 40.

The RAVN C208 Caravan flying from Russian Mission to Marshall carried pilot Harry Wrase of Wasilla, 48, and passengers Aaron Jay Minock of Russian Mission, 21, and Steven Paul Andrew of Kenai, 32.

NTSB Alaska Chief Clint Johnson said the planes crashed about a half-mile away from each other across a terrain of rolling hills and thick alders. Two investigators reached the Caravan crash site Wednesday evening just before dark.

“The briefing I was able to get from Mike Hodges, who was on scene briefly last night, indicated that the airplane is badly fragmented. Didn’t go into any other details,” Johnson said Thursday morning.

With the hike through the dense brush and rapid loss of daylight, the investigators were only at the site a short while.

“What they were able to do,” Johnson said, “was get an idea of what equipment is going to be needed to do their job.”

NTSB investigators are reviewing the limited radar data available from the area. At this point, how the planes collided is unknown.

“Keep in mind that where this accident or mid-air collision took place is in what we refer to as uncontrolled air space where they’re not under control of any air traffic control, or ATC, services at the time,” Johnson said. There is what we refer to as ADSB, which is a type of tracking system. But nevertheless, this accident took place in uncontrolled airspace, so it’s incumbent on each one of the pilots, each one of the flight crews to see and avoid the other airplane.”

Kristen DiMartino was one of the last people to see Wrase, the RAVN pilot, and one of his passengers alive Wednesday. She was one of the three people on the RAVN plane as it flew from Bethel to Russian Mission and remembers Wrase and the other passenger admiring the aircraft.

“I feel like I’m still in shock, because I’ll never get that image out of them being so happy.” DiMartino said. “They were so happy. They were just talking about the plane and literally saying how awesome it was, and then I find out they’re gone.”

The plane dropped DiMartino off in Russian Mission and picked up another passenger before flying north to Marshall. The plane never reached its destination.


ANCHORAGE (KTUU) UPDATE: The pilot of one of the two planes involved in a deadly mid-air collision in western Alaska Wednesday has been identified by a family member as Harry Wrase, Jr.

His niece, Hannah Nadesta Brown, tells KTUU that her uncle was the pilot of the Hageland plane that crashed after a collision with another aircraft.

Brown said "My uncle had the biggest heart. He truly loved flying and serving the villages. He is going to be missed by so many".

Brown said Wrase lived in Wasilla but grew up in McGrath and leaves behind two children. "We just want people to know that he was an amazing father and he was a good pilot" Brown said. "He loved chess, he was an avid player and went to Vegas every year to compete in the International chess festival."

The names of the crash victims have not been released by officials, but Brown says members of her family have been notified about his death.

(Original story)

Two investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are expected to arrive later today at the scene of a midair collision in Western Alaska that claimed the lives of five people. A third investigator from Seattle should land in Russian Mission on Thursday, said Clint Johnson, chief of the NTSB’s regional office in Alaska.

The crash occurred approximately six miles northwest of Russian Mission, a Yup'ik Eskimo village along the Yukon River, 376 miles west of Anchorage.

“Preliminary reports indicate the crash sites are accessible only by helicopter,” Johnson said.

The aircraft involved are a Hageland Aviation Cessna 208 Caravan with three people on board and a Renfro’s Alaska Adventures Piper PA-18 Super Cub with two people on board, said Guard spokeswoman Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead.

Olmstead said rolling hills and heavy vegetation define the terrain.

The weather is good with clear skies and temperatures in the low 60s. A National Guard Black Hawk helicopter is responding to the second crash site at this hour, Olmstead said.

One of the aviation companies contacted the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center at 11 a.m. on Wednesday to say that they had lost radio contact with an aircraft and that it was overdue.

Alaska State Troopers contacted the coordination center at 11:15 a.m. to report that a second aircraft was overdue, according to Olmstead.

A third aircraft flying overhead spotted aircraft wreckage on the ground that indicated a mid-air collision between two planes.

Troopers said there were no survivors. The identities of the pilots and passengers have not yet been released.

Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. expressed condolences to the family and friends of those killed in the crash. Emergency clinicians are available for families and loved ones at the corporation's Family Center in Bethel. Behavioral health aides throughout the region's village clinics are also standing by the speak with those affected by the crash. If anyone would like to speak with an emergency clinician, they can call 907-543-6499.


With 5 open National Transportation Safety Board investigations, Ravn Alaska operators under microscope 

April 11, 2014

The fatal crash Tuesday of a Cessna Caravan near Bethel is the latest in a string of accidents by longtime air taxi operator Hageland Aviation Services. Hageland -- which now operates as Ravn Connect and is part of the Ravn Alaska “family of airlines” -- has been involved in 29 accidents resulting in 23 deaths over the past 20 years. The latest accident is one of five ongoing National Transportation Safety Board investigations into commercial flights operated under the Ravn Alaska banner. 

In another recent accident, an aircraft operated by Hageland crashed outside of St. Marys in late November, killing the pilot and three passengers and leaving six other passengers with serious injuries.

The latest crash joins three other accidents and an incident -- the difference between an accident and an incident is determined by NTSB regulations and involves levels of damage and injury as determined by investigators -- involving Ravn Alaska air group members that are under active investigation by the NTSB. When reviewed as a group, they reveal a pattern of mishaps dating back more than 18 months, which have cumulatively resulted in six deaths.

A series of accidents

According to a preliminary NTSB report, the first of these mishaps occurred in September 2012 when an Era Aviation de Havilland DHC-8 departing Anchorage International Airport experienced “an uncommanded left roll and uncontrolled descent during climb at about 12,000 feet." The flight crew regained control at about 7,000 feet and returned to land. None of the 12 passengers or three crew members were injured.

Due to the size of the aircraft and the nature of the operation -- Era Aviation operates under the more-stringent Part 121 section of the Federal Aviation Regulations due to the size of its aircraft and passenger loads -- this incident was turned over to Washington, D.C.-based NTSB officials for investigation.

Then, in October 2013, an Era Aviation Beechcraft 1900 suffered a collapse of the nose and main landing gear while landing in Homer. The flight crew and 13 passengers were uninjured but the aircraft received substantial damage.

In discussing the events at Anchorage and Homer in a recent phone conversation, Washington D.C.-based NTSB public affairs officer Eric Weiss explained that the investigations will extend as far as possible to understand not only what happened, but why. This could include moving the investigation beyond the individual events and into the overall management of the air group. "If answering the question of why extends to management and the overall safety culture, we will look at that," said Weiss. "We will go wherever the investigation takes us."

On Nov. 22, another Beechcraft 1900, this one operated by Hageland Aviation, hit the elevated edge of the runway surface while landing at Badami Airport near Deadhorse. According to the preliminary report, the right main landing gear separated and the airplane slid along the runway surface, causing substantial damage. Weather in Badami at the time of the accident included heavy blowing snow and broken clouds at 1,000 feet, with a half-mile of visibility.

Five days later, Era Alaska Flight 1453 -- operated by Hageland Aviation -- departed Bethel and crashed within 40 minutes near St. Marys, resulting in those four fatalities and six injuries. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at St. Marys when the flight was dispatched, with a ceiling of 300 feet and an overcast sky at the time of the crash. Despite conditions requiring instrument navigation, flight 1453 was operating under visual flight rules. The Badami, St. Marys and recent Bethel accident are all under investigation by the Anchorage NTSB office.

According to investigator Clint Johnson, those accidents are all in the fact-gathering stage. Once analysis of those facts has taken place, the NTSB will look at the carrier as a whole to consider, for example, if there are overall concerns with pilot training, maintenance, oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration or other factors.

"At this point we are working on a case-by-case basis," Johnson said.

The FAA has increased surveillance of the Hageland operation in Bethel since the St. Marys accident. While officials could not confirm any possible enforcement action against the company in the wake of the most recent fatal crash, the FAA asserted that its policy is to “explore all options to address our enforcement responsibilities."

Both Hageland Aviation and Era Aviation are cooperating with all the investigations.

Alaska Airlines 'unwinding' from Hageland

Ownership and operational control of the three air carriers under the Ravn Alaska umbrella is complex and deeply rooted in the companies' history. The first combining of resources between two members of the group came in 2008. The owners of Hageland Aviation Services -- Mike Hageland and Jim Tweto -- and the owner of Frontier Flying Service -- John Hajdukovich -- established a parent company named HoTh Inc. This company was formed to create a self-described “airgroup” where, according to the company website, “the parent company could acquire companies that have synergies with each other (to) market the combined services under a common brand.” State records show that presently HoTh Inc. is owned by Tweto (11 percent), Hageland (39 percent) and Robert Hajdukovich (50 percent).

HoTH Inc. owns Frontier Flying Service, Hageland Aviation Services and Era Aviation, the latter of which was purchased in 2009.

Each of the three companies have separate directors of operation and chief pilots, though Frontier and Era share a CEO in Robert Hajdukovich. The CEO of Hageland Aviation is James Dickerson. The FAA has also assigned individual Certificate Management Teams to each company with specific principal operations and maintenance inspectors and separate annual inspections.

Alaska Airlines currently partners with Era Alaska in a “code-sharing” relationship. This allows passengers to purchase tickets from a point of departure with Alaska Airlines all the way through to a destination operated by one of the Era Alaska air group members. This will likely change to Ravn Alaska soon as part of the Era Alaska rebranding effort.

  This seamless scheduling and travel is part of the Alaska Airlines/Era Alaska relationship and based upon “consistent passenger service standards and procedures” for the duration of transport. 
Hageland, however, will soon be removed from that equation. In an email, Alaska Airlines spokesperson Bobbie Egan wrote:

"Alaska Air Group maintains a comprehensive safety oversight program of all of our alliance partners. This includes operational safety focused assessments, regular monitoring, and meetings with these partner airlines. As part of this program, Alaska Air Group made the policy decision in December 2013 to begin unwinding our business partnership with Hageland Aviation, Inc. ... This business partnership will fully terminate this month."

Egan said that Hageland is the only Ravn Alaska member Alaska Airlines is terminating its relationship with.

Going forward

Hageland Aviation recently opened a new centralized operation center in Palmer that will weigh 25-30 risk factors prior to each flight as part of a new and enhanced risk management approach. Dispatchers at the center are in constant contact with pilots during their flights. This is unusual for a smaller operator -- referred to as Part 135 under Federal Aviation Regulations -- like Hageland. The center mirrors the one utilized by Era Aviation in Anchorage, and similar to those required of all Part 121 airlines.

As the five investigations continue, the operation and training standards of all of Ravn Alaska member airlines will likely receive more scrutiny from FAA and NTSB investigators. With Ravn Alaska's common ownership, common management and common reservation and scheduling systems, it presents a unique and complicated situation for accident investigators and enforcement officials.

Although Hageland Aviation aircraft may present in different livery or colors and the pilots may or may not wear uniforms to match those of Anchorage-based flight crews, the airline itself is owned and operated by the same group of individuals that owns and operates its sister companies. Since the 2008 combination of resources, there have been six Hageland Aviation accidents in addition to two fatality crashes, five of which occurred in the Bethel region. In fact, accidents involving Bethel-based aircraft have long dominated Hageland’s accident history, which includes crashes in such villages as Marshall, Scammon Bay, Kongiganak, Kwigillingok and Bethel itself. As an integral part of the group, that accident history has belonged first to Frontier Alaska and then Era Alaska and now, through the rebranding, Ravn Alaska.

As owners, the open accident and incident investigations are the collective responsibility of the HoTH board of directors. Ultimately, the current fatality crash, and the one in St. Marys, are just as much a part of Ravn Alaska’s future as they are of Hageland Aviation’s.

The probable cause report for the 2012 incident should be released later this year. The reports for 2013 accidents may extend into early 2015. All of the Ravn Alaska flights continue to operate as scheduled and the Hageland Aviation base in Bethel remains open.

The author of this article briefly worked for Frontier Flying Service in 1998, and leased aircraft to the company until 2010. Contact Colleen Mondor at colleen(at)

Story and comments/reaction:

Multiple people are dead after two aircraft collided midair, then crashed about six miles northwest of the village of Russian Mission, 60 miles north of Bethel just before 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Some of the deceased have been identified as 48-year-old pilot Harry Wrase, of Wasilla, and his passengers — 32-year-old Steven Paul Andrew, of Kenai, and 21-year-old Aaron Jay Minock, of Russian Mission, all aboard a C208 Caravan plane operated by Hageland Aviation Services. Others killed in the second plane involved were 44-year-old pilot Zach Justin Babat, of Montana, and his passenger, 40-year-old Jeff Thomas Burruss, of Haines, flying in a Super Cub operated by Renfro’s Alaska Adventure. All of the victims’ next of kin have been notified of their deaths.

More details about the crash were shared by Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead, chief public affairs officer for the Alaska National Guard, on Wednesday afternoon. Olmstead wrote in an email that an aviation company told the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center (ARCC) at 11 a.m. Wednesday stating they lost radio contact with an aircraft that was overdue.

Alaska State Troopers contacted ARCC to report another aircraft was overdue as well.

Olmstead wrote that a third aircraft was flying overhead and spotted wreckage “indicative of a mid-air collision between two aircraft.”

Alaska State Troopers confirmed no survivors were found at the site of the wreckage in an online release Wednesday afternoon.

“Terrain in the area consists of rolling hills and heavy vegetation, at an elevation between 600 to 800 feet,” wrote Olmstead. “Weather is good in the region with clear skies and temperature at 63 degrees mid-afternoon.”

Olmstead wrote that a National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the 207th Aviation Battalion in Bethel, responded to the crash site around noon Wednesday. Two Life Flight medics were on board the helicopter.

She stated Alaska State Troopers also responded.

“When tragedy happens, community members pull through together for support for the families,” said Russian Mission city administrator Agnes Housler.

Hageland is now owned by Ravn Alaska, which issued a statement Wednesday announcing an emergency support line had been set up for families and friends of the deceased, 888-346-7502.

“On behalf of all the employees of the Ravn family we are deeply saddened by this news,” the company wrote. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends.”

Hageland made “significant changes” to its operations following a report into two previous crashes was released earlier this year by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), including the construction of a new control center in Palmer.

The fatal 2014 crash near Kwethluk occurred when a pilot on a training flight put the plane into a stall, according to the NTSB report. The student pilot and trainer were unable to bring the plane out of the stall, and both died in the crash.

Investigators determined the fatal 2013 crash of a Hageland aircraft near St. Mary’s, in which four people were killed and six were injured, was likely caused by pilot error and the failure of Federal Aviation Administration officials to hold the company accountable for prior errors.

Ravn Alaska’s statement confirmed the company is cooperating with local officials and the NTSB during their investigation.

BETHEL – None of the five people aboard two planes that collided Wednesday morning in the skies above a Yukon River village survived the crash, Alaska State Troopers said.

The planes collided on a sunny day about 6 miles northwest of Russian Mission and some 60 miles from the Southwest Alaska hub of Bethel.

Troopers identified three victims aboard a Hageland Aviation Cessna 208 Caravan as pilot Harry Wrase, 48, of Wasilla; and passengers Steven Paul Andrew, 32, of Kenai, and Aaron Jay Minock, 21, of Russian Mission.

The other aircraft was a Piper PA-18 Super Cub operated through Renfro's Alaskan Adventures that took off from Bethel flying to a hunting camp with pilot Zach Justin Babat, 44, of Montana, and passenger Jeff Thomas Burruss, 40, of Haines.

Two National Transportation Safety Board investigators flew on a trooper helicopter from Anchorage to the extensive crash site, said Clint Johnson, NTSB lead investigator for Alaska. A third investigator was headed to Bethel from the Lower 48. The Federal Aviation Administration is also investigating, said spokesman Allen Kenitzer.

Midair crashes are usually technical and complex, Johnson said.

"Ultimately what we are trying to do is to see how the airplanes came together," Johnson said. "What we want to do is to see if either one of these airplanes was able to see one another, either electronically or visually."

Hageland now operates under the Ravn Alaska umbrella, the busiest commuter service in Alaska. Hageland came under scrutiny after a string of crashes in 2013 and 2014, including one that killed four passengers and another that killed two pilots on a training flight.

Reports and interviews released by the NTSB last year suggested that Hageland had been operating with loose controls and a bush-pilot culture of tight landings and flights in extreme weather. But improvements were made, including creating a tracking and control system directed from Palmer, according to news reports.

"They did a very good job as far as changing their operations," Johnson said Wednesday. "As far as we are concerned, that's in the past."

The Cessna 208 is "the mainstay of bush carriers," he said. The Piper Super Cub is also a popular aircraft that's been around for years.

At 11 a.m. on Wednesday, an aviation company reported to the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson that it had lost radio contact with a plane that was overdue, Olmstead said.

Fifteen minutes later, troopers alerted the RCC about a different plane, also overdue.

"It didn't take too long for the rescuers to figure out we were dealing with a midair," Johnson said.

A third aircraft spotted wreckage on the ground. Johnson said there are essentially two crash sites.

The Rescue Coordination Center enlisted a Bethel-based Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter carrying medics, which took off at noon, Olmstead said.

Employees at both Ravn Alaska — which operates Hageland — and Renfro's didn't return calls Wednesday morning and afternoon.

Around noon, before rescuers got to the scene, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp., which operates a clinic in the village and hospital in Bethel, was alerted that medical help might be needed. Within 12 minutes, it had activated an emergency operations center in Bethel to make sure medical staff, equipment and transportation were ready to go, said Tiffany Zulkosky, vice president of communications.

Then around 2:15 p.m., troopers announced no one survived. "YKHC has stood down," the health agency said.

YKHC still is offering help; emergency clinicians for families of those in the crash were standing by at YKHC's family center at 837 Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway. Behavioral health aides in village clinics are available too.

The terrain in the area features rolling hills and heavy vegetation, with elevation between 600 to 800 feet. Skies were clear. The temperature was warm for late summer, 63 degrees.



There were no survivors on either plane, according to rescuers at the crash site, Alaska State Troopers say.

The two planes were carrying a total of five people, according to the Alaska National Guard.

This post will be updated when more information becomes available.

Two small planes carrying a total of five people collided mid-air just before 11 a.m. today in southwest Alaska, according to the Alaska National Guard.

The condition of the pilots and passengers is unknown. The crash site is about 6 miles west, northwest of the Yukon River village of Russian Mission, said Clint Johnson, Alaska chief for the National Transportation Safety Board.

The aircraft involved are a Hageland Aviation Cessna 208 Caravan with three people on board and a Renfro’s Alaska Adventures Piper PA-18 Super Cub with two people on board, said Guard spokeswoman Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead.

An Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter -- carrying medics -- left Bethel for the crash site and was expected to arrive about 1:30 p.m., Olmstead said.

Alaska State Troopers also are responding. Johnson said two NTSB investigators are traveling by helicopter with troopers to Russian Mission today.

One of the aircraft owners, based in Bethel, first alerted officials to the crash, Johnson said.

“Initially we thought it was just involving one airplane," Johnson said. "So we were monitoring that rescue (and) soon after that were informed that there was another airplane that was missing.”

A trooper spokesperson could not immediately be reached.