Saturday, September 03, 2016

Bensen B-8M: Fatal accident occurred September 03, 2016 near Saline County Regional Airport (KSUZ), Arkansas

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Little Rock, Arkansas

Aviation Accident Final Report -  National Transportation Safety Board:

Docket And Docket Items -  National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary -  National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: CEN16LA347
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 03, 2016 in Bryant, AR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/13/2017
Aircraft: Haggenmacher Bensen, registration: NONE
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The private pilot, who did not hold a gyroplane rating, was conducting a local personal flight in the gyroplane. A witness, who was an experienced gyroplane pilot, reported seeing the pilot make a high-speed flyby over the airport. The witness added that, as the pilot turned the gyroplane onto the left base leg for the active runway, it started to “porpoise” and that the gyroplane then pitched up, nosed over, entered a “power push-over” attitude, summersaulted, and impacted terrain. 

The witness stated that the pilot had not flown for some time and lacked sufficient proficiency and skills to operate a gyroplane of this type and that the pilot was inexperienced and had low flight time in gyroplanes; no gyroplane flight time was recorded in the pilot’s logbooks. He added that the pilot had a “macho attitude” and could not be told anything and that, although most of the gyroplane pilots had landed that day because of air turbulence in and around the airport vicinity and he had tried to talk the pilot into not flying because of the air turbulence, the pilot conducted the flight anyway. The pilot should not have chosen to fly in such conditions, especially given his lack of experience flying gyroplanes, and his decision to do so contributed to the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s loss of gyroplane control during an intentional high-speed pass, which resulted in the gyroplane porpoising and impacting terrain. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s decision to conduct the flight in an aircraft in which he had little experience flying despite knowing that air turbulence existed in and around the airport.


On September 3, 2016, about 1500 central daylight time (CDT), a Benson B-8M gyroplane, no registration number, impacted terrain about ¼ mile from the Saline County Airport (SUZ), Bryant, Arkansas. The pilot, the sole occupant on board, was fatally injured. The gyroplane was destroyed. The gyroplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan had been filed. The local flight originated from SUZ moments before the accident.

In a telephone interview with the investigating Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, a witness, an experienced gyroplane pilot, stated that the accident pilot did a high speed flyby heading south and was turning east onto a left base leg for runway 2 when it began to "porpoise." It pitched up, nosed over, and entered a "power push-over" attitude, summersaulted, and impacted terrain.

The witness stated that the pilot had not flown for some time and lacked sufficient proficiency and skills to operate a gyroplane of this type. The witness said the pilot was inexperienced, low time, and was not rated in the gyroplane. He said the pilot had a "macho attitude" and could not be told anything. He said most of the gyroplane pilots had landed because of air turbulence in and around the airport vicinity. He tried to talk the pilot into not flying because of the air turbulence, but the pilot went ahead and flew anyway.


The 76-year-old pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. He also held a third class airman medical certificate, dated April 20, 2016, containing the following restrictions: "Must wear corrective lenses for near and distant vision. Not valid for any class after April 20, 2017." When the pilot applied for this medical certification, he estimated his total flight time to be 1,150 hours.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records do not show the pilot held a gyroplane rating.


The gyroplane was manufactured by the Bensen Aircraft Corporation, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Kits were sold by Wag Aero, Lyons, Wisconsin, and the accident aircraft was assembled by C.W. Haggenmacher, Lake City, Arkansas. It was powered by a Subaru engine.


The following METAR (Meteorological Terminal Aviation Routine Weather Report) was recorded at 1453 at the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field (LIT), Little Rock, Arkansas, located 15 miles northeast of KSUZ:

Wind, 090° at 9 knots; visibility, 10 miles; sky condition, 4,000 feet scattered, 25,000 feet scattered; temperature, 31° Celsius (C.); dew point, 14°C.; altimeter setting, 30.02 inches of mercury.


Runway 02-20 at SUZ, elevation 390 feet msl (above mean sea level), is 5,001 feet x 100 feet, asphalt. The runway was dry and in good condition.


The wreckage of the gyroplane was located in a field ¼ mile southwest of SUZ. It lay on its left side. There were no ground scars, only the impact crater, consistent with no forward velocity. The main rotor blade remained attached to the mast. One of the three pusher propeller blades had snapped off. The landing gear was bent aft.


An autopsy was performed by the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory on September 6, 2016. According to its report, death was attributed to "multiple traumatic injuries."

Toxicological screening was performed by FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. According to CAMI's report, no carbon monoxide was detected in cavity blood, and no ethanol was detected in vitreous. Cyanide tests were not performed.

Amlodipine was detected in liver tissue and cavity blood. According to FAA's Forensic Toxicology web page, amlodipine is a calcium channel blocker heart medication used in the treatment of hypertension. Losartan was also detected in liver tissue and cavity blood, and is used in the treatment of hypertension. Sildenafil (Viagra®) was detected in liver tissue and cavity blood, and is used for the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED). Desmethylsildenafil was detected in liver tissue and cavity blood, and is the predominant and active metabolite of Sildenfil with similar properties.

NTSB Identification: CEN16LA347 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 03, 2016 in Bryant, AR
Aircraft: Haggenmacher Bensen, registration: NONE
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On September 3, 2016, about 1500 central daylight time, a Bensen B-8M gyroplane, no registration number, impacted terrain about ¼ mile from the Saline County Airport (SUZ), Bryant, Arkansas. The pilot, the sole occupant on board, was fatally injured. The gyroplane was destroyed. The gyroplane was being operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan had been filed. The local flight originated from SUZ moments before the accident.

Two witnesses, both experienced gyroplane pilots, stated the accident pilot did a high speed flyby heading south and was turning onto a left base leg for runway 2. The gyroplane began to "porpoise," then pitched up, nosed over, and entered a "power push-over" situation, causing the gyroplane to summersault and impact terrain.


A 76-year-old Little Rock man has been identified as the pilot who died Saturday in a gyrocopter crash near the Saline County Regional Airport.

The Bryant Police Department on Tuesday identified the pilot as Jack Payne Sr.

Police were called at 4:34 p.m. Saturday about a small aircraft that had crashed near the airport, police said. Bryant police officers and firefighters responded and located the pilot and the gyrocopter.

Retirements, stiffer training requirements fuel pilot shortage

Flight instructor Mariah Ferber goes through a pre-flight safety check with student Donovan Norris at the Vincennes University Aviation Technology Center. 

In business, one party’s problem is often another’s opportunity.

That’s certainly the case right now in the airline industry, which is weathering a pilot shortage that’s hitting regional carriers like Indianapolis-based Republic Airways especially hard. Republic filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February, citing its inability to fill cockpits as one source of its troubles.

But the flip side of the shortage is this: It’s a good time to be entering the profession.

Regional carriers—traditionally a place young pilots launch their careers—are offering higher pay and benefits to lure candidates. And in Indianapolis and elsewhere, aviation schools say they’re working more closely than ever with airlines, creating a direct pipeline from classroom to cockpit.

“It’s a job-seeker’s market right now,” said John Mott, the interim head of Purdue University’s School of Aviation and Transportation Technology. He also serves as director of the school’s Advanced Aviation Analytics Institute for Research.

In its 2016 Pilot and Technician Outlook report, aircraft manufacturer Boeing predicts a need for 112,000 new pilots in North America—and 617,000 worldwide—over the next 20 years. The report also predicts a growing need for aircraft mechanics and cabin crew.

“As global economies expand and airlines take delivery of tens of thousands of new commercial jetliners over the next 20 years, there is extraordinary demand for people to fly and maintain these airplanes,” the report says.

A University of North Dakota study found aviation-education programs aren’t keeping up as more captains reach the mandatory retirement age of 65. It predicts that annual pilot deficits will escalate over the next decade and will total 15,000 by 2026.

As pilots hired at major carriers 30 years ago reach retirement, those airlines often are hiring away pilots from the regional airlines.

At the same time, federal regulations enacted three years ago have dramatically increased the amount of training required before young aviators can get that first job at a regional airline. As a result of those rules—sparked by a high-profile 2009 Colgan Air crash in which inexperienced pilots made critical mistakes—it’s no longer possible for graduates to move straight from aviation school into an airline pilot job.

So the regional airlines are losing pilots to the major carriers, and are scrambling to find qualified hires to replace them.

It’s easy to understand why pilots are jumping to the major carriers—they can earn a lot more money.

Last fall, for instance, Republic raised its entry-level copilot pay to $40 per flight hour—an annual wage of around $40,000. A pilot with four years of seniority can earn $80,000, Republic says.

But the mean annual wage for airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers was $136,400 last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That pay includes airlines of all sizes.

The Dallas metro area offers the highest pilot pay, with a mean annual wage of $201,100. The Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is a hub for American Airlines Group Inc.

“There is a massive shortage of qualified pilots,” said Mike Gehrich, director of aviation at Vincennes University’s Aviation Technology Center at Indianapolis International Airport.

“It started getting tight probably two years ago, and I don’t think we’ve seen the worst of it.”

The center, which is affiliated with the university’s main campus in Vincennes, offers two-year degrees in both flight and aviation mechanics.

The shortage is so severe, Gehrich said, that the school had to restrict the size of its incoming aviation class this year because it couldn’t find enough flight instructors.

Long time coming

Gehrich traces the roots of today’s shortage to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the economic slowdown that followed. Americans weren’t flying as much, airlines furloughed pilots, and aviation as a career lost its luster.

That meant the industry wasn’t bringing in enough pilots to replace now-retiring baby boomers.

Meanwhile, Gehrich said, airlines moved toward a regional jet system, farming out shorter flights and smaller markets to regional carriers. This put more planes in the sky, increasing the demand for pilots.

“Airline hiring has always been very cyclical based on the economy,” said Mike Wiggins, chairman of the Aeronautical Science Department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.

“There’s a huge bubble of pilots coming up to retirement.”

Making matters worse were the heightened training rules imposed in 2013 following the investigation into the Colgan Air crash, which killed 50 people.

Copilots who fly for U.S. passenger and cargo airlines now must hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, which requires a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight time. Before the regulations popularly known as the “1,500 rule,” copilots—also called first officers—needed only 250 hours of flight time, though individual airlines could impose stricter standards.

The 1,500 rule does make exceptions. A pilot coming out of the military can earn an Airline Transport Pilot certificate with 750 flight hours, for instance. Someone with a bachelor’s degree in aviation qualifies with 1,000 hours, while someone with an associate’s degree qualifies with 1,250 hours.

There are numerous jobs aspiring commercial pilots can work for a year or two to build up their flight time, such as flight instructor, charter pilot or crop duster. But the delay is straining regional carriers that need pilots now.

“We’ve kind of built this perfect storm, if you will,” Gehrich said.

Republic Airways did not respond to requests for interviews on this story. But in a regulatory filing in March, the company said: “As a result of the pilot shortage, the company has been forced to ground operating aircraft and reduce scheduled flying for each of its [airline] partners, which has adversely affected the company’s financial position and cash flows from operations.”

Delta Air Lines sued Republic over this issue in October 2015. The parties settled the suit this March.

Republic’s vice president of human resources, Matt Koscal, said at an IBJ aviation and aerospace breakfast in April that the company is scaling back operations as part of a strategy of “right-sizing our business to what the supply of labor is.”

At the same time, Republic is narrowing the gap between what it and major carriers pay. Other regional carriers are doing the same.

Until a year or two ago, $30,000 was considered good pay for a first officer at a regional carrier, said David Jeffries, a commercial pilot and co-owner of Jeff Air Pilot Services in Columbus and Greenwood.

Today, “you can walk into a $40,000-to-$65,000 first-year income,” Jeffries said.

Endeavor Air, a subsidiary of Delta, currently advertises a first-year salary of $50,000 for first officers.

Republic’s online recruitment information says new hires can earn a salary of $40,000 their first year, with benefits, per-diem pay and bonuses. A captain at Republic with four years of seniority can earn $80,600, the airline says.

Missouri-based Trans States Airlines, which flies for American Airlines Inc. and United Airlines Inc., says its first officers can make nearly $42,000 in their first year, which includes a signing bonus of $7,500.


“The incentives have been getting better, even in the past two years,” said Brad Wood of Noblesville, who graduated from Vincennes University’s flight program this year.

The 24-year-old is almost done earning his flight instructor certificate, with the long-range goal of building his flight hours and becoming a commercial pilot. He hopes to fly for Republic.

Higher pay is especially welcome for young pilots because the cost of training is not cheap. College aviation programs are more expensive than other fields of study because of the extra fees for flight training.

Wood said his degree from Vincennes cost about $70,000.

Regional carriers also are working more closely with aviation schools, building relationships they hope will lead to future hiring.

Last summer, Purdue signed a pipeline agreement with Republic. The agreement will give Purdue students a chance to work on projects and activities with Republic. Participating students also will be guaranteed a job interview with Republic once they graduate; any job offers are conditional upon the student’s completing the 1,500 rule.

Purdue also has agreements with other regional carriers, including Cape Air, Piedmont and Envoy, Mott said.

“We’re trying to think outside the box and do things a little differently than we have in the past,” he said.

Purdue also is re-establishing its aviation program in Indianapolis, with the first group of students expected to enroll this spring.

The program will be housed at Vincennes University’s Indianapolis center. It will be a two-year program designed for Vincennes graduates who want to go on to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Previously, Mott said, Purdue had a four-year program in Indianapolis. The university didn’t have the resources to keep the program going, he said, and new FAA regulations made Purdue uncertain of what the future held.

But especially with the growth in the airline industry, Mott said, the time was right to come back to Indianapolis.

One problem that hasn’t been resolved yet: College aviation programs, a key source of pilots, can produce only so many graduates.

Embry-Riddle is the nation’s largest collegiate aviation program, Wiggins said, and it graduates only 150 to 200 students a year.

“If you look at the combined output of all collegiate aviation programs, it’s still not going to meet the demand,” he said.

Another challenge, Gehrich said, is that college aviation programs tend to have a higher washout rate than other majors do.

Financial considerations cause some students to leave, he said, and medical requirements keep some out of the cockpit. In other cases, students get discouraged when they realize all the work required to become a pilot.

Vincennes is trying to address this by offering more individualized training. It’s also reaching out to high school career and technical students, offering the chance to earn up to 18 college credit hours toward an aviation degree.

“Literally, we’re trying to capture these students as juniors and seniors in high school to get them into a fast track into the flight program,” Gehrich said.


Transient arrested for allegedly damaging jet at Van Nuys Airport (KVNY)

A man who police say wandered onto Van Nuys Airport property, and entered a private jet that was undergoing maintenance has been arrested for allegedly causing $5,000 damage to the plane’s interior, Los Angeles Airport Police said Friday.

Chris Tolbert, 25, was booked for trespassing and vandalism at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Van Nuys Community Police Station Jail, said airport police spokesman Rob Pedregon.

The incident happened at 4:25 p.m. Thursday as a vehicle drove through a security gate at Western Jet, a maintenance facility at 6101 Saticoy St.

“He walked behind the vehicle and of course the (driver) sees him and says ‘hey stop. Are you supposed to be here,’” said Pedregon. “And the guy said ‘yeah, I’m supposed to be here. He said he owned the airport.”

The driver was concerned and immediately called police.

When officers arrived, they found Tolbert smoking a cigarette in the cabin of a Gulfstream G4 that was parked in a hangar, Pedregon said.

He wrapped the cigarette in a handkerchief, which began to smolder and that damaged the jet’s interior, police said.

Western Jet declined comment on the matter.

Airport police are continuing to investigate the incident, said Pedregon.


At about 4:25 p.m. on Thursday, a homeless man climbed aboard a Gulfstream G4 private jet parked at Van Nuys airport and lit a cigarette. The man entered the airport through a vehicular entrance by following a maintenance car through the unguarded gate, according to the Daily News.

The driver of the vehicle noticed the man, and confronted him about his unauthorized entry. When asked about whether or not he was supposed to be there, 25-year-old Chris Tolbert replied simply that he was indeed supposed to be there, and that he "owned the airport."

Airport police were summoned, and by the time they found Tolbert he had taken refuge inside the $41 million executive aircraft. The plane was parked inside of an airport hangar, close to the intersection of Woodley Avenue and Saticoy Street, according to City News Service.

Upon police confrontation, Tolbert unsuccessfully extinguished the cigarette in a bandana he brought aboard. The resulting smoke and smoldering caused a reported $5,000 worth of damage to interior cabin of the (again) $41 million private jet.

As the Daily News tells us, Tolbert was arrested on both suspicion of trespassing and vandalism. Tolbert is also said to suffer from an unspecified type of mental illness.

Late in 2015, three private jets were graffiti tagged at the airport as well.


South Bend International Airport (KSBN) director defends Allegiant safety: Airline's safety record is under scrutiny

South Bend International Airport’s top official voiced confidence in Allegiant Air on Friday, a day after a Washington Post report outlined federal regulators’ concerns about the low-cost airline’s safety.

Airport Executive Director Mike Daigle acknowledged that Allegiant flies older planes, which can have mechanical problems, but he said Allegiant’s “track record shows they’ve done a good job at identifying problems before takeoff.”

“At times Allegiant has had mechanical delays that have delayed departures, but they’ve solved those as quickly as possible and taken care of customers and passengers while the aircraft gets repaired, or sometimes another aircraft is flown in to take the flight,” Daigle said. “Every airline has mechanical issues.”

From Jan. 1, 2015, through this March, according to The Post, Allegiant had nine times as many serious incidents as Delta had with similar types of planes of similar vintage, even though Delta was flying three times as many planes. Those incidents included aborted takeoffs, emergency descents and emergency landings.

An Allegiant flight from South Bend to Orlando, Fla., made an emergency landing at another Florida airport July 6 following reports of an unusual odor in the cabin. The plane, carrying 166 passengers and six crew, landed safety at Jacksonville International Airport. The crew reported no smoke in the cabin and determined no evacuation was necessary. Passengers exited the plane and flew another Allegiant aircraft to Orlando five hours later.

“They solve their mechanical issues before they leave the ground and if it happens midflight, they land safely so people’s safety isn’t compromised,” said Daigle, who wasn’t referring specifically to the July 6 incident.

Over this year’s first six months, Allegiant flew 33 percent of passengers using South Bend International Airport — less than Delta’s 48 percent but more than United’s 20 percent.

Round-trip economy class airfare from South Bend to Las Vegas, leaving Sept. 8 and returning Sept. 11, would cost $299 on Allegiant, $446 on Delta and $432 on United, according to quotes gathered Friday from the airlines’ websites. The Allegiant flight is nonstop, while Delta stops in Detroit and United in Chicago.

Daigle noted that South Bend International Airport’s average round-trip fare in 2015’s third quarter was $496, compared with $561 nationally. He said Allegiant’s lower fares make flying accessible for more Michiana travelers.

“It helps South Bend,” he said.

But Mary F. Schiavo, an aviation lawyer who served as inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation from 1990 to 1996, told The Post that Allegiant, which is able to charge lower fares because it spends less for older aircraft, needs to pay closer attention to their condition.

“They have electrical smells every day, which means they’ve got old wiring,” Schiavo told The Post. “It’s just kind of a poorly maintained fleet.”

Las Vegas-based Allegiant has 80 planes serving 113 airports. After the airline had six unscheduled landings because of midair problems from Feb. 28 to March 13, the FAA moved up a periodic inspection of the airline that had been scheduled for 2018, The Post reported.

There seemed to be mixed awareness of the safety concerns among travelers and their loved ones Friday afternoon at South Bend International.

Dean Breniser, of Middlebury, was there to meet his daughter, who was arriving on an Allegiant flight from Mesa, Ariz. He said he’s flown Allegiant six or seven times, to both Florida and Arizona, and has never encountered safety problems or delays. He said he feels confident flying the airline.

Sharon Recor, of Sebring, Fla., also was waiting for the arrival of the Allegiant flight Friday. Her son was on it. She said she flew Allegiant from Florida when she came to visit a month ago, although she had heard news a while back about safety issues related to the airline.

She’d prefer not to fly Allegiant until its safety record improves. “I’d want Delta or Southwest,” she said.

Her son will be driving her back to Florida, so Recor won’t have to make a decision about an airline return flight.

Kayla Burkhard, 17, of Niles, arrived on the Allegiant flight Friday from Mesa. She said she’s flown the airline numerous times between South Bend and Arizona. “I’ve never had any trouble,” she said.

Shari Miller, of Phoenix, also was a passenger on Friday’s flight from Arizona.

“I never knew there were any safety issues with Allegiant,” said Miller, a former travel agent. She said she likely would take the airline’s safety record into consideration in booking future flights.


CGS Aviation Hawk Aero II, N4513S: Accident occurred September 03, 2016 near Park Township Airport (KHLM), Holland, Ottawa County, Michigan

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Grand Rapids, Michigan

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket  - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Holland, MI
Accident Number: CEN16LA363
Date & Time: 09/03/2016, 1830 EDT
Registration: N4513S
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On September 3, 2016, at 1830 eastern daylight time, an experimental light sport CGS Aviation Hawk Aero II airplane, N4513S, collided with power line(s) and terrain during an en route climb following takeoff from Park Township Airport (HLM), Holland, Michigan. The airplane was destroyed. The pilot sustained serious injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight that was not operating on a flight plan. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The local flight was originating at the time of the accident.

A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Pilot/Operator Accident/Incident Report (form 6120.1) was not received from the pilot.

The pilot, who was the airplane owner, stated in a telephone conversation with the NTSB Investigator-In-Charge, that the engine never stopped running and was not running at a high engine speed. During the climbout after takeoff, the engine started to sputter about 80-100 feet above ground level. The airplane "started stalling," so he pushed the nose down to increase airplane airspeed to recover from the aerodynamic stall. He said that if the airplane had not hit the power line(s), he would not have been involved in an accident.

Post-accident examination of the airplane and an engine run were performed at the pilot's hangar by a representative from the engine manufacturer and by the Federal Aviation Administration Coordinator for the accident. The engine was a Rotax 582 MOD 99, serial number 543 7309.

The examination revealed that all the spark plugs were NGK BR8ES that had removable resistor caps, which was not in accordance with the engine manufacturer's maintenance manual. The spark plug gaps were 0.29 - 0.30 inch (the engine maintenance manual specifies a gap size of 0.020 inch). All the spark plugs' electrodes exhibited a color consistent with a rich fuel mixture. The number 4-cylinder spark plug on the magneto side of the engine was loose and did not meet the torque specification in accordance with the engine manufacturer's maintenance manual.

The power takeoff and magneto sides of the engine had both carburetors equipped with larger main jets, which were 190 size jets instead of the engine manufacturer's original equipment, which were 165 size jets (higher jet numbers equate to a richer mixtures). Both carburetor chokes were blocked off and removed from service. Both jet needles clip positions were in the number 4 position and not in the number 3 position, as specified in the engine manufacturer's maintenance manual.

There were no fuel filters installed between the fuel pumps and carburetors as specified in the engine manufacturer's maintenance manual. The pneumatic fuel pump was found installed on the engine with the small drain hole near the impulse connection, positioned horizontally. The engine manufacturer's maintenance manual states that "The fuel pump should be installed in a cool place (not on the engine itself), with the small drain hole near the impulse connection towards the bottom. This hole drains oil condensate from the pump diaphragm chamber".

The gascolator was installed with industrial style (non-airplane) brass plumbing fittings and an industrial style (non-airplane) shut-off valve. Plumbers thread seal tape was present on the threads of the fuel line fittings. There was no fire sleeve on any of the fuel lines.

The fuel header tank was a white plastic container that was consistent with a water jug. The threaded cap of the header tank had a fuel system quick release type connector attached with a pick-up tube that extended to the bottom of the container. When the quick release type connector was tested, it leaked a substantial amount of air into the fuel system.

The engine manufacturer's maintenance manual stated: "Quick release type connectors can cause air leaks and produce fuel flow restrictions and possible blockage sites" "the tiniest flaw in any joint will cause air to be sucked into the fuel system, considerably reducing the capacity of the fuel pump. Air leaks are much more dangerous when the fuel tank is mounted below the fuel pump and carburetors"

The engine was run for several minutes with multiple throttle inputs during which no anomalies in engine power occurred.

Following the accident, the engine manufacturer issued a publication, "Two-Stroke Safety Issues", which in part discussed fuel system air leaks and the use of quick release connectors in the fuel system.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 60, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Other Aircraft Rating(s):  None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 08/08/2011
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  216 hours (Total, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: CGS AVIATION
Registration: N4513S
Model/Series: HAWK AERO II
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2001
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental Light Sport
Serial Number: H II 159-A-582-TRI
Landing Gear Type:
Seats:  2
Date/Type of Last Inspection:  Unknown
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 550 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: Rotax
Engine Model/Series: 582
Registered Owner: Pilot
Rated Power: 65 hp
Operator: Pilot
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: AZO, 874 ft msl
Observation Time: 1753 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 43 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 141°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 4700 ft agl
Temperature/Dew Point: 25°C / 12°C
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 3 knots, Variable
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 30.18 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Holland, MI (HLM)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Holland, MI (HLM)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1830 EDT
Type of Airspace:

Airport Information

Airport: Park Township Airport (HLM)
Runway Surface Type:  Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 603 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 23
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 2999 ft / 50 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Forced Landing

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Serious
Latitude, Longitude:  42.792222, 86.984167 (est)

NTSB Identification: CEN16LA363
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 03, 2016 in Holland, MI
Aircraft: CGS AVIATION HAWK AERO II, registration: N4513S
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 September 3, 2016, at 1830 eastern daylight time, a CGS Aviation Hawk Aero II, N4513S, collided with power line(s) and terrain during an en route climb following takeoff from Park Township Airport (HLM), Holland, Michigan. The ultralight was destroyed. The pilot sustained serious injuries. The ultralight was registered to and operated by the pilot under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight that was not operating on a flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The local flight was originating at the time of the accident.

HOLLAND, Mich. — A man was injured when an ultralight aircraft crashed inside the Ottawa County fairgrounds Saturday.

The crash happened around 6 p.m. Saturday, just south of the Park Township airport.

The operator, a 55-year-old man, appeared to have ejected from the plane before it hit the ground, according to authorities on scene.

Authorities on scene said the man was attempting to land the plane at the nearby airport when it clipped a power line.

The man was conscious and alert when he was taken from scene by ambulance.


PARK TOWNSHIP, MICH. - One person was taken to an area hospital after crashing their ultralight plane at the Ottawa County Fairgrounds.

The crash happened just before 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3, across the street from the Park Township Airport, located at 1269 Ottawa Beach Road. 

Police say a 55-year-old male pilot hit power lines in the area, which caused him to eject himself from the aircraft and fall about 20 feet.

The extent of the person's injuries are not clear at this time.

Police say the man was leaving the airport.

The FAA has been contacted and will continue the investigation.

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PARK TOWNSHIP, MI -- A 60-year-old Delton man was seriously injured when the engine on an ultralight aircraft quit, causing it to strike wires and overturn at the Ottawa County Fairgrounds.

Michael Kerr was taken to Holland Hospital with reported head and neck injuries following the 5:56 p.m. crash Saturday, Sept. 3.

Ottawa County sheriff's deputies said Kerr had taken off at the nearby Park Township Airport in a 2004 Gemini Twin ultralight aircraft when he began to experience engine trouble.

Kerr intended to fly to Wayland.

He turned the aircraft in hopes of landing in a grassy field at the fairgrounds at 1286 Ottawa Beach Road.

The engine then quit and he tried to glide the aircraft to the ground.

Ottawa County sheriff's investigators said the ultralight hit a light pole and wires surrounding the infield to the grandstand area. It then overturned and crashed.

The Federal Aviation Administration was called to investigate the crash.


Purchase of Crop-Duster Does Not Qualify for Arkansas Agricultural Exemption

DALLAS, Sept. 2, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration ("Department") issued a ruling on the application of the Arkansas agricultural exemption to a taxpayer's purchase of an aircraft. The taxpayer in question operated an agricultural flying service and purchased a used aircraft outside the state and brought it into Arkansas to use in the business. The Department conducted an audit and determined that because airplanes are specifically excluded from the definition of farm equipment and machinery, the purchase was subject to use tax and consequently assessed use tax and interest.

The taxpayer appealed, arguing that the purchase should qualify for the agricultural exemption under GR-51(B)(1)(a). This regulation defines "farm equipment and machinery" as agricultural implements used exclusively and directly for the agricultural production of food or fiber as a commercial business or the agricultural production of grass sod or nursery products as a commercial business. Although it does exclude airplanes, it specifically includes "sprayer" and "spreaders." The taxpayer contended that because the airplane was used solely in crop-dusting, it should be considered a "sprayer" or "spreader" and did not fit the meaning of "airplane" as used in applicable Arkansas statutory laws and rules. 

The Appellate Court ultimately upheld the Department's assessment, finding that although the taxpayer provided evidence showing the aircraft had no function other than the application of seeds, fertilizers, and chemicals, it did fit the plain and ordinary meaning of the word airplane and, therefore, was excluded from the exemption.

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The disaster that taught us to fly safely: 45 years after Flight 1866

In the first week of September, 45 years ago, Robert Mottram flew by helicopter to the Chilkat Mountains west of Admiralty Island. It was not a pleasant experience.

On Sept. 4, 1971, Alaska Airlines Flight 1866, en route from Anchorage to Seattle via Cordova, Yakutat, Juneau and Sitka, slammed into a mountainside while approaching Juneau International Airport. All 111 people aboard the aircraft were killed. It was — and remains — Alaska’s worst air disaster.

“It’s like being on another planet,” wrote Mottram, the Juneau bureau chief for the Associated Press, at the time.

At 2,500 feet above sea level, the accident site was enveloped in fog and mist. Instead of a junked aircraft, Mottram saw a junkyard littered with debris and gore.

“There isn’t a piece of that 727 jet too big to hold in your hand. The only sound is the wind and the voices of the rescue workers. The clouds move in and out, and you stand on soft, spongy ground, uneasy,” he wrote.

Mottram watched as Juneau National Guardsmen and Alaska State Troopers collected the remains of the victims, pieces of people. It would take more than a week to gather those remains and almost a month more to identify them.

“You have difficulty even visualizing what it was … visualizing an airplane with smiling people aboard and the stewardess saying, ‘Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,’” Mottram wrote.

“It is very quiet up there.”

Today is the 45th anniversary of the accident, and if you fly by helicopter to the crash site just as Mottram did, you will still find quiet. You will still find wreckage, too. Resting on stony ground are pieces of fuselage and structure clearly marked with the orange stripes Alaska Airlines used in the 1970s.

The wreckage has remained undisturbed, but flying hasn’t. In the past 45 years, commercial aviation — both in Juneau and across the nation — has become safer. In 1970, according to statistics kept by the U.S. Department of Transportation, crashes killed 146 people on scheduled commercial flights with more than 12 passengers. These crashes took place in a year when commercial flights scheduled fewer than 2.7 billion miles.

In 2015, American commercial flights covered nearly 7.7 billion miles — with no fatalities. No large American airliner has crashed since 2009.

That safety record is at least partially a result of lessons learned 45 years ago. Flight 1866 inspired changes in prevention and response that have saved thousands of lives.

Forty-five years on, Flight 1866’s crash site is still quiet, but its impact resounds.

Barlow inbound

On the morning of Sept. 4, 1971, Flight 1866 took off from Anchorage under the command of an experienced crew headed by 41-year-old Dick Adams, a pilot with almost 14,000 hours of flying time. Adams had been with Alaska for more than 16 years and was one of the airline’s more experienced pilots.

He was joined in the cockpit by two other experienced crewmen with ample training in the Boeing 727 they flew.

In “Character and Characters,” an oral history of Alaska Airlines, author Robert Serling describes the people aboard as “a typical cross-section of passengers from every walk of life, every age group, every economic stratum.”

Most were from Alaska. There were nine freshmen heading to class at Sheldon Jackson College and four going to Mount Edgecumbe school.

The Anchorage Daily News published brief profiles of some of the others:

• Harvey Golub, Alaska’s most experienced bridge engineer, was on his way home from a meeting in Anchorage where he was planning a bridge across the Yukon River.

• Cathy Peak was married to a Coast Guardsman stationed in Cordova and was flying home to visit family in Missouri with her sister and daughter.

• Judy Nichols was taking her infant son Stephen to meet her future husband in Juneau.

• Clint Schilstra was an all-tournament basketball player for Kake at the Gold Medal tournament and taught at the town’s school.

• With Schilstra was Kake’s schools superintendent and three other teachers; all were flying home with several hundred pounds of moose meat from a successful hunt in Yakutat.

The weather on the day of the crash was typically bad — heavy clouds and fog that forced Adams and his crew to land using instruments instead of peering from their cockpit windows. Juneau’s surrounding mountains preclude the use of normal instrument approaches, but the Federal Aviation Administration has long operated a navigation aid called a “VHF omni-directional range” (VOR) beacon.

This beacon, located on Sisters Island in Icy Strait, sends out a radio beam along a set course. It’s supposed to be a reliable landmark when murky clouds interfere with navigation.

Another beam comes from the localizer, another beacon at the airport. By determining the angles of the beams reaching an aircraft, that plane’s pilot can determine the aircraft’s approximately location.

On that day, however, the Sisters Island beam wasn’t reliable — unknown to anyone, it was almost 45 degrees off its correct direction. According to the official report compiled after the crash, the beacon was sending out a correct signal, but the plane’s instruments were receiving an incorrect one.

As a result, when Flight 1866 began to descend toward Juneau, the plane’s crew thought they were eight miles east of the Chilkat Range, at Barlow Cove on Admiralty Island, not directly above the range’s peaks.

The crew had ways to verify the plane’s location, but using them wasn’t required and wasn’t part of the normal landing procedure. Also, the crew had no reason to believe they were off course.

In its report on the accident, published 13 months after the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded, “the probable cause of this accident was a display of misleading navigational information … The origin or nature of the misleading navigational information could not be determined.”

There were no signs the plane ever slowed down or realized it was about to strike a mountain.

“This was a nonsurvivable accident,” the NTSB report stated.

Responding in a fog

That Sept. 4 was a Saturday, but Charlie Smith was in his office at the Alaska Department of Public Safety when word of the crash arrived. He’d spent some of the workweek in Anchorage and needed to catch up.

“It was a Saturday, and ironically, I had a ticket to come back on the same plane, but I came back a day early,” he said, sharing his memories of the accident in an interview over coffee. He still lives in Juneau.

In addition to working for the state, Smith was the National Guard lieutenant in charge of Juneau’s Guard detachment.

When learned about the accident, he began calling his superiors, asking for permission to mobilize his soldiers to help. When he couldn’t reach them — it was a holiday weekend, after all — he called them out on his own accord.

“Granted, it was a recovery, but it started out as a search and rescue mission,” he said.

The flight was due to land in Juneau shortly after noon, but when it didn’t arrive, everyone involved knew it was in trouble — they just didn’t know where. The crash wasn’t found until a hired helicopter with an Alaska State Trooper and an Alaska Airlines pilot aboard discovered it about 4:30 p.m.

Troopers arrived by helicopter that night to secure the scene and look for survivors, according to an account drafted by the coroner’s office. The Guardsmen arrived the next morning, some of them carried by the Coast Guard cutter Sweetbriar, which was based in Juneau and stayed on scene while workers recovered bodies and debris deemed critical to the accident investigation.

A base camp was established at sea level, and for almost a week, helicopters flew constant missions, flitting between base camp and the accident site, between base camp and the airport, and between base camp and the National Guard armory (today’s Juneau Arts and Culture Center), which became a morgue.

Juneau’s National Guardsmen were combat engineers, not crash recovery experts. On training missions, they built radio stations and playgrounds.

“These young folks really did one heck of a job even though they didn’t have any specific training,” Smith said. “The only training we had back in those days was riot control training because it was the late ’60s, early 70s. … We never had anything like this.”

Dennis Egan, now state senator for Juneau, was in the National Guard at the time of the crash.

“My wife and I were in Valdez when the crash happened, and lo and behold, we were activated,” he said.

They drove to Anchorage and got onto a flight that took them back to Juneau, where Egan spent the following two weeks recovering remains and working at the morgue.

“It was horrible. It was just horrible,” he said. “Guys on the plane were friends of mine. Everybody in this town, because it was small enough back then, knew somebody who was on that flight.”

Three refrigerated container vans were kept operating 24 hours a day to store the remains while the FBI laboriously identified them through fingerprints, dental records and jewelry. It wasn’t until the end of September that all the remains were identified and left Juneau, according to the coroner’s report now kept in the Alaska State Archives.

The process left the armory almost unusable, Smith recalled.

All of the FBI and forensics experts were walking around with cigars, Egan said.

When he asked why, one of the FBI men cryptically responded, “You’ll get it.”

“Opening up those cooler vans — the stench stayed in there because there was so much formaldehyde and other stuff,” Egan said.

Afterward, the armory’s floor was pulled up and replaced, and its walls were repainted to get rid of the smell.

Fixing the problems that led to the accident would not be so easy.

Repairing navigation

It became apparent even before the official report that faulty navigation — whether on the part of the pilots or the FAA — was to blame for the accident. Flight 1866’s “black box” cockpit and ground-control recordings were almost immediately recovered and it was discovered that there were no flaws with the aircraft or crew, who believed themselves well east of the mountains.

Even though the official investigation wasn’t complete until 13 months after the accident, Gov. Bill Egan wasted no time calling for better groundside navigation equipment.

On Sept. 9, five days after the accident, he wrote a letter to the Secretary of Transportation urging him to upgrade the navigation equipment on Sisters Island.

“It is my sincere hope that you will understand that because of the topography of the landscape approaching Juneau that extraordinary measures are warranted at once, simply to provide additional air safety … that most air travelers take for granted as already being a part of the system,” he wrote.

The FAA responded promptly. By year’s end, the agency installed distance-measuring equipment at Sisters Island that would have given the pilots of Flight 1866 a safeguard against the disaster and might have prevented it. The FAA also mandated new standards for planes flying into Juneau’s airport, which had to fly a steeper approach and hold to tougher weather standards.

After the NTSB report failed to come up with an adequate explanation for the bent beam, Alaska Airlines employees found the Sisters Island beacon wasn’t set up according to the FAA’s own standards, Serling wrote in his book.

Furthermore, while conducting their own experiments, the airline employees found that the beacon could send flawed signals on the rare days when Icy Strait was millpond-smooth. On those days, the beacon’s radio signals could suffer from interference and rotate the signal counter-clockwise, just as experienced by Flight 1866.

The results of the airline employees’ experiments were not be duplicated by the FAA’s own tests, and the federal agency continues to state in its own official history that “the origin or nature of the misleading navigational information could not be determined.”

An FAA spokesman declined to answer questions about the accident.

When lawsuits pertaining to the accident were settled in the mid-1970s, the FAA contributed millions of dollars to the final amount paid to the families of crash victims. The exact amount and the details of the settlement remain sealed from public view by court order.

‘Saved’ at the airport

John Ladner is Alaska Airlines’ director of operations, the man responsible for training the company’s pilots and ensuring that the experience of Flight 1866 doesn’t happen again.

“The navigation systems have evolved dramatically in the decades since 1971 when this accident happened,” Ladner said by phone from Seattle.

The distance-measuring equipment added by the FAA “gives you a more clear depiction of where you are,” Ladner explained, but it wasn’t a perfect solution, particularly in Juneau.

“Juneau is arguably one of the most difficult airports to fly into in the entire country,” said Bobbie Egan, a spokeswoman for Alaska Airlines.

That difficulty led to more accidents like the one that claimed Flight 1866. In 1985, a LearJet crashed into the Chilkat Range, killing all four people aboard. In 1992, an Air National Guard aircraft crashed into the mountains, killing all eight aboard — including a brigadier general.

Those accidents — each considered a “controlled flight into terrain” as Flight 1866 was — convinced Alaska Airlines and the City and Borough of Juneau (which owns the airport) that more improvements were needed.

The solution was a system called “Required Navigation Performance,” which combines onboard navigation and the GPS satellite network to create precise landing paths. It improves safety and efficiency and is reliable even in fog or bad weather that obscures the runway.

“I think that each of these sorts of accidents, and especially Flight 1866 … was a big driver toward making a safer way to get in there,” Ladner said.

In the 1990s, Alaska Airlines and Juneau officials — including Dennis Egan, who was the city’s deputy mayor at the time — lobbied Congress to make Alaska’s capital a testbed for RNP.

When the system began operating in 1996, it was the first of its kind in the world.

It was successful almost immediately. Alaska Airlines began keeping track of its “saves,” flights able to land under RNP that would have been stopped by bad weather otherwise.

In 2011 alone, Alaska Airlines logged 831 “saves” at Juneau International Airport, the company’s then-chairman, Bill Ayer, said at the time.

In 1998, following Juneau’s experience, the FAA certified standards that allow airlines to set up their own RNP landing approaches at airports across the country. Internationally, other countries have also set up similar programs.

“The RNP has really been something that I think has been a great addition to flying safety,” Ladner said. “It’s really been able to make it safe and efficient.”

‘Terrain! Pull up!’

In the days after Flight 1866 crashed into the Chilkat Range, a small plane deliberately traced its path west of Juneau. Aboard the plane was a young engineer named Don Bateman, and in the plane was a warning device that he had invented. As Bateman’s small plane neared the fatal mountain, a warning sounded. His plane pulled up and flew to safety.

Flight 1866 didn’t have that warning.

“I was disappointed,” Bateman told Bloomberg reporter Alan Levin earlier this year, recalling the experience of flying over the site. “We needed to do better.”

Bateman, now 84, is the inventor of the Ground Proximity Warning System, a device that warns pilots when their planes near mountains. In the 1960s and 1970s, when Flight 1866 crashed, the most common cause of airline disasters was what the National Transportation Safety Board calls “controlled flight into terrain” — hitting the ground without warning.

“This (controlled flight into terrain) is something that really over the decades the industry has tried to reduce,” Ladner said.

Since 2001, when the FAA began mandating that commercial airliners use an enhanced version of Bateman’s system, not a single commercial airliner has crashed due to a “controlled flight into terrain.”

President Barack Obama awarded Bateman the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2011, recognizing his achievement.

Where the RNP system pioneered by Alaska Airlines is designed to keep planes on track, the equipment designed by Bateman gives pilots critical seconds of warning if something goes wrong.

Three years after Flight 1866’s crash, the FAA began requiring large airliners to carry radar altimeters. These devices let pilots know if they were unexpectedly nearing the ground, but they didn’t give advance warning if a plane was approaching a mountain in front of it.

After the end of the Cold War, improvements in computer technology and the availability of electronic terrain maps meant that planes could carry a nearly foolproof warning device.

“A wonderful thing happened during the end of the Cold War … enlightened people on both sides decided to use the digitized terrain that was developed for military purposes for cruise missiles and so on ... for the civil sector, and that’s been very, very good,” Bateman said in a 1998 hearing about the crash of a Boeing 747 on Guam.

The newest versions of the warning system give as much as several minutes’ notice before a crash, allowing pilots to avoid problems before they become fatal. With a digital voice that shouts “Terrain! Pull up!” the warnings are impossible to miss.

“It’s accidents around the world that drive us to find a better way to do things,” Ladner said. “Smart people start making better devices so we can continue to find a way to operate safely.”

Improvements to response

Even with these technological breakthroughs. The FAA does not require ground-proximity warning systems like Bateman’s on air taxi aircraft or private aircraft, which now make up the vast majority of fatal air disasters in Alaska.

On Wednesday, a pair of small aircraft collided in midair near the Yukon River town of Russian Mission, killing all five people aboard the two planes.

As happened 45 years ago with Flight 1866, the Alaska State Troopers and Alaska National Guard were the first on the scene. The response, however, was very different, based on lessons learned in part from Flight 1866.

Lt. Col. Tony Stratton of the National Guard is in charge of the Guard’s emergency response in Alaska. In 1971, a 32-year-old Juneau lieutenant called out the Guard to help. If the same thing were to happen today, a lieutenant wouldn’t be making that call.

“Communications is probably the biggest difference from then to now,” he said by phone from Anchorage.

The state and federal agencies operate a rescue coordination center and emergency operations centers as needed to coordinate agencies and help.

“The RCC has a list of agencies that include the Air National Guard, Army National Guard, Civil Air Patrol, Alaska Mountain Rescue … it’s an extensive list, and they’ll go through that list to match needs and capabilities,” he said.

Instead of Smith and Juneau troopers calling friends and neighbors to help, there’s a set procedure and process to call into action.

There’s better training, too, said Lt. Bryan Barlow, aircraft section commander of the Alaska Department of Public Safety.

“State troopers receive specific training in search and rescue and the Incident Response System in their academy curriculum as well as continuing and advanced education in the same topics once they are working in the field,” he wrote.

That’s a marked difference from 1971, when Sgt. Harcourt Tew, an instructor at the Trooper academy, wrote in a memo, “I do not feel we were prepared, either with equipment or training, to handle a situation of this type.”

Equipment is different and improved. In 1971, the National Guard and Troopers had to turn to Juneau’s sporting goods stores for the gear they needed to work in the Chilkat Range.

Now, Troopers and Guardsmen have prepackaged disaster kits that can be delivered by helicopter or aircraft to the scene of an accident.

In August, the National Guard tested one of those kits, a 25-person “Arctic Sustainment Package” in an exercise designed to simulate a sinking cruise ship in the Bering Sea.

Both agencies say they are better-equipped to handle the human aftermath as well.

“Some of my people had some problems with it,” Charlie Smith recalled.

One man, who had served during the Vietnam War, said the scene in the Chilkat Range was worse than anything he saw on the battlefield. Overseas, he hadn’t had to cope with the body parts of friends and neighbors.

He later asked Smith for a letter of support as he sought federal disability for post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Back in those days, they probably didn’t get into drugs, but some of them got into alcohol and stuff like that,” Smith remembered.

“Back then, maybe you visited the chaplain because you were having issues or because you were concerned,” Stratton said. Now, “we have (critical stress) instructors who are specifically trained in this arena. When they come back out of the field, they’ll be received by the same group.”

A disaster, as it turns out, can affect even the uninjured.

An unforgettable album

Robert Mottram has retired from the Associated Press. Now living in Anacortes, Washington, he writes books — one about dogs, another about RV-ing across America.

During our conversation, he said he distinctly remembers a photo album found by then-state Sen. Bill Ray, who visited the crash site during the recovery.

“I stood and looked over his shoulder as he flipped through the pages,” Mottram said.

“It soon became apparent that this album belonged to a little girl, a little Native girl who was in a lot of the pictures. It was full of family shots and as we proceeded through the pages, it became apparent who the little girl was,” he said.

She was one of the students traveling to Mount Edgecumbe boarding school in Sitka from the North Slope.

Mottram said he and Ray concluded that the girl had taken the album with her because she wanted to introduce her school friends to her family, “or, she was taking it because she was going to be homesick and she wanted to bring a part of her family with her.”

Alaskans and the world have learned from Flight 1866. Aviation is demonstrably safer and more reliable.

“Absolutely,” Egan said. “I’m no pilot, but I can guarantee it.”

Mottram said he knows it too, but he also can’t help but think about the price of the lesson.

“There were young people who would be alive,” he said. “Those people are still dead, and they probably wouldn’t be yet. When you think about the kids and you think about the potential there, that’s potential we are lacking now. We should still be benefiting now.”

“Your mind absolutely refuses to compute,” Ray wrote in the Juneau Empire following the crash.

“You breath deeply — again and again — trying to compose your stunned emotions and with an intense effort you barely manage to curb the insane desire to run away — blindly — anywhere, just away. … You shudder, blink back the rapidly forming tears, and once again look downward in abject futility at the still and unmoving forms. Why, Dear Lord, why …”

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NTSB Identification: DCA72AZ003
14 CFR Part 121 Scheduled operation of ALASKA AIRLINES INC
Aircraft: BOEING 727, registration: N2969G