Sunday, May 28, 2017

Arctic Aircraft Co Inc S-1B2, N57AT, Brice Consulting LLC: Fatal accident occurred May 27, 2017 in Salcha, Alaska

Sam Brice

Howard Amos Otis “Buzz”

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Fairbanks, Alaska

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Brice Consulting LLC:

NTSB Identification: ANC17FA026
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, May 27, 2017 in Salcha, AK
Aircraft: ARCTIC AIRCRAFT CO INC S 1B2, registration: N57AT
Injuries: 2 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 May 27, 2017, about 1100 Alaska daylight time, an Arctic Aircraft Company Incorporated, S-1B2 airplane, N57AT, sustained substantial damage following a loss of control and a subsequent impact with terrain, about 35 miles east of Salcha, Alaska. The airplane was registered to Brice Consulting LLC and operated by the pilot, as a visual flight rules (VFR) flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 when the accident occurred. The private pilot and sole passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight departed from an off-airport landing site near Fairbanks, Alaska about 1000.

According to a family member of the pilot, the purpose of the flight was to search for an overdue boat along the Salcha River.

During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on June 1, a witness reported strong wind conditions. She observed the airplane circle a remote unimproved landing site along the Salcha River. While circling, the nose of the airplane suddenly dropped and the airplane descended in a near vertical attitude. She stated that the engine continued to run, and the airplane did not make any unusual sounds, other than an increase in engine RPM during the descent.

The NTSB IIC, along with an Alaska State Trooper reached the accident site in the evening of May 27. The airplane impacted in a near vertical attitude in an area of black spruce trees and tundra-covered terrain, at an elevation of about 1,000 feet mean sea level, on a heading of about 110 degrees. All the primary flight control surfaces were identified at the accident site, and flight control continuity was verified from the cockpit to the elevators and rudder. Aileron control continuity was established in the direct cables, from the cockpit to the right aileron, and from the cockpit to the point where the cable's turnbuckle was disassembled for recovery to the left aileron. In addition, aileron control continuity was established in the balance cable from the right aileron to the point where the cable fractured with features consistent with tension overload, to the left aileron. A detailed wreckage examination is pending following recovery of the airplane.

The closest weather reporting facility is Eielson Air Force Base, Fairbanks, Alaska approximately 35 miles east of the accident site. At 1058, an aviation routine weather report (METAR) at Eielson Air Force Base, reported wind, calm; visibility, 10 statute miles, clouds and sky condition, broken clouds at 10,000 feet; temperature, 52° F; dew point, 27° F; altimeter, 30.04 inHG.

 Howard Amos Otis “Buzz” age 63

Buzz was born June 29th, 1953, in Milford, MI, the son of Howard and Mary Otis.  He went to be with the Lord after passing in a bush plane accident on the Salcha River, May 27th, 2017. Buzz grew up and attended high school in Charlevoix MI, then attended Michigan State University, graduating with a degree in Turf Management.  Buzz came to Alaska” for a few months:” in 1975 for an adventure and exploration and decided to call Alaska home.  He worked on the Alaska Pipeline.  In 1976 he started Great Northwest Landscaping.   In 1978 he met the love of his life Renee and they were married June 13th 1981 in Fairbanks, AK.  He built and maintained the first private rugby pitch in the state of Alaska.  Many remember it as Buzz’s Rugby World.

From 1982 thru 1988 he served on the borough assembly, and as presiding officer, helping pass the vote to build the Carlson Center.  He also served on the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, Fairbanks Economic Development Corp., The Oil Support Industry Alliance, and the North Pole Economic Development Corp. For the last several years he has been the primary organizer and fund raiser of The North Pole Championship Sled Dog Races. Buzz loved to see the children race and when he learned their organization was dwindling, he helped found the Junior Dog Mushers of Interior Alaska. With the help of several parents he organized and served on the board.  Buzz always said his drive to put on these races was the children and their big smiles. He was also  his son Ben’s right hand man at their construction company, Better Way Construction, LLC. He was truly an entrepreneur and he loved business and building.  Although his business endeavors were long, it was his passion to give back to the community that he belonged to.

Buzz had a life-long love of hunting and fishing which he imparted upon his children through many hunting and fishing trips; including exploring and fishing Prince William Sound, and deer hunting in Kodiak Island and South East Alaska with his family and many friends. No matter where he explored, he was always amazed by Gods beauty.

Buzz touched many lives with his core values of compassion, generosity, and integrity. His known and unknown acts of kindness were numerous. He will be remembered fondly by those who knew him, and his entire family, particularly his loving wife and children who will miss him greatly. He was his children’s biggest fan, watching many hockey, soccer, volleyball, and basketball games which he attended with a loud voice and great enthusiasm.

Buzz was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his sisters; Sharon Cronk, Cheboygan MI, and Tiller Landick (Gregg), Perry, MI. His loving wife and partner of 39 years, Renee Webb Otis, children Ben Otis and favorite daughter in-law Olivia Otis, Patrick Otis, and Jenna Otis, all of North Pole, AK. Also surviving are his many nieces and nephews, and brother and sister in-laws, all of whom he truly loved.

A Memorial Service celebrating Buzz’s life will be held on Saturday June 10th, 4pm, at North Pole Worship Center, 3340 Badger Rd. North Pole, Alaska.  All who knew him are invited to attend. In lieu of flowers, family requests donations in Buzz’s name be made to Catholic Schools of Fairbanks at 

FAIRBANKS — People across Alaska are mourning two Interior Alaska businessmen who died Saturday in a small plane that went down near the Salcha River.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation, the chief of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Alaska office said.

Plans for memorial services for Sam Brice, 81, and Buzz Otis, 63, are pending. Condolences are flowing to the Brice and Otis families through calls, emails and social media.

“We lost two great Alaskans in that accident,” U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, said in a phone interview Tuesday.

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, paid tribute to the men on Facebook.

“These two leaders knew what ‘North to the Future’ really meant and advanced that vision every day of their adult lives,” according to a tribute on Murkowski’s Facebook page. Sullivan called them “anchors of the Interior community.”

Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, recognized Otis and Brice during a special order given on the Senate floor Tuesday. He said the two had contributed much to their communities.

“Both wonderful men, key to many, many things in our community and they did live well,” he said. “They were significant givers, and builders and contributors to the community. They did live well.”

Both men were involved in starting construction companies, Great Northwest Inc. and Brice Inc., that have endured.

Otis also served on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly in the 1980s.

Rep. Chris Birch, R-Anchorage, served with Otis and said he remembers him as a great family man, problem solver and conservative.

Otis was one of the leaders who oversaw the effort to build the Carlson Center. The project had to be scaled back because of a state budget crisis, Birch said.

“Buzz was always one for responsible government,” Birch said.

Bruce Wammack, who also served on the assembly at the time, agreed and added Otis was also fair-minded.

“Even though he had strong convictions himself, he always listened to the other side,” he said.

J.B. Carnahan, who also served with Otis on the assembly, said he remembers Otis showing up to meetings beaten and bruised from playing rugby, his hobby at the time.

“He was the kind of guy who was always upbeat, always a lot of fun and really community-minded,” Carnahan said.

Brice was well known in rural Alaska.

“He was really generous and treated everyone like family,” said Herbie Moses, of Allakaket, who has worked for Brice Inc. for 22 years.

Walton Smith, St. Mary’s city manager, said Brice was the kind of person who stood by his word.

“He represented to me a past era of handshake agreements, trust and making your word your bond,” he said in an email to the Brice family.

Smith said in an interview Brice Inc. did business with the city of St. Mary’s and Brice always did the job he said he would do.

“He had kind of a raspy voice and a little bit of Southern accent left. I just felt very comfortable with him,” Smith said.

Donna Erick, of Venetie, worked with Brice on two Interior airport projects as a contract officer.

“He was a hard-working man all of his life,” she said. “He knew the work ethic, and he was good to people.”

Former Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski, who also served in the U.S. Senate, said he knew Otis and Brice and they were “colorful characters.”

“It’s a significant loss,” he said in an interview from his cabin in Wrangell.

Multiple state legislators paid tribute to the men on social media as did Fairbanks city Mayor Jim Matherly.

Clint Johnson, of the NTSB, said an investigator flew to the crash site about 50 miles east of Fairbanks near Butte Creek at about 5 p.m. Saturday with Alaska State Troopers.

“At this point right now, they are in the recovery phase of trying to get the airplane out,” Johnson said.

The aircraft, an Arctic Tern, which is similar to a Super Cub, belonged to Brice.

“We are truly in the formative stages, the very preliminary stages of this investigation,” Johnson said. “We are working very closely with both families and also their insurance company to facilitate getting the wreckage out of the field.”

The Otis family is asking anyone who wants to share a story about Otis to email

FAIRBANKS - Alaska State Troopers have released the names of two men killed in a plane crash near Salcha on Saturday.

The victims have been identified as: Sam R. Brice, 81, of Fairbanks and Howard A. "Buzz" Otis, 63, of North Pole.

The National Transportation Safety Board received word at 11 a.m. that a singe-engine Arctic Aircraft S-1B2 “Arctic Tern” had crashed near Butte Creek north of the Salcha River, NTSB Alaska Chief Clint Johnson said.

Otis was a former member of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly, serving from 1982 to 1988 and at one point being chosen as the assembly’s presiding officer.

Otis was a leading community figure and booster in North Pole, where he was currently serving as executive director of the North Pole Economic Development Corp.

He founded Great Northwest Inc. in 1975 with partner John Minder. The company grew from its beginnings as a residential landscaping company to a large general contractor that, according to the company’s website, specializes in projects such as road and airport construction, underground utilities, erosion protection and riverbank restoration.

Otis later sold his share of Great Northwest.

He was also a former chairman of the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp.

Otis, as head of the North Pole Economic Development Corp., helped bring the International Federation of Sleddog Sports 2013 Winter World Championships to the city. The event, which features the world’s top dog mushers and skijorers, is held every two years and alternates between North America and Europe.

Otis is also the lead organizer of the North Pole Championship Sled Dog Races and the Junior North American Championship Sled Dog Races.

Brice and his two brothers, Al and Andy, with their parents, founded a lumber company that grew into a Fairbanks-based land-clearing company, Brice Inc., that helped clear the right-of-way for the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

The company expanded into remote civil construction and established its own land and water transportation and equipment fleet tailored to the needs of remote Alaska. They became Brice Inc., Brice Environmental, Brice Marine, Brice Equipment and Brown’s Hill Quarry. In 2010, Calista bought the Brice businesses, which are still run by a generation of the Brice family.

Word of the Arctic Aircraft crash occurred almost simultaneously with another crash, a twin-engine Piper PA30 that went down on a beach near Haines. Two other people died in that crash and a third was seriously injured.

Troopers received the report of a downed aircraft on Glacier Point 10 miles south of Haines. A witness observed the plane take off, make a hard right turn to the east and stalling before crashing.

 The pilot, David Kunat, 29, of Juneau and an adult male passenger from California were both declared dead at the scene.  Another passenger, Chan Valentine, 31, of Juneau survived the crash and was transported to Bartlett Regional Hospital for medical treatment.  Kunat’s next of kin have been notified and attempts to locate next of kin on the passenger from California are continuing.

Alaska Wildlife Troopers responded in a vessel and multiple Temsco helicopters helped with rescue efforts.  Authorities from the NTSB are responding for further on-scene investigation.

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