Sunday, July 16, 2017

Aeronca 15AC, N1370H: Fatal accident occurred July 15, 2017 in Big Lake, Alaska

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Anchorage, Alaska

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board: 

NTSB Identification: ANC17FA035
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, July 15, 2017 in BIG LAKE, AK
Aircraft: AERONCA 15AC, registration: N1370H
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On July 15, 2017, about 0925 Alaska daylight time, a float-equipped Aeronca 15AC airplane, N1370H, sustained substantial damage following a collision with a tree, and a subsequent loss of control and impact with terrain, about 20 miles west of Big Lake, Alaska. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot, as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 visual flight rules flight. Visual meteorological conditions existed, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight departed a remote lake near Big Lake, Alaska about 0905 destined for Sand Lake, Anchorage, Alaska.

According to a family friend, the purpose of the flight was to shuttle a group of friends to a remote recreational cabin and the accident occurred during the return trip to Sand Lake. When the airplane failed to arrive at Sand Lake to shuttle the second group of friends, another family friend initiated an aerial search, and ultimately found the accident site. 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) along with another NTSB investigator and an Alaska State Trooper reached the accident site in the afternoon of July 16. The accident site was in an area of tall brush and tundra covered terrain with sparsely populated trees at an elevation of about 50 ft msl. An area believed to be the initial impact point was marked by a broken tree top, atop about a 45-foot-tall cottonwood tree, situated near the banks of the Yentna River. Broken tree branches and paint fragments that matched the color of the airplane were located at the base of the cottonwood tree. After the initial impact, the airplane's wreckage traveled northeast along a magnetic heading of about 072° for about 450 ft before coming to rest inverted. 

The airplane's severed left wing was located about 160 ft from the 45-foot-tall cottonwood tree, initial impact point. A large elliptical impact area was found on the leading edge, about 3 ft outboard of the wing root, with multiple smaller elliptical impact areas outboard to the tip. 

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 from the control column in the aileron control cables to the fuselage aileron bell crank, in the aileron control cables to the wing aileron bell cranks and in the aileron push-pull tubes. A fracture was observed in the left aileron bell crank and multiple fractures were observed in the fuselage aileron bell crank, but all fractures were consistent with overload. A detailed wreckage examination is pending following recovery of the airplane. 

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

Donald Wayne Frantz, a Pueblo native who spent the past five decades living in Anchorage, Alaska, died July 15 after an episode of heart failure caused his float-plane to crash along the Yentna River. He was 75 years old.

Born to Ethel May and Roy Osee Frantz on Oct. 26, 1941, Frantz's family owned a local feed store in Pueblo where he attended Pueblo Central High School and competed as a gymnast before graduating in 1959. He went on to attend Colorado State College in Greeley, where he was ranked nationally as a gymnast and eventually graduated with his master's degree in biology.

In 1965, Frantz met his future wife, Georgette Thomas. The couple's relationship flourished quickly and they were married on July 1, 1966. They had one son together, Dowell Frantz, and remained happily married for the next 51 years.

Frantz moved in 1966 shortly after marrying Georgette to Anchorage, where he worked as a math teacher until 1969 before transitioning into a career in the insurance industry. He established Tax Deferral Associates, an Anchorage-based investment advisory service, in 1986 and continued working in that area until his retirement.

According to his older brother Robert Frantz, Donald was an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed fishing and hunting as well as spending time as an aviator.

Frantz purchased his first airplane in 1975 and in 2010, built his second airplane at the Legend Cub Factory in Sulphur Springs, Texas. Robert Frantz described him as a terrific aviator whose qualifications inside of a cockpit were unparalleled, even by commercial pilots.

Robert Frantz said the memories with his brother that he will look back on most fondly are the multiple occasions when the pair were suspended above the clouds in the cockpit of Frantz's plane, taking in the beautiful Alaskan scenery and wildlife.

Described by his loved ones as a loving father, husband, friend and a cherished grandfather, Frantz is survived by his wife, Georgette; son and daughter-in-law, Dowell and Stephanie; grandchildren, Kody and Estee; brother, Bob and family; and brother-in-law, Jim Thomas and family.

A celebration of his life was held at the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum on July 20 and in lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to Pheasants Forever, Smoky Valley Chapter 349, Hoxie, KS 67740; or Friends of Pets, P.O. Box 240981, Anchorage, AK 99524-0981.

A 75-year-old Anchorage man died Saturday after his plane crashed near the mouth of the Yentna River in the Mat-Su Valley, the Alaska State Troopers and federal aviation officials said.

Pilot Donald Wayne Frantz had flown  passengers in his Aeronca 15AC Sedan to a remote cabin on the river, in Alaska's Mat-Su Valley, around 9:30 or 10 a.m., said Clint Johnson with the National Transportation Safety Board.

He had just taken off alone on a flight back to Anchorage to pick up a second load of passengers when the plane crashed in wooded terrain "very close to the mouth of the Yentna River," and not far from the cabin.

When Frantz didn't return from his flight on time, people at the cabin began searching for him and discovered the wreckage, Johnson said.

Around 1 p.m., members of the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center were called to the site of the crash and found Frantz dead, according to an Alaska State Troopers dispatch Sunday. Troopers and Talkeetna Fire and Rescue also went to the scene, and helped transport Frantz's body to Anchorage, troopers said.

The Aeronca is a single engine plane, said Johnson. FAA records show the Aeronca owned by Frantz was manufactured in 1949. It was on floats, Johnson said.

Two federal investigators were at the site of the crash Sunday working to determine why the plane crashed, Johnson said.

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