Tuesday, July 18, 2017

National Transportation Safety Board will hold rare Alaska hearing on Togiak, Alaska, plane crash: Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, Hageland Aviation Services dba Ravn Connect, N208SD, fatal accident occurred October 02, 2016

Fatal Alaska Commuter Flight Crash Subject of National Transportation Safety Board Investigative Hearing: https://www.ntsb.gov

Drew Edward Welty
The two pilots that died in the plane crash are identified as Timothy Cline, 43 of Homer, and Drew Welty, 29 of Anchorage. The passenger has been identified as Louie John, 49 of Manokotak. 

The National Transportation Safety Board will hold a rare hearing in Anchorage next month to examine the fatal crash of a Ravn Connect flight near Togiak last fall. 

The investigative hearing will be the first held by the board in Alaska since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and the first held outside Washington, D.C., in nearly 20 years.

The board is expected to address broader issues behind the crash that killed three, including operational control at Hageland Aviation Services Inc.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Aug. 17 in the Mid-Deck Ballroom of the Captain Cook Hotel.

The board is making the rare trip to Alaska because most of the witnesses live here, officials say. But the unusual location also stems from a spate of fatal plane crashes linked to either flying an airworthy plane into the ground or heading into low-visibility conditions that require help from instruments.

The board's decision reflects a spike in accidents involving charter or commercial operators that often provide essential air service to Alaska villages.

The June 2015 crash of a Promech Air flightseeing floatplane killed nine people near Ketchikan. Another crash a few weeks later near Juneau killed a Wings of Alaska pilot and seriously injured four passengers. Eight people sustained serious injuries in the crash of a Wright Air Service scheduled flight near Anaktuvuk Pass in January 2016.

All told, 40 people have died in 36 aircraft accidents involving "controlled flight into terrain" in Alaska between 2008 and 2016, according to the NTSB.

Hageland Aviation Services aircraft were involved in six accidents since 2013, the board says. Four involved controlled flight into terrain and one involved flight into instrument meteorological conditions.

The NTSB issued two safety recommendations in 2014 asking the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct audits of operators owned by the holding company HoTH, Inc., which included Hageland, one of three airlines that fly as Ravn Alaska.

A Ravn spokesman didn't immediately respond to questions about the hearing Tuesday.

The Togiak crash happened in the Ahklun Mountains 12 miles northwest of Togiak just before noon Oct. 2, 2016. A Ravn Connect Cessna 208B Caravan slammed into a mountainside about 200 feet below the 2,500-foot summit, according to an NTSB preliminary report released last year.

The crash killed pilots Timothy Cline, 48, of Homer, and Drew Welty, 29, of Anchorage, as well as passenger Louie John, a fisherman from Manokotak, who boarded in Quinhagak.

The flight, on an unusual bypass mail route, originated in Bethel. The pilots flew under visual flight rules but poor weather concealed the wreckage from an Alaska State Troopers helicopter until more than four hours after the crash.

An NTSB press release lists several safety issues expected to be discussed at the hearing. Among them:

– Operational control at Hageland, including FAA oversight, organizational structure, and training and guidance for operational control agents;

– Pilot training and guidance related to deteriorating weather conditions including incorporating lessons from previous accidents;

– Safety management, training and oversight resources available to the Alaska aviation community.

Hageland Aviation Services is a participant in the Medallion Foundation's Shield Program. The foundation is a nonprofit partnership between the FAA and industry, created in 2001 by the Alaska Air Carriers Association, with the goal of improving aviation safety in Alaska while reducing insurance rates for commercial air carriers.

Several Medallion members including Ravn, however, have been involved in fatal plane crashes in Alaska.

Generally, NTSB hearings like this one involve a half-dozen witnesses who face questions from the four-member board.

The agency is still building a list of participants for the Anchorage hearing, said Alaska region chief Clint Johnson.

"It's a unique time for the public and especially Alaskans, since we're so dependent on aviation, to be able to peer inside our investigative process," Johnson said.


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

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

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf


NTSB Identification: ANC17FA001
Scheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Sunday, October 02, 2016 in Togiak, AK
Aircraft: CESSNA 208B, registration: N208SD
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A detailed wreckage examination is pending. 

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

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