Wednesday, July 11, 2018

de Havilland Canada DHC-3T Vazar Turbine Otter, N3952B, registered to Blue Aircraft, LLC and operated by Taquan Air: Accident occurred July 10, 2018 in Hydaburg, Alaska

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

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

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Hydaburg, AK
Accident Number: ANC18FA053
Date & Time: 07/10/2018, 0835 AKD
Registration: N3952B
Aircraft: De Havilland DHC 3
Injuries: 6 Serious, 4 Minor, 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter - Non-scheduled 

On July 10, 2018, about 0835 Alaska daylight time, a single-engine, turbine-powered, float-equipped de Havilland DHC3T Otter airplane, N3952B, sustained substantial damage during an impact with rocky, mountainous, rising terrain about 9 miles west of Hydaburg, Alaska. The airplane was registered to Blue Aircraft, LLC and operated by Taquan Air as a visual flight rules (VFR) on-demand commercial flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 when the accident occurred. Of the 11 occupants on board, the airline transport pilot was uninjured, four passengers sustained minor injuries, and six passengers sustained serious injuries. Marginal visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and company flight following procedures were in effect. The flight departed Steamboat Bay about 0747 destined for Ketchikan, Alaska.

The area between Steamboat Bay and Ketchikan consists of remote inland fjords, coastal waterways, and steep mountainous terrain.

During an initial telephone interview with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on July 11, the accident pilot reported that while in level cruise flight at about 1,100 ft mean sea level (MSL), and as the flight progressed into an area known as Sulzer Portage, visibility decreased rapidly from about 3-5 miles to nil. In an attempt to turnaround and return to VFR conditions, he initiated a climbing right turn. Prior to completing the 180° right turn, he saw what he believed to be a body of water and he became momentarily disoriented, so he leveled the wings. Shortly thereafter, he realized that the airplane was approaching an area of snow-covered mountainous terrain, so he applied full power and initiated a steep, emergency climb to avoid rising terrain ahead. As the steep emergency climb continued, the airspeed decayed, and the airplane subsequently collided with an area of rocky, rising terrain. During the initial impact, the airplane's floats were sheared off. The airplane wreckage came to rest in an area known as Jumbo Mountain, sustaining substantial damage to wings and fuselage.

The pilot stated that the Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS) was in the inhibit mode at the time of the accident.

According to the passenger seated in the right front seat, after departure, they proceeded to Klawock and then made what he perceived to be as a 180° turn. He said there were numerous course deviations as they maneuvered around weather, and at times all forward visibility was lost as they briefly flew in and out of the clouds. He said he became uncomfortable and was thinking it would be prudent to just land on the water. Shortly thereafter, he observed a large mountain loom directly in front of the airplane, knowing they could not out climb the mountain he presumed there must be a pass through the area. As they continued to approach the mountain they entered a cloud and he observed the pilot add power and pitch up, but the airplane impacted the side of the mountain.

According to a second passenger seated towards the back of the airplane, the weather at Steamboat Bay when they departed was rain and low clouds. During the flight he could occasionally see the land and water below, but sometimes he could not. He said that there was consistent serious fog all around. After they passed Waterfall Resort he became very concerned that they were headed in the wrong direction. He texted the right front seat passenger (a friend) and asked him to ask the pilot to land and wait for the weather to improve. He said that he did not see the mountain until they were right on it, and observed the pilot add power right before impact.

At 0843, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Sector Juneau received a report from the Alaska State Troopers (AST) that a float plane had crashed near Sulzer Portage on Prince of Wales Island. Two MH-60J Sea Hawk helicopters were launched from USCG Air Station Sitka, and AST activated the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad (KVRS) and other rescue personnel utilizing Temsco Helicopters, Inc. of Ketchikan. Five helicopters were dispatched from Temsco to the search area and a staging area was established near the believed to be accident site. One of the helicopter pilots stated that he was unable to search the upper levels of the mountainous area due to a low cloud ceiling and poor visibility. After receiving word that the USCG was approaching the search area, he returned to the staging area. A "First Alert" was received from the accident airplane's onboard emergency locator transmitter (ELT) at 0911. About the same time, 911 dispatch in Ketchikan talked to a survivor who provided GPS position and elevation based on data from her iPhone. At 1047 both USCG helicopters arrived in the search area and one helicopter obtained a weak direction finding (DF) bearing from the ELT at the crash scene. The DF bearing, and the survivor's description of the accident area were used to direct search assets in close proximity to the accident site, so the survivors could hear the USCG helicopters. Two-way radio communications were established between the survivors and USCG by utilizing the accident airplane's radio. The USCG located the accident site at 1156. At 1308 all 11 survivors had been hoisted into the USCG's rescue helicopter and transferred to the staging area for transport back to Ketchikan by Temsco Helicopters.

The accident site was located on a rock face on the east side of Jumbo Mountain at an elevation of about 2,557 ft msl. All the airplane major components were located at the accident site.

The closest weather reporting facility was Hydaburg Seaplane Base (PAHY), Hydaburg, Alaska, about 9 miles west of the accident site. At 0847, an METAR from PAHY was reporting, in part: wind from 110° at 13 knots; visibility, 5 statute miles in light rain and mist; clouds and sky condition, few clouds at 900 ft, overcast clouds at 1,700 ft; temperature, 57° F; dew point 55° F; altimeter, 30.16 inches of mercury.

A detailed wreckage examination is pending.


On April 25, 2017, the NTSB adopted its final report concerning the June 25, 2015, accident in which a single-engine, turbine-powered, float-equipped de Havilland DHC-3 (Otter) airplane, N270PA, collided with mountainous, tree-covered terrain about 24 miles east-northeast of Ketchikan, Alaska. As a result of that investigation, the NTSB issued numerous safety recommendations. One such recommendation, A-17-35, was issued to the FAA and stated in part: Implement ways to provide effective terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) protections while mitigating nuisance alerts for single-engine airplanes operated under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 that frequently operate at altitudes below their respective TAWS class design alerting threshold. This recommendation was reiterated during a separate investigation on April 26, 2018 is currently Open-Acceptable Response.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: De Havilland
Registration: N3952B
Model/Series: DHC 3 Undesignated
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Taquan Air
Operating Certificate(s) Held: On-demand Air Taxi (135) 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PAHY, 0 ft msl
Observation Time: 0847 AKD
Distance from Accident Site: 9 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 14°C / 13°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 900 ft agl
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 13 knots / , 110°
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 1700 ft agl
Visibility:  5 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.16 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: Company VFR
Departure Point: Klawock, AK
Destination: Ketchikan, AK

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 6 Serious, 4 Minor
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 6 Serious, 4 Minor, 1 None
Latitude, Longitude:  55.257500, -132.603611 (est)

Four of the 11 people involved in Tuesday's Ketchikan plane crash have been flown to Seattle for further treatment.

A spokeswoman for Ketchikan PeaceHealth Medical Center, Mischa Chernick, said Wednesday that six people were assessed and released in Ketchikan Tuesday, with a seventh admitted and in fair condition Wednesday. The other patients were medevaced to Seattle.

Susan Gregg, a spokeswoman at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, said one of the four people -- a male -- was admitted in satisfactory condition. One was treated and released, with the others set to be discharged Wednesday.

Chris John, commander of the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad, said the occupants were all in Ketchikan after a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter reached the plane shortly after noon Tuesday, in a mountainous area with peaks up to 3,500 feet in height.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios said word of the crash about 34 nautical miles southwest of Ketchikan, involving a plane carrying a pilot and 10 passengers, first reached the Coast Guard at about 9:20 a.m. Tuesday. The plane had reportedly hit the side of Mount Jumbo, at an altitude of 2,000 feet, with its emergency locator transmitter activated soon afterward.

By 1 p.m., he said, the helicopter crew was "in the process of hoisting individuals." Soon afterward, the plane's occupants were en route to Ketchikan aboard Temsco helicopters for a proper medical assessment of their injuries, which the Coast Guard initially reported as minor.

The passengers weren't immediately identified Tuesday, but Alaska State Troopers said in an online dispatch that the pilot was 72-year-old Mike Hudgins of Ketchikan.

Clint Johnson, the National Transportation Safety Board’s Alaska chief, said the crashed aircraft was a de Havilland DHC-3T Turbine Otter floatplane operated by Taquan Air. The plane had departed a seaplane base at Steamboat Bay on Noyes Island at about 7:30 a.m., and was en route to Ketchikan.

Taquan Air staff said in a statement after the plane occupants' rescue that they were "thankful for their safe transport and at this time our focus is on assisting these passenger, the pilot, their families and loved ones."

"Taquan Air has suspended all scheduled flights today and is cooperating fully with the NTSB, FAA and other authorities to examine every aspect of this event," company officials wrote. "It is imperative we understand the factors surrounding this incident to help prevent similar ones."

Several cruise ships were in Ketchikan Tuesday, but Holland America Lines and Princess Cruises said in a joint statement that no cruise passengers were on board the plane.

“Guests booked on the impacted excursions will receive refunds,” staff at the cruise lines wrote. “We will continue to offer flightseeing excursions in Alaska with other operators.”

Two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters were sent to the scene from Air Station Sitka, Rios said. In addition, KVRS had chartered four helicopters to assist the Coast Guard.

Rescuers had been in intermittent cellphone and text-message contact with the people on board, John said Tuesday afternoon, after clouds had hampered morning attempts to reach the crash site.

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Jim B said...

I would like for someone to explain to me with Garmin 430's, 530's, 650's, G-1000, Foreflight, Garmin Pilot (and many other useful tools) with terrain/object avoidance features that aircraft are still doing Controlled Flight Into Terrain and/or hitting towers and power lines.

Educate me. I do not get it at all.

John Pruitt said...

"Low, Slow, and Heavy"

Anonymous said...

The same reason people are still landing “gear up.”

Anonymous said...

Vfr into imc... Scud running in the mountains and ignoring all the high tech stuff. Hold my beer I got this.

Anonymous said...

Look at the flight path on Flight Aware. The pilot was clearly disoriented. He left Steamboat Bay and flew WNW and looped back to avoid the low ceiling. He followed the shore and flew at or below 800 ft the majority of the route. The climb to the 1800' crash sight was directly towards the 3000+ foot Mt. Jumbo. If he were 1.25 miles north, he would have been in the valley and in the clear. I'm not sure what VFR regulations allow you to fly into the cloud bank. Hundreds of miles of open water to land but he had a schedule to keep. Risking passenger lives for money. Amazing that they all lived.