Tuesday, May 14, 2019

de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver Mk I, N952DB and de Havilland Canada DHC-3T Vazar Turbine Otter, N959PA: Fatal accident occurred May 13, 2019 in Ketchikan, Alaska

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Juneau, Alaska 

Possible midair collision between Mountain Air Service de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver Mk I aircraft (upside down in water) and Venture Travel  N959PA de Havilland Canada DHC-3T Vazar Turbine Otter.


Date: 13-MAY-19
Time: 20:02:00Z
Regis#: N952DB
Aircraft Make: DE HAVILLAND
Aircraft Model: DHC 2 MK1
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: FATAL
Aircraft Missing: No
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
Operation: 135

Possible midair collision with Mountain Air Service N952DB de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver Mk I.


Date: 13-MAY-19
Time: 20:37:00Z
Regis#: N959PA
Aircraft Make: DE HAVILLAND
Aircraft Model: DHC 3
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: UNKNOWN
Aircraft Missing: No
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
Operation: 135
Aircraft Operator: VENTURE TRAVEL

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email eyewitnessreport@ntsb.gov, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email assistance@ntsb.gov. 

National Transportation Safety Board member Jennifer Homendy briefs media on the May 13th, 2019 midair collision in Ketchikan, Alaska, on May 15, 2019.

National Transportation Safety Board 
B-Roll, No Audio

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Clint Crookshanks and Member Jennifer Homendy near the site of some of the wreckage of the DHC-2 Beaver that was involved in a midair collision near Ketchikan, Alaska, on May 13, 2019.

Jennifer Homendy
National Transportation Safety Board

Authorities have recovered one of the two planes which collided in midair near Ketchikan on Monday leaving six people dead and 10 others injured, National Transportation Safety Board officials said Wednesday.

Alaska State Troopers named the deceased Tuesday evening, following the collision involving two de Havilland aircraft: a Taquan Air DHC-3 Otter and a Mountain Air Service DHC-2 Beaver. One of the 11 people on board the Taquan plane died, while all five people on board the Mountain Air plane were killed:

Randy Sullivan, 46-year-old male, pilot, from Ketchikan, Alaska
Simon Bodie, 56-year-old male from Tempe, New South Wales, Australia
Cassandra Webb, 62-year-old female from Saint Louis, Missouri
Ryan Wilk, 39-year-old male, from Utah
Louis Botha, 46-year-old male, from San Diego, California
Elsa Wilk, 37-year-old female, from Richmond, British Columbia, Canada

On Wednesday, NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy said three groups of investigators are looking into the collision. Those groups are focused on airworthiness, the mechanical maintenance and construction of the two planes; operations, the companies' policies and procedures; and human performance, involving the pilots' performance, decision-making and fitness.

The Taquan Air plane was found submerged in 75 feet of water about 50 feet from shore, Homendy said. That plane was recovered and is headed to Ketchikan.

The crashed Beaver, however, generated a debris field covering an estimated 1,000 by 3,000 feet. Some of the wreckage is on a mountainside as well as in the water. The NTSB has roped off the area with buoys in an effort to protect the scene.

As of Wednesday evening, the NTSB was examining whether the planes' transponders were working, whether the pilots could see each other, and whether either had filed a flight plan.

The NTSB's preliminary report is expected in about two weeks.

Original article can be found here ➤ https://www.ktva.com

Charles "Chuck" Hanas in front of his boat. He was the first person to arrive at the scene of Monday's midair collision.

KETCHIKAN, Alaska (KTUU) - Charles Hanas, known as Chuck by his friends, was the first person to arrive at the scene of Monday’s fatal two plane collision in Ketchikan. He and his wife Colleen Nesbitt were aboard their boat, the “Hotel California,” when they saw a plane going down in George Inlet. Hanas quickly steered toward the plane while sending out a call for coast guard assistance over the radio.

“When I came closer, I saw a bunch of people floating in an area of 50 or 60 yards,” Hanas said. “The airplane crashed and went tail up... then sank within minutes.”

As it turns out, that plane was the Taquan Air “Otter” plane that went down during the mid-air collision. 

Hanas got into his inflatable raft and began pulling the injured passengers to shore while his wife kept their boat off the rocks and out of the way.

“I went to the first person, one woman was calling for help and when I got to her she was bleeding quite a bit, but her husband, or the man that was with her, was not doing well. I think it ended up that he had a broken back.”

Hanas told KTUU that because he was unable to lift the injured passengers into his small raft, he maneuvered up to several people one by one and had them hold onto his raft while he towed them to shore.

It wasn’t until he’d gotten all 10 survivors to shore that the pilot told Hanas one passenger had died inside of the airplane. 

He also didn’t know there was another plane involved until other vessels started responding to assist with the rescue.

The planes ended up more than a mile apart on opposite sides of George Inlet. Hanas guesses he was there for about 20 minutes before the next boat arrived to help.

It’s likely that Hanas saved several passengers that were too injured to swim, but he told KTUU he was simply doing what he could until more help arrived.

“I don’t think anybody’s ever ready for it, but I’ve commercially fished all of my life so I’m familiar with the ocean, he said. “There wasn’t much that I could do with no medical equipment. I just kept saying help is on the way.”

Original article can be found here ➤ https://www.ktuu.com

Randy Sullivan, Mountain Air Service pilot and owner, grew up in Ketchikan, Alaska and has flown in the Ketchikan area for 14 years. Logging over 11,000 hours of flight with a perfect safety record!

The Ketchikan community is mourning the loss of Randy Sullivan — the pilot of a Mountain Air Service float plane who died after a midair collision with another flightseeing plane over the George Inlet on Monday.

Sullivan was Mountain Air Service's pilot and owner. According to the the company's website, he grew up in Ketchikan and was familiar with flying around Southeast Alaska.

A family friend and first responder to the scene, Jacob Bauer grew up with Sullivan. He spoke with a CBS reporter in Ketchikan and said Sullivan had been a pilot in town for a long time. 

"[He was a] family guy, really really good guy. Flying was his life, so he went out doing something he loved," Bauer said.

Bauer described the moment when he arrived to the crash scene on a jet ski.

"I see a Beaver, a de Havilland Beaver [...] it was upside down I'm looking at the floats upside down and realize this is a buddy's plane. So I jumped into action jumped off the ski we started looking around the plane looking around the wreckage, looking for people."

During a Tuesday afternoon news conference, officials with the National Transportation Safety Board said search operations are ongoing.

Original article can be found here ➤ https://www.ktva.com

Randy Sullivan bought a De Havilland Beaver in 2012 and now ferries tourists over southeastern Alaska. 

January 2015

Randy Sullivan understands the risks of landing his floatplane on a rolling liquid runway. On a cold late-autumn afternoon, he cruises at 3,600 feet, searching for just the right approach to Mirror Lake, a glassy speck amid hundreds of miles of forest.

Experience has taught him to look for such threats as submerged logs and rocks or rogue wind gusts that could toss his sturdy craft like a paper airplane.

He targets a sunlit stretch of lake water, setting down his seven-seat 1952 De Havilland Beaver as delicately as you'd place a teacup onto a saucer. "You just pull up on the nose," he says, "and steer right onto the water."

He shuts off the big nose propeller and the plane slowly glides to a stop; he has completed the first segment of a 90-minute flight from the town of Ketchikan, his final foray of another season of adventure in the sky.

Sullivan, 41, performs a dangerous job in one of the nation's most perilous uncharted places. Throughout southeastern Alaska, with its countless bay-locked burgs and rough-hewn homesteads, floatplanes play the role of taxicab, ambulance, mail carrier and supply truck, touching down in narrow causeways and turbulent inlets far from any tarmac.

Many here say the agile aircraft should be designated the state bird. Alaska Airlines, a top U.S. commercial carrier, began as a group of floatplanes. With their ability to make short takeoffs and landings, floatplanes have for years whisked stranded hunters and fishermen into the relative comforts of this frontier town, itself an outpost with only 8,200 full-time residents and 31 miles of paved highway.

Such feats come at a human cost. In the last three decades, 697 floatplane accidents have killed 258 people across Alaska, according to statistics from the National Traffic Safety Board. The worst year was 1982, when 24 people died, an average of two a month. Pilots are almost always among the dead.

A 2010 crash killed former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens while he was en route to a fishing weekend. Two years later, former state legislator Cheryll Heinze died in an accident when she got trapped in a submerged craft.

Many area lakes are named for floatplane pilots who crashed there. Says Sullivan: "You never want a lake named after you here."

Alaskans argue over which is more brazen: floatplane aerialists like Sullivan or bush pilots, their brethren to the frozen north, who set down on blizzard-swept tundra. It's considered a tie.

Ketchikan historian Dave Kiffer calls floatplane pilots the glue that holds southeastern Alaska together. "In this part of the state, you don't just drive to the next town," he said. "These folks face danger on every flight. If you take chances, they will eventually catch up with you. There's an old saying here: 'There are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots.'"

An hour before reaching Mirror Lake, Sullivan had taken off from Ketchikan, the floatplane's skyward lift smooth, almost imperceptible. Within minutes, he revels in a bird's-eye view of untamed beauty in a state that's less than 2% developed.

On a good day, when the weather cooperates, the pilot can see for 100 miles. Passing over Misty Fiords, a 2.3-million-acre national monument, he peers down on saltwater passageways that run 2,000 feet deep, watches brown bears crossing rivers, spies moose, wolves and bald eagles.

As with many veteran Alaska aviators, his travels have shaped a keen backwoods humor: Sullivan has flown to so many isolated locales, camping in such primitive places, he now considers himself an outhouse connoisseur.

Sullivan grew up in an era before global positioning systems. He lived with his stepfather, who worked in an isolated logging camp. When Sullivan was 12, he often hitched rides on floatplanes into Ketchikan, 40 miles distant, to practice with a local football team.

He dreaded those flights, often piloted by mavericks who flew into clouds without knowing what was on the other side. Sullivan soon adopted the old logging camp rule: Never fly with a pilot you don't recognize; this was no territory for untested newcomers.

Years later, Sullivan was a Ketchikan dockworker, loading supplies onto floatplanes bound for logging camps, when he saw the planes in a new light: The old-style aerial cowboys had been replaced by a new breed of pilot with updated navigation equipment.

One day, he watched a floatplane taxi onto an inlet on an unusually calm morning as beams of sunlight shot down upon the water. "I thought, 'Isn't that just cool?' How many people can do a job like that?"

That was the moment, he recalls, when he decided to become an Alaskan pilot.

Sullivan graduated from flight school in Oklahoma and worked as a floatplane pilot instructor. Back in Alaska, he flew for Ketchikan floatplane outfits, carrying mail to settlements like Hyder, where black bears lope down Main Street. He dropped hunters into the wilderness; men so grateful to see him when he picked them up days later, they nearly hugged him.

He also once rushed a young mother in labor to Ketchikan from a nearby island. Despite "tree-topping it to town at 115 miles per hour," he said, the baby was born in Sullivan's plane.

Ever-present is the capricious Alaska weather that can quickly turn a sunny day into a nightmare. During one storm, with winds of 50 mph, Sullivan and nine passengers took off from a bay stirred by 3-foot swells. He made it out. "But my hands were shaking with adrenaline," he says.

Now Sullivan's wife, Julie, insists the couple never fly together without their two young children; she doesn't want an accident to make them orphans. Each time Sullivan heads out for the docks, she gives him a kiss — a gesture of both love and good fortune.

"The danger," he says, "it's on people's minds. Always."

In 2011, Sullivan spent his family's savings — $500,000 — on the De Havilland Beaver, a plane he calls his Harley-Davidson for its crisp and reliable airborne performance. The aircraft is one of 1,657 built for the U.S. military between the late 1940s and 1960s. Sullivan's website home page features a black-and-white picture of the 1952-vintage plane, the 237th to come off the assembly line.

"The Beaver is not a dainty airplane," he says. "It is a large, barrel-chested craft that looks quite capable of eating Cessnas as mere snacks."

Nowadays, his Mountain Air Service competes with dozens of local float pilots. The move has reinforced some precarious economics.

Most regular delivery routes to outlying towns are spoken for by the more-veteran fliers. The once-ubiquitous logging camps that employed numerous float pilots are gone, leaving Sullivan to vie for Alaska's newest airborne clients: the 800,000 tourists who dock here on seasonal cruise ships, along with sportsmen charters and bear-viewing excursions.

In summer, when visitors are plentiful, he flies seven days a week, taking off and landing in the busy Tongass Narrows just offshore from Ketchikan's rustic downtown — dodging barges, pleasure boats, Jet Skis and other planes.

While larger firms can undercut prices, Sullivan must earn enough to cover an overhead that runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

The constant stress sometimes keeps him awake at night.

In the air, Sullivan usually plays the song "Come Fly With Me" by Frank Sinatra on his iPod: "Once I get you up there where the air is rarefied / We'll just glide, starry-eyed."

"You've got to have Sinatra," he says. He also listens to flight-themed songs by Wings and Blind Pilot.

A former waiter, he talks up clients, telling jokes, calling out the lakes below, making passengers feel at home. He charges $239 per seat for a two-and-a-half-hour tour, and knows a review on Trip Advisor can make or break him.

But Sullivan realizes he's more than any wise-cracking tour guide. Bad weather — and there's plenty of it — can turn him into a lifesaver. Coping with danger separates the piloting pros from the bush-leaguers.

"The trick is how you handle the scary moments," he said. "Can you buckle down and figure things out?"

Original article can be found here ➤ https://www.latimes.com


Anonymous said...

I thought a plane that could carry as much as 11 people was supposed to have TCAS.

Anonymous said...

Preliminary is inexcusable, criminal, pilot negligence. One plane descended into the other at about 3,000. Possibly a BRS could have saved most of them, but would probably need two for the Otter and the Beaver if flying at gross.

Anonymous said...

Chuck Hanas on the ball and quick thinker saved some of these people. Accolades for him. RIP for those who did not make it.