Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Piper PA-22-150 Tri-Pacer, N7402D: Fatal accident occurred August 04, 2019 near Girdwood Airport (AQY), Alaska

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled 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: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf


Location: Girdwood, AK
Accident Number: ANC19FA042
Date & Time: 08/04/2019, 1627 AKD
Registration: N7402D
Aircraft: Piper PA22
Injuries: 4 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On August 4, 2019, about 1627 Alaska daylight time, a Piper PA22-150 airplane, N7402D, was destroyed by impact forces and a postcrash fire when it collided with steep, mountainous terrain, about 5 miles north of the Girdwood Airport (AQY), Girdwood, Alaska. The airplane was registered to a private individual and operated by the pilot as a visual flight rules (VFR) flight under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Of the four occupants on board, the airline transport pilot, who was also a certified flight instructor, the student pilot-rated passenger, who was the registered owner of the airplane, and two additional passengers were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. According to witnesses, the flight departed AQY about 1615.

According to a friend of the airplane owner, the purpose of the flight was to take friends on a short 15-20-minute aerial tour of the local Girdwood valley. The area around the resort town of Girdwood consists of remote, steep, mountainous terrain, ranging from sea level to about 7,000 ft, which is part of the Chugach Mountain Range.

Multiple witnesses in and around the Girdwood valley reported that, just before the accident, the airplane was observed flying parallel to a mountain ridge prior to entering a turn to the north, and then beginning a descent. The airplane then disappeared from view, which was followed by a plume of black smoke. None of the witnesses reported hearing any unusual sounds from the accident airplane.

One witness observed the airplane earlier in the flight performing aggressive flight maneuvers. He said that as the airplane approached a mountain ridge, it pitched up and entered a steep climb prior to disappearing from view. Shortly thereafter, he was notified of smoke rising from an area known as Goat Mountain.

The airplane impacted the south face of Goat Mountain about 15 feet below the top of a rock faced ridgeline at an altitude of about 5,512 ft, and the wreckage came to rest on a narrow rock shelf at an altitude of about 5,437 ft. The wreckage was largely consumed by a postcrash fire. Small fragments of wreckage were located on the opposite side of the ridge. A detailed wreckage examination is pending following wreckage recovery efforts.

The closest official weather observation station to the accident site was Portage Glacier (PATO), Whittier, AK, located about 22 miles southeast of the accident site. At 1653, a METAR was reporting, in part, wind, 080° at 7 knots, gusting 15 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, overcast clouds at 6,000 ft.; temperature, 70°F; dew point, 57°F; and an altimeter setting of 30.14 inches of mercury. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N7402D
Model/Series: PA22 150
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation:
Observation Time: 0053 UTC
Distance from Accident Site:
Temperature/Dew Point: 21°C / 14°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 7 knots / 15 knots, 80°
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 6000 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.14 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Girdwood, AK
Destination: Girdwood, AK 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 2 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: On-Ground
Total Injuries: 4 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 61.036944, -149.045278

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. 

Karl Erickson

Karl Erickson and Boonie LeBlanc. Karl Erickson was aboard the plane which crashed into Goat Mountain, August 4th, 2019. 

Paul Wiley was one of the passengers in the plane which crashed into Goat Mountain, August 4th, 2019.

Karl Erickson’s text message came minutes before Sunday’s fiery plane crash that killed him and three other men in the Chugach Mountains above Girdwood.

Retired Arizona art gallery owner Boonie LeBlanc said his adopted grandson, Paul Wiley, was a passenger in Erickson’s Piper PA-22. LeBlanc knew Erickson from their time together in Superior, Arizona, where the Girdwood resident usually spent the winter.

A few days earlier, LeBlanc said, Erickson told him a friend who was a pilot would be at the controls Sunday.

Then a message Erickson sent just before the flight indicated they planned to take Wiley and the other person up for a few minutes, “see some scenery” and then land and drop off the passengers so Erickson, a student pilot, could log some hours toward his license, LeBlanc said.

“That was the last text message from Karl," LeBlanc said Wednesday by phone. “He sent that out to several friends in Girdwood, while he was in the plane taking off.”

The plane crashed in steep, rocky terrain at 5,000 feet on Goat Mountain near Eagle Glacier at around 5 p.m. Sunday. An elite ski team training nearby reported it to authorities.

Erickson was a student pilot, federal records show. Student pilots aren’t supposed to carry passengers if they are flying the plane.

The man LeBlanc identified as flying the plane was a licensed pilot with certificates as a helicopter transport pilot and commercial ratings for fixed-wing aircraft, according to a Federal Aviation Administration database. He also held a flight instructor certification, records show.

The Anchorage Daily News is not identifying the man described as Sunday’s pilot or the other passenger until authorities release their names.

Alaska State Troopers, with help from members of the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, retrieved the bodies of all four Tuesday evening. The State Medical Examiner Office was still confirming their identification Wednesday.

Along with working as a health and safety officer, Erickson served with fire departments in Girdwood and Whittier. Officials at Girdwood said they were waiting on official identification before commenting.

Erickson “professed to having his 55th birthday” and was an avid folk-art collector and philanthropist who lived simply but loved to travel and entertain, LeBlanc said. An avid mountaineer, Erickson’s expeditions included Mount Everest. Erickson grew up in Arizona and owned several properties in Superior including commercial and rental units.

The Friday before his death, Erickson closed on a three-story home in Superior, LeBlanc said. He also talked about expanding his more modest Girdwood home this summer.

Wiley, who was 37, was staying in Alaska with Erickson and doing odd jobs. He’d been in Girdwood for two months and was scheduled to return to Superior in late August. He loved four-wheeling and fishing and got to Seldovia in July.

The deaths of LeBlanc’s family member and close friend together came as a shock, he said.

“While my heart is broken for the loss of Paul and my friend Karl, grief is a price we pay for love,” LeBlanc said. “And we can only celebrate the loss of our loved ones’ lives by continuing to live.”

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

Chris von Imhof
Chris von Imhof lives across the street from Karl Erickson, the pilot and aircraft owner of Piper PA-22-150, N7402D
GIRDWOOD, Alaska (KTUU) - For twenty years, Karl Erickson was the life of neighborhood gatherings in Girdwood. On Sunday, he tragically passed away in a plane crash that killed four in the mountains near the town.

Chris von Imhof lives across the street from Erickson and regards him as a good friend and neighbor.

"Karl and their friends just celebrated their 55th birthday the day before, on Saturday, and were singing and having a wonderful time," von Imhof told Channel 2 Monday.

Von Imhof says the Girdwood community will have a difficult time saying goodbye to a long-standing member.

"We're going to miss him,” von Imhof said. “He has lots of good friends right in the neighborhood, and it's just a big shocker. I just hope we can have a good celebration of life."

Von Imhof is not the only one in mourning. Erickson worked for a company called Beacon, which provides safety services and training in high-risk occupations. The company released a statement Monday:

"Karl has been a valuable part of the Beacon family for a couple of years and has worked throughout Alaska on safety and rescue projects. We're all holding his family and friends in our hearts and prayers during this tragic time."

Karl Erickson is listed as the registered owner of the Piper PA-20 that went down on Sunday.

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

No one survived the fiery crash of a plane outside Girdwood on Sunday evening that killed four, authorities say.

A private pilot and three passengers died in the crash of the Piper PA-22, according to a Federal Aviation Administration site. Authorities didn’t immediately respond to requests for more information.

The plane “crashed under unknown circumstances after takeoff," according to the FAA site. It departed from Girdwood. The National Transportation Safety Board tweeted Monday that it was investigating the accident.

The crash was reported at about 5 p.m. Sunday on Goat Mountain near Eagle Glacier at about 5,000 feet elevation, troopers spokesman Ken Marsh said in an email. An Alaska National Guard Pave Hawk helicopter confirmed the crash and “that there were no survivors.”

The wreckage of the plane was incinerated in a post-crash fire, said Clint Johnson, National Transportation Safety Board Alaska chief.

Troopers and a National Transportation Safety Board investigator headed to the scene Monday to assess the terrain and develop a recovery plan, authorities said.

Members of Alaska Pacific University’s elite ski team were training on the glacier when the plane went down just over a ridge.

Luke Jager, a 19-year-old member of the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team, said he and other skiers were out for an afternoon training session.

“I had my head down and was listening to music so I didn’t actually see the plane hit, but we saw lots of black smoke coming from the mountain side all of a sudden,” Jager said in a text message. Skiers heard an explosion, and watched “a massive face of the ridge overlooking the glacier collapse and slide. It was huge. I have to imagine the two were related somehow.”

Jager saw teammates above him on the course and yelled to them, asking what happened. They said they’d seen a plane crash, he said, “so I turned around and skied as fast as I could from the course up to the building to let (coach Erik) Flora know what was going on. He was really good about making sure everyone took a deep breath before we proceeded.”

Flora and the team loaded glacier travel gear onto a snowmachine but couldn’t get to the crash site, Jager said. The coach called Alpine Air in Girdwood and they sent a helicopter to the site.

An Alpine Air representative had no comment Monday.

The National Guard helicopter arrived within an hour. The Guard sent the Pave Hawk and two pararescuemen, a spokeswoman said. They rappelled down to the wreckage.

“We were all really saddened to hear the outcome of it,” Jager texted Monday. “I think we were all kind of prepared for that though. It didn’t look like the kind of thing a person could survive.”

Twenty-five people have now died in 11 fatal plane crashes in Alaska so far this year, according to an NTSB database. That total includes six people who died in one crash in May when two floatplanes carrying passengers from the same cruise ship collided in midair near Ketchikan.

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

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Alaska State Troopers confirm a Piper PA-20 plane went down Sunday on Goat Mountain near Alyeska. On board were the pilot and three passengers, none of whom survived, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

AST says the crash happened at about 5,000 feet elevation and that a Pave Hawk helicopter responded. FAA says that the preliminary cause was "unknown circumstances after take off." FAA records show that the plane was built in 1957.

The names of the people on board have not been released by investigators, but Beacon Occupational Health and Safety Services, an Anchorage company, sent out an email to its employees confirming that the owner of the plane, Karl Erickson worked at the company.

The email said "It is with a heavy heart that we share Karl Erickson was involved in a fatal airplane accident" on Sunday.

The email says that the employee had worked on the Port of Anchorage providing safety support to Marathon Oil.

"We're all holding his family and friends in our hearts and prayers during this tragic time," writes the email.

According to APU Nordic Ski Center head coach Erik Flora, who was overseeing a training camp on the glacier at the time of the accident, the wreck occurred in a difficult-to-access area on the south side of Eagle Glacier.

"We were standing on the top of our course which is on the south end of Eagle Glacier and between where the ski tracks are, there's a blue ice field and then a rocky cliff area, so it would have been extremely hard to access by foot," he said.

Flora said that he was at the Thomas Glacier Training Center on the southeastern side of the glacier when an athlete skied up and told him they had witnessed the crash.

"I called Alpine Air, which is a helicopter service out of Girdwood and notified them and asked for help," he recounted. "I then organized one of my staff and we got some emergency equipment together and some fire extinguishers and got on our snow machines and went to see if we could find the, you know, where the smoke was and see if we could help. By the time we got over on the edge of the glacier Alpine Air was on site, and so they were able to get to the accident."

Later, para jumpers arrived to assess the wreckage, Flora said.

He said the area is a common place for planes to be flying.

"We see planes regularly flying over Eagle, regularly during the week," he said.

AST says a crew, along with the NTSB, are heading to the scene to investigate and that they are still at work formulating a plan for recovery of the wreckage.

According to the FAA's website, four people died. The plane that went down was a Piper PA22. One crew member and three passengers died.

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


Anonymous said...

Density altitude? Overweight/out of CG?

Anonymous said...

All the above, most likely. DA is rarely a thing in the area, most folks around aren't very proficient in handling it particularly at or near gross. I was near the area Sunday and it was well into the 70s by 5pm and getting anywhere near the glaciers adds the mountain waves to the equation as well. Real tragedy, I worked with Karl and he was always an easy-going, upbeat, safe and thorough person.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post above. He was in the same area on Sunday and observed the temperature well into the 70s. I'd be very interested to hear the wind condition if the above poster might reply.

Theory of mine is that this accident was result of three factors that each contributing. None of the factors taken separately enough to down the aircraft. Rather the combination.

1) DA. Plane was at 5,000 feet and temperature into the 70s. So not extreme ... perhaps DA of 7,500. But enough to degrade performance.

2) Weight. Assume the plane was NOT overweight. But heavy. Most likely within 100LB of max gross. Enough to degrade performance.

3) Downdraft. The smoke in the both photos demonstrate that there was some wind. It also appears to me that he was approaching the ridge line into the wind. Every mountain has a updraft side (windward side) and a downdraft side (leeward side). It looks to me the impact was on the leeward side ... see the second photo.

These three factors together and he may have found himself with a plane that could climb 300-400 fpm and yet encountered downdraft of 700-800 fpm. Not extreme downdraft but just strong enough to cause matters to end very, very poorly.

Very sorry for the loss of your friend.

Anonymous said...

Tail-wheel conversion with low-pressure tundra tyres,
Piper Pacer.
Piper PA-22 150 Tri-Pacer - Performance Data
Horsepower: 150 Gross Weight: 1950 lbs
Top Speed: 122 kts Empty Weight: 1060 lbs
Cruise Speed: 113 kts Fuel Capacity: 36 gal
Stall Speed (dirty): 43 kts Range: 430 nm

Takeoff Landing
Ground Roll: 1120 ft Ground Roll 650 ft
Over 50 ft obstacle: 1600 ft Over 50 ft obstacle: 1280 ft

Rate Of Climb: 750 fpm
Ceiling: 16000 ft

Anonymous said...

'All the above' here again.
The winds weren't severe, just typical midsummer sunny afternoon breeze with light thermals once up in the air. As you said though, this marginal factor combined with the two other factors of weight and DA just all added up in the wrong place at the wrong time. My guess is that if they find out the motor was making power they will focus on passenger weight and fuel load- if they were going for a sightseeing trip then turn around and go back up to build hours they possibly could have fueled up enough for both flights. Finding out fuel load might be impossible as well as there's no fuel service at Girdwood and since Karl was based there he no doubt fueled himself.
I can't stress the DA enough- again, most of us up here are used to a NEGATIVE DA. I've seen -5700' ASL in winter and even right now it is -425' at AQY, so relatively speaking a DA that high degrades the performance of the plane immensely. Four grown men plus more than ten gallons or so in a stock Pacer is not going to be a high performer.

Anonymous said...

"I can't stress the DA enough- again, most of us up here are used to a NEGATIVE DA. I've seen -5700' ASL in winter and even right now it is -425' at AQY, so relatively speaking a DA that high degrades the performance of the plane immensely."

Fascinating observation and yet it makes entire sense. I happen to be in Texas where DA is just about an everyday challenge. But of course there are a lots and lots of challenges in Alaska that are relatively rare way down here.

Your point being that the concern of DA wouldn't necessarily have been foremost in your friend's mind. Add to that the afternoon temperature had crept into the 70s and so this was an unusually high density altitude condition. Very unusual for that particular location.

If given a second chance, your friend Karl might slowly climb up to 7,000 - 8,000 well in advance of the mountain and crossed that ridge line without incident ... it would've been a nonevent.

I really hate that this happened and wish you the best. God bless Karl.

Anonymous said...

I’ve flown many, many missions as a Blackhawk pilot in this general area. I can attest to the mountain waves that occur, especially around the mountains and the glacier. While training para rescue soldiers, I’ve fought updrafts and downdrafts of well in excess of 500 to 700 FPM in the area.
Couple the above with a heavy, low performance airplane like the Tripacer. Coming to close to the ridge that airplane would have little or no chance to climb, or maintain altitude. Same scenario, when the pilot realizes his sink rate and tries a steep turn to avoid terrain, you get a stall. It happens more than I’d like to think. Duty in search rescue along the Sierras held much the same experiences, and tragedies.
Mountain wave + low power + heavy gross = disaster when to close to terrain.

Anonymous said...

Preliminary report released.

Anonymous said...

I used to own a 1950 PA-20 Piper Pacer. It had a Lycoming O-290 135 HP engine. It had 4 seats but it was basically a 2 seater, maybe 3 if the people weren't 200+ pounds. I know the accident plane had a Lyc. O-320 150 horse engine but with 4 people aboard its climb performance would be pitiful. I hate to read about such sad events.