Saturday, November 30, 2019

Piper PA-31-350 Navajo Chieftain, N4087G: Fatal accident occurred November 29, 2019 in Cooper Landing, Alaska

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

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

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Cooper Landing, AK
Accident Number: ANC20FA007
Date & Time: 11/29/2019, 1911 AKS
Registration: N4087G
Aircraft: Piper PA-31-350
Injuries: 3 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter - Non-scheduled - Air Medical (Medical Emergency) 

On November 29, 2019, about 1911 Alaska standard time, a Piper PA-31-350 airplane, N4087G, was destroyed by impact and postcrash fire when it collided with mountainous terrain about 15 miles west of Cooper Landing, Alaska. The three occupants; the airline transport pilot, a flight nurse, and the flight paramedic were fatally injured. The airplane was operated by Fly 4 You Inc., doing business as Security Aviation, as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 visual flight rules air ambulance flight. Dark night visual meteorological conditions existed at the departure and destination locations and company flight following procedures were in effect. The flight departed Ted Stevens International Airport (PANC), Anchorage, Alaska, about 1848, destined for Seward Airport (PAWD), Seward, Alaska.

Dispatch records indicated that, on November 29, Providence Seward Medical Center emergency clinic personnel contacted multiple air ambulance companies with a "weather check" for possible air ambulance transportation of a patient from Seward to Anchorage. The first company contacted was Guardian Flight, who declined the flight at 1624 due to limited daylight hours. The second company, LifeMed Alaska, declined the flight at 1637 due to weather. The third and final company contacted for the flight was Medevac Alaska. Their dispatch officer was not notified of the previous declined flight requests and forwarded the request to Security Aviation, who is their sole air charter provider. At 1731 Security Aviation accepted the flight, and Medevac Alaska flight SVX36 was staffed with a nurse and paramedic.

A preliminary review of archived Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) radar and automatic dependent surveillance (ADS-B) data revealed that the accident airplane departed PANC and flew south about 3,000 ft mean sea level (msl) toward the Sterling Highway. The airplane was then observed descending to 2,200 ft msl while flying a right racetrack pattern before flying into the valley toward Cooper Landing. The last data point indicated that at 1911:14 the airplane was over the west end of Jean Lake at 2,100 ft msl, on a 127° course, and 122 kts groundspeed. Refer to figures 1 and 2.

Figure 1. Preliminary flight track

Figure 2. Preliminary end of flight track and accident site 

Ground witnesses who were in vehicles on the Sterling Highway near milepost 63, reported that they saw the lights of the airplane flying over the highway that night. One witness stated that he saw the airplane west of the mountains turn in a circle as it descended and then entered the valley. He observed the wings rocking back and forth and while he was looking elsewhere, he heard an explosion and observed a large fire on the mountainside. Another witness reported seeing the airplane flying low and explode when it impacted the mountain. Witnesses to the fire called 911 and observed the wreckage high on the mountainside burning for a long time after impact.

The airplane was reported overdue by the chief pilot for Security Aviation and the FAA issued an alert notice (ALNOT) at 2031. The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center dispatched an MH-60 helicopter to the last known position and located the burning wreckage that was inaccessible due to high winds in the area.

On December 1, 2019, the Alaska State Troopers coordinated a mountain recovery mission with Alaska Mountain Rescue Group. The wreckage was observed on the mountain at an elevation of about 1,425 ft msl in an area of steep, heavily tree-covered terrain near the southeast end of Jean Lake in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The airplane was highly fragmented and burned, however all major airplane components were accounted for. Multiple large trees around the wreckage were fractured and indicated an easterly heading prior to the initial impact. Refer to figure 3.

Figure 3. Accident site

The wreckage will be recovered for further examination.

The route from PANC to PAWD is about 75 nautical miles southeast across the Kenai Peninsula and the Kenai Mountains to the coastal town of Seward that is located at the north end of a fjord surrounded by mountains ranging from 4,000 ft to 6,000 ft elevations. PAWD instrument approach procedures prohibit night instrument flight rules approaches.

The closest weather reporting facility was the Soldotna Airport (PASX), about 30 nautical miles west of the accident site. The 1856 observation included wind from 250° at 3 knots, 10 statute miles (sm) visibility, broken clouds at 8,000 ft and 9,500 ft, temperature 36°F, dewpoint 36°F, and altimeter 29.56 inches of mercury. The US Naval Observatory sunset time on the day of the accident was 1554. Witnesses reported dark night conditions and gusting winds in the area.

The PAWD special (SPECI) weather observation for 1623 included wind calm, 3 sm visibility in light rain and mist, clouds broken at 4,800 ft and 5,500 ft, overcast at 7,000 ft. The 1653 observation included wind from 020 at 3 knots, 8 sm visibility in light rain and mist, overcast clouds at 4,200 ft. The 1753 observation included winds from 120 at 3 knots, visibility 5 sm in light rain, and clouds few at 200 ft, overcast at 4,600 ft. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N4087G
Model/Series: PA-31-350
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Fly 4 You Inc
Operating Certificate(s) Held: On-demand Air Taxi (135)
Operator Does Business As: Security Aviation
Operator Designator Code: 3SVA

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Night/Dark
Observation Facility, Elevation: PASX, 113 ft msl
Observation Time: 0356 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 26 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 2°C / 2°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 3 knots / , 250°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 8000 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.56 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: Company VFR
Departure Point: Anchorage, AK (PANC)
Destination: Seward, AK (SWD) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 3 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: On-Ground
Total Injuries: 3 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 60.504167, -150.151389 (est)

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 

Two hours before Friday’s fatal crash of an air ambulance headed from Anchorage to Seward, another company declined to pick up a patient on the same route because the weather was bad.

Three people died Friday evening when a plane carrying a two-person medical crew crashed above the Sterling Highway on the Kenai Peninsula. The crash under unknown circumstances occurred about 15 miles west of Quartz Creek Airport.

The twin-engine Piper PA-31 was headed to Seward Airport, where two Medevac Alaska employees planned to pick up a patient from Providence Seward Medical Center before returning to Anchorage, according to a statement from Security Aviation, which operated the plane.

Security Aviation in a statement Monday identified the pilot as Glen Morthorpe, "one of our most experienced pilots. Glen was a true pioneer in Alaska’s aviation community, and we extend our heartfelt sympathies to his family and friends.”

Morthorpe was the company’s director of operations.

Medevac Alaska identified the two employees aboard the plane as registered nurse Rob Cartner and paramedic Maddox Burts.

It is early in the federal investigation of the cause of the crash, but bad weather is part of the conversation.

The weather was concerning enough Friday afternoon that LifeMed Alaska, a large statewide air ambulance service, declined to make a trip to Seward. Another company put a Seward trip on hold until the next day.

LifeMed got a call for a flight request to Seward at about 4:30 p.m. Friday, according to Steve Heyano, the company’s chief operating officer.

“We declined it for weather,” Heyano said. He didn’t have more specifics as to what conditions prompted the decision or the nature of the call.

Guardian Flight, another major air ambulance provider in Alaska, received a request for a patient transport from Seward to another Alaska location Friday evening, according to a statement forwarded by a Guardian representative. “The flight request was put on temporary hold and the company completed the patient flight the following day.”

Neither LifeMed nor Guardian provided information about the patient involved in the calls. Guardian declined to say what prompted the hold on the flight.

A spokesman for Providence Alaska said he couldn’t provide any information about the patient’s medical situation due to confidentiality laws.

It’s not unusual for the hospital to call numerous air ambulance providers, Providence spokesman Michael Canfield said. “We typically reach out to all the ambulance services to request assistance.”

The Security Aviation plane left Anchorage with the Medevac Alaska team around 6:30 p.m. Friday and crashed around 7:10, authorities said.

Weather and logistics prevented a federal aviation investigator from reaching the crash site immediately. Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group recovered the bodies of the victims midafternoon Sunday.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Noreen Price described the wreckage as “highly fragmented” and involved in a post-crash fire, according to Clint Johnson, the agency’s Alaska chief.

A number of people driving the Sterling near Mile 61 saw the crash 1,400 or 1,500 feet above the highway, Johnson said. Four or five witnesses had contacted investigators, he said, with more still coming in.

The plane was registered to a company called Fly 4 You Inc., which does business as Security Aviation, a company representative said. Security flew with Medevac Alaska teams on a regular basis.

Medevac Alaska LLC is a small air and ground EMS service located primarily in Anchorage.

The company was formed in 2016 and has a little over a dozen employees including RNs, paramedics and EMTs, according to operations manager Cory Hughes. The company operates ground ambulances and medical crews and has agreements or contracts with air carriers -- including Security Aviation -- to provide aircraft for medical evacuations, Hughes said.

“As you can imagine right now, we are primarily focused on taking care of the families of Robert and Maddox and the rest of our Medevac Alaska family,” he said in an email.

The crash marks the second fatal accident involving an air ambulance in Alaska this year. Three Juneau-based crew members with Guardian died after their Beechcraft King Air 200 turboprop went down near Kake in February. The flight left Anchorage for the roughly 600-mile trip to a patient pickup in the Tlingit village but never arrived.

Original article can be found here ➤

Glen Morthorpe, shown in 2006 as a flight instructor at Take Flight Alaska, piloted the Security Aviation plane that crashed on November 29th.

Medevac Alaska

With the permission of the families and with a heavy heart we can announce that RN Robert Cartner, and MICP Maddox Burts were lost in the accident.

I could go on for pages on what this team meant to both us as a company as well as co-workers and friends but the simple truth is that these two gentleman made us better, better as a company, better as providers, and better as human beings.

We ask that your well wishes and prayers are with them and their families in the upcoming days and weeks.

In Memory of Team One

Alaska State Troopers search by air for a missing Security Aviation flight off the Sterling Highway near Cooper Landing. 
November 30th, 2019

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — The overdue Security Aviation flight believed to have crashed west of Cooper Landing Friday night was chartered by Medevac Alaska according to Medevac Alaska Operations Manager Cory Hughes and a spokesperson for Security Aviation.

Hughes confirmed the flight left Anchorage around 6:30 p.m. with the Seward Airport as its destination, and was later reported overdue.

The three people on board the plane were two Medevac Alaska flight crew members and a Security Aviation pilot according to Hughes.

Alaska State Troopers said in a dispatch Saturday night that no survivors are expected, and that Alaska Mountain Rescue Group is organizing a group to try and reach the crash site, located about 15 miles west of Quartz Creek Airport, on Sunday.

Dwindling daylight hours and snow at higher elevations could complicate efforts to reach the site.

An Alaska Rescue Coordination Center crew flew over the crash site Friday night, but weather conditions and terrain prevented rescuers from reaching the location on foot.

Original article can be found here ➤

The Alaska Mountain Rescue Group is organizing to initiate a ground response into the Jean Lake area west of Cooper Landing on Sunday following reports of an aircraft crash there on Friday evening.

The report of the crash was called into the Soldotna Trooper Dispatch just after 7 pm on Friday evening and RCC dispatched aircraft to the crash site. They were unable to land because of adverse terrain and inclement weather.

On Saturday afternoon the Department of Public Safety Helo-3 flew into the scene with ah NTSB investigator aboard and did an overflight of the site but they too were unable to land.

The aircraft has been identified as a Piper PA-31-350 Navajo operated by Security Aviation. Authorities say they do not expect to find any survivors in the incident. The aircraft burned following the crash.

Security Aviation released a statement following the crash, saying “We are devastated to learn the three people aboard our Piper Navajo are believed to have perished Friday near Cooper Landing at approximately 7:15 p.m.,” they wrote. “Our hearts go out to their families, friends, and loved ones. We are working closely with the NTSB, the FAA, and other appropriate agencies as they conduct their investigation. At this time, our priority is assisting the affected families, and our staff. We have voluntarily implemented a safety stand-down, suspending all operations until further notice. We are grateful for the first responders and volunteers assisting in the response, and will provide more information at the appropriate time.”

Original article can be found here ➤

Location: Cooper Landing
Type: SAR/Body Recovery
Dispatch Text:

On 11/29/2019 at approximately 1912 hours, Soldotna Dispatch received multiple reports of an aircraft crash near Jean Lake, west of Cooper Landing. Aircraft dispatched by RCC responded and located the crash site, but was unable to land due to weather and terrain. On 11-30-19 at approximately 1430 hours DPS Helo 3, with NTSB investigator onboard, conducted an overflight of the crash site but was unable to land in the area. The involved aircraft has been identified as a Piper PA-31-350 operated by Security Aviation. There were believed to be three souls onboard; no survivors are expected. The Alaska Mountain Rescue Group is organizing a ground response to the crash site on 12-1-19.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — A Security Aviation flight with three people on board is believed to have caught fire after crashing under unknown circumstances Friday evening about 15 miles west of Quartz Creek Airport.

According to preliminary information from Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Ian Gregor, a twin-engine Piper PA-31 carrying three people was flying from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport to Seward Airport Friday evening when the flight was reported overdue.

Gregor says Security Aviation was operating the flight, though it's not yet known if it was a chartered for-hire flight.

A statement provided to KTUU by a spokesperson for Security Aviation confirmed the flight was operated by the company.

"It is with heavy hearts that we confirm that on November 29, 2019 at approximately 7:15 p.m., a Security Aviation Piper Navajo with three people onboard was reported overdue and is presumed missing. A search and rescue effort is underway," the statement says. "Security Aviation is working closely with all appropriate agencies, and will issue a full statement when more information becomes available.”

The conditions of those on board is currently unknown.

Alaska State Troopers are coordinating with volunteer Search and Rescue groups to reach the location of an aircraft believed to have crashed outside of Cooper Landing.

According to Tim DeSpain with AST, dispatch began receiving reports of a crash Friday night shortly after 7 p.m.

An Alaska Rescue Coordination Center crew flew over the crash site Friday night, but weather conditions and terrain prevented rescuers from reaching the location on foot.

Troopers are currently working with volunteer Search and Rescue groups to reach the crash site with NTSB investigators.

NTSB officials are searching for witnesses who may have seen a fireball on a hillside near Jim's Landing from the Sterling Highway.

Original article can be found here ➤

A plane from Anchorage with three people on board crashed Friday evening outside Cooper Landing, according to officials.

Troopers began receiving reports of the crash shortly after 7 p.m. Friday, Alaska State Troopers spokesman Ken Marsh said in an email Saturday morning. It was unclear if there were any survivors.

The Security Aviation, Piper PA-31 Navajo, was confirmed to be chartered by Medevac Alaska, according to statements from both companies. Two Medevac Alaska crew members were on board, and no patients were being transported at the time, according to Cory Hughes, Medevac Alaska operations manager.

The companies said the plane was reported overdue around 7:15 p.m. Friday.

Rescue coordinators were able to fly over and locate the crash, “but weather and terrain prevented placing boots on the ground,” Marsh said. Troopers and volunteer search and rescue groups were working to reach to the site of the crash Saturday.

National Transportation Safety Board Alaska chief Clint Johnson said the agency is following up on the search for the plane, which left Anchorage at around 6:30 p.m. Friday and was flying roughly toward Seward.

Original article can be found here ➤

Alaska State Troopers and volunteer search and rescue organizations are working together to find survivors of plane crash outside Cooper Landing.

According to troopers spokesperson Ken Marsh, Soldotna dispatchers first got reports of the crash just after 7 p.m. Friday.

The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center flew over the site, but weather kept anyone from searching from the ground right away. Crews are coordinating efforts to reach the crash site Saturday morning.

Security Aviation said Saturday one of its Friday night flights from Anchorage to Seward carrying three people was overdue to its destination.

Original article can be found here ➤


  1. The flight departed at 1830, sunset is 1600. I'm struggling with this- 15 miles West of Quartz Creek would put them around Upper Skilak. It was cloudy that night (don't know what ceilings were in the area, I wasn't up there that day) but did they have a malfunction that brought them down or was he shooting the pass in the dark? And why the medevac from Seward to Anchorage, a 3 hour drive? Very early, I know, but just seemingly unnecessary loss of life.

  2. 2 companies declined Seward flight before fatal crash
    Monday, December 2nd 2019, 3:33 PM AKST

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - An air ambulance that crashed on the Kenai Peninsula was on a flight to a location that other companies had declined.

    The Anchorage Daily News reports one air ambulance service Friday night declined to make a trip from Anchorage to Seward and another company said it would not make the flight until Saturday.

    A pilot for Security Aviation and a two-person medical crew from Medevac Alaska died in the crash.

    Alaska State Troopers are waiting for confirmation from the state medical examiner before releasing names of people on board.

    LifeMed Alaska chief operating officer Steve Heyano said his company declined the flight because of bad weather.

    Guardian Flight in a statement said it put a request for a patient transport from Seward on hold but did not say why.

  3. Most of us that used to work there feel like this was an unnecessary loss of life due to practices of the Medevac company and the flight company.

  4. Without a helicopter available it's at a minimum of three hour vehicle drive.

  5. They found a company that said 'we will go'; when others wouldn't accept the risky workload.

  6. Sometimes a three hour drive, minimum, is a better choice.


  7. Commercial pilots truly make life and death decisions when they choose to make specific flights in marginal conditions as well as normal conditions. Unfortunately, commercial pilots have killed thousands of people as well as themselves. It’s a truly unique line of work.

  8. Pilot definitely had the knowledge, experience and confidence to try the flight. He had probably flown in worse conditions many times before. Perhaps a mechanical failure? They lost their lives trying to save one. Hope the patient survived.

  9. I used to risk my life for crap like this.
    No more. If you die, you die.