Friday, February 07, 2020

Piper PA-32R-300 Cherokee Lance, N7632C: Fatal accident occurred February 06, 2020 in Tuntutuliak, Alaska

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

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Anchorage, Alaska
Paklook Air, Bethel, Alaska 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Tuntutuliak, AK
Accident Number: ANC20FA017
Date & Time: 02/06/2020, 1110 AKS
Registration: N7632C
Aircraft: Piper PA32R
Injuries: 5 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter - Scheduled 

On February 6, 2020, about 1110 Alaska standard time, a Piper PA-32R-300 airplane, N7632C, sustained substantial damage during impact with terrain about 12 miles west of Tuntutuliak Airport (A61), Tuntutuliak, Alaska. The commercial pilot and four passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was operated by Paklook Air Inc., doing business as Yute Commuter Service, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 as a scheduled visual flight rules (VFR) commuter flight. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the departure and arrival airports at the time of the accident, and a company flight plan was filed. The flight originated from Bethel Airport (PABE), Bethel, Alaska, about 1040, and was destined for Kipnuk Airport (PAKI), Kipnuk, Alaska.

The pilot was conducting a scheduled flight from PABE to PAKI, then Chefornak Airport (PACK) and back to PABE with mail and passengers. The first flight segment was about 100 nautical miles (nm) to the southwest coastal village of Kipnuk. (See figure 1.) According to the company flight following log, the pilot called outbound at 1034. A pilot from another company stated that the accident airplane departed right before his airplane under a special VFR departure clearance and the cloud ceiling was 600 ft overcast.

Figure 1. The accident site and route airports

According to the company's flight following notes, the village agent from PAKI called the company flight follower at 1140 and reported the airplane overdue. The company president, who was exercising operational control, initiated their overdue airplane procedures. The Federal Aviation Administration, the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center and the Alaska State Troopers were notified. No emergency locator transmissions (ELT) were received. About 1315 the company dispatched two airplanes to search for missing airplane. A crew located the wreckage along the route from PABE to PAKI. An Army National Guard UH-60 based in PABE launched to the scene with two LifeMed medical personnel onboard who determined that the occupants had received fatal injuries.

On February 7, 2020, a team of Alaska State Troopers, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bethel Fire Department, Tuntutuliak search and rescue personnel and a National Transportation Safety Board investigator traveled to the accident scene via snow machine and airplane. The wreckage was highly fragmented along a westerly track about 390 ft long on level snow covered tundra at a GPS elevation of 37 ft. All major components were located at the scene. The wings were separated from the fuselage, with extensive damage to the right wing, which was in three sections. The main wreckage was at the west end of the debris pattern and consisted of the upright fuselage, empennage and engine sections. The engine and forward fuselage were displaced 80° to the right with extensive fore to aft crush damage. See figure 2.

Figure 2. N7632C wreckage at the accident scene

The airplane was not equipped with a tracking device, functional ADS-B, recorder devices or a GPS with non-volatile memory. The Bethel area does not have air traffic control radar services, therefore, there is no available track information for the flight.

A detailed wreckage examination is pending following recovery.

The pilot began initial training with Paklook Air on January 7, 2020, with total flight time of 611 hours. He completed a pilot competency check ride on January 27 and initial operating experience requirements on January 30. The accident flight was his fourth line flight and he had accumulated 30 hours in the accident airplane make and model before the accident.

The closest official weather observation station to the accident site was PABE located about 50 miles northeast of the accident site. The 1056 observation reported wind from 320° at 4 knots; 5 statute miles visibility in mist; overcast clouds at 800 ft; temperature 3° F; dew point 1° F; and an altimeter setting of 29.68 inches of mercury.

The PAKI weather observation at 1056 reported wind from 020° at 17 knots; 9 statute miles visibility in light snow, overcast clouds at 600 ft; temperature -8° F; dew point -11° F; and an altimeter setting of 29.70 inches of mercury.

In the hour after the accident, both the departure and intended destination airports reported low instrument flight conditions down to as low as ½ statute mile visibility in light snow, mist, and freezing fog with ceilings as low as 400 ft.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N7632C
Model/Series: PA32R 300
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Paklook Air Inc
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Commuter Air Carrier (135); On-demand Air Taxi (135)
Operator Does Business As: Yute Commuter Services
Operator Designator Code: T72A

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PABE, 102 ft msl
Observation Time: 1953 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 44 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: -16°C / -17°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 4 knots / , 320°
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 800 ft agl
Visibility:  5 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.68 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: Company VFR
Departure Point: Bethel, AK (BET)
Destination: Kipnuk, AK (IIK)  Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 4 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 5 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 60.351667, -163.023056 (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

Yute Commuter Service has released the name of the pilot killed in a plane accident on February 6th along the lower Kuskokwim River that also killed four passengers. The pilot, Tony Matthews, was flying a Piper PA-32R-300 Cherokee Lance from Bethel to Kipnuk that crashed about 11 miles southwest of Tuntutuliak.

“He was a great, great person,” said Yute Commuter Service General Manager Nathan McCabe about pilot Mathews. 

“It’s very unfortunate. The guy was a very happy, enthusiastic person. All I can say to be honest with you is he’s a great man, happy, a great worker. I couldn’t ask for anyone better,” McCabe said.

McCabe issued a statement from Yute in response to the accident: 

“On Thursday at approximately at 11 a.m., a Yute Commuter Service Piper PA-32R tail number N7632C, crashed about 11 miles west of Tuntutuliak while in route to Kipnuk and Chefornak, resulting in five casualties: the pilot Tony Mathews and four passengers. The names of the passengers are being withheld until the notification of their next of kin. The cause of the accident is unknown at this time. The NTSB will conduct a full and thorough investigation. Yute Commuter Service offers our deepest condolences of the families of those lost in this unfortunate event. We will be closed on February 7th, 2020. Yute Commuter Service is committed to do everything possible to provide safe and reliable air travel within the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.”

McCabe says Yute is offering counseling to its staff and gave workers the day off on Friday.

“We told them to please take the day, so they could gather their thoughts. It impacted our community very, very strongly,” said McCabe.

McCabe says his office is gathering information to give to the National Transportation Safety Board so they can investigate the crash. He says all Yute planes have been grounded since news of the accident, and he did not state when the airline would resume flights.

The names of the four deceased passengers have not been released. 

Original article can be found here ➤

Tuntutuliak Federal Aviation Administration weathercam view February 7th, 2020.

Frigid wind chills Friday on the Southwest Alaska tundra blocked attempts to reach the wreckage of a Yute Commuter Service plane crash that killed five people Thursday, troopers said.

The plane’s pilot and four passengers died in the crash 12 miles south of Tuntutuliak, troopers said Thursday night. The plane had left Bethel and was headed to Kipnuk, about 100 miles southwest of Bethel.

The air service on Friday afternoon identified the pilot as Tony Matthews. Yute’s general manager, Nathan McCabe, told KYUK that Matthews was “a very happy, enthusiastic person. All I can say to be honest with you is he’s a great man, happy, a great worker. I couldn’t ask for anyone better.”

The wreckage of the Piper PA-32R-300 Cherokee Lance was located at 1:50 p.m. Thursday after troopers were informed it was overdue.

An Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter was dispatched out of Bethel, said Candis Olmstead, the National Guard’s director of public affairs. Rescuers, including a trooper and two LifeMed Alaska medics, were on the scene at 4:15 p.m., Olmstead said.

On Friday, Alaska State Troopers were attempting to get back to the scene and move forward with recovery efforts. The scene is accessible only by snowmachine and air, according to Tim DeSpain, a public information officer with the troopers. The wreckage is in an area of flat, snow-covered tundra, said Clinton Johnson, chief of the Alaska Regional Office of the NTSB.

“They’re making every safe possible attempt that they can,” DeSpain said.

Wind chills were around 40 below zero Friday, he said.

Noreen Price, an investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board, was on her way to Bethel Friday morning from Anchorage to begin investigating the crash, Johnson said. In Bethel, she’ll coordinate with state troopers on investigations and recovery efforts, Johnson said.

A meteorologist from the NTSB is gathering archived weather information, Johnson said.

The plane’s wreckage will likely be taken to Bethel or Anchorage, Johnson said. NTSB investigations of this nature tend to take a year to 18 months, Johnson said.

Yute is a commuter airline based in Bethel, according to the company’s website, and flies throughout the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

In April of last year, a Yute charter flight on its way to Bethel from Aniak crashed and four people aboard the plane were uninjured, according to a troopers report. In November, a Yute pilot was uninjured after a crash in Goodnews Bay, about 115 miles south of Bethel, according to KYUK.

McCabe said Yute is offering counseling to its staff and gave workers the day off Friday while canceling all flights.

Original article can be found here ➤


An official with Yute Air Commuter confirmed with Channel 2 Friday the name of the pilot involved in the deadly plane crash near Tuntutuliak.

Yute’s general manager, Nathan McCabe, told Channel 2 the pilot was Tony Matthews.

Original Story

Five people are dead after a commuter aircraft crashed near Tuntutuliak in Southwest Alaska.

Alaska State Troopers say the Yute Commuter plane, traveling from Bethel to Kipnuk, was reported missing at 1:45 p.m. Thursday. Four passengers and a pilot were on board.

The plane was found within minutes, according to officials, in a location about 12 miles south of Tuntutuliak. All five people on board were confirmed deceased, AST said.

Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead with the Alaska National Guard said a Blackhawk Helicopter with AK Army National Guard arrived to the scene south of Bethel, near Tuntutuliak, at about 4 p.m. and returned to Bethel within the hour.

AST Spokesperson Tim DeSpain added Thursday evening that conditions in and around the crash site may make it especially difficult for an investigative and rescue or recovery effort to be executed, particularly with the rural nature of the crash location.

"It was relatively quick that the site was located," DeSpain said, "but the challenges can definitely come in with the difficulty of getting to the site and actually having boots on the ground."

DeSpain said attempts will be made Friday to get back into the site, weather permitting, and will likely include Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Wildlife Troopers, and the Bethel Fire Department. Alaska's National Transportation Safety Board chief, Clint Johnson, said an investigator was en route to the site as of Thursday, though he could not say whether or not that individual had already made it to Bethel.

When contacted by phone for a request for comment, a Yute Commuter representative simply said, "No comment." The company's Facebook page administrator posted a note around 3:30 p.m. that all flights for Friday, Feb. 7, had been cancelled, following a prior post stating that Thursday morning flights had been put on hold because of a low ceiling in Bethel.

Authorities are also working to notify the families of the victims and officials say their names cannot be released until that procedure is considered complete.

Original article can be found here ➤


  1. Preliminary report says it was a VFR flight, went forth under special VFR departure clearance, cloud ceiling was 600 ft overcast, IMC at both ends of the flight segment. Pilot had worked for them one month. RIP all.

  2. Photo in preliminary report shows left wing main gear in extended position, suggesting emergency landing attempt.