Anchorage — A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service floatplane that crashed in Lake Spenard on Sept. 30 had its wheels up to prepare for a water landing, though the pilot said it might have been traveling slightly faster than normal, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report earlier this month.
The flight originated at the King Salmon airport with a stop in Kenai before ending in Anchorage on Lake Spenard, the report said. The trip's purpose was to conduct an aerial survey of emperor geese on the Alaska Peninsula, according to Bruce Woods, a Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman in Anchorage.
The Quest Kodiak amphibious plane sustained substantial damage to the wings, tail and fuselage, the NTSB said.
The plane is one of four Quest Kodiaks owned by the service in Alaska, with another five elsewhere in the country, Woods said. It cost about $1.6 million, he said.
Heather Wilson, a biologist with commercial pilot certification and 1,650 flight hours including 560 hours in floatplanes, was flying it, Woods said. She was the lone person aboard at the time of the crash and had to make her way out of the plane when it went underwater.
"Before landing, the pilot said she configured the airplane for a water landing, by confirming the wheels were in the up position. She noted that her airspeed during the approach to the lake was slightly faster than normal," the NTSB preliminary report said.
During touchdown, the plane "veered violently to the right as though it 'caught a float' and the right wing struck the water," the report said. It then "pivoted sharply to the right, cartwheeled and the wreckage began to sink."
An NTSB inspection confirmed the wheels were in the up position. The weather was calm the afternoon of the crash. The pilot told the NTSB "there were no pre-accident anomalies with the airplane."