A cargo plane that crashed northeast of Dillingham last week, killing its pilot and copilot, smashed into "rising terrain" in poor weather, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.
The crash caused the Beechcraft 1900 to break into three main pieces and killed pilot Jeff Day, 38, and copilot Neil Jensen, 21, according to Alaska State Troopers. The plane is owned and operated by Alaska Central Express Inc., also known as ACE Air Cargo.
The Beechcraft took off from Anchorage about 5:45 a.m. March 8, landed as scheduled in King Salmon, and continued toward Dillingham, the NTSB report says. Day and Jensen were flying under an instrument flight rules flight plan, the report says. That means they were rated and authorized to fly through vision-obscuring weather using only the plane's instruments, if needed.
The Beechcraft's crew contacted an air traffic controller in Anchorage just before 8 a.m. It was in a holding pattern while the crew sought a report on the runway conditions in Dillingham when the controller lost contact with the plane, which also disappeared from radar, the report says.
Alaska Air National Guard rescuers headed to the area in a helicopter and plane after the Federal Aviation Administration issued an alert for the overdue plane about 8:30 a.m. After a night of difficult searching through low clouds and snowfall, a helicopter spotted the downed plane, landed and found Day and Jensen dead, troopers said.
The NTSB report describes the crash site -- about 20 miles northeast of Dillingham and 10 miles east of Aleknagik -- as steep and covered by ice and snow. NTSB investigators reached the plane the next day via helicopter and examined the wreckage, the report says.
The preliminary report will be followed by a factual report and, later, a determination on the cause of the crash.
Reach Casey Grove at email@example.com or 257-4589.
By CASEY GROVE