Air ambulance slides off Anchorage runway

Michelle Theriault Boots

A LifeMed Learjet carrying a patient skidded off a runway after encountering icy conditions on its descent into Ted Stevens International Airport Monday night, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

No injuries were reported.

The plane sustained some damage but it's unclear how extensive it is, said Clint Johnson, an investigator with the NTSB.

The Learjet 35A, owned by Hillsboro, Ore.-based Aero Air, is leased by LifeMed Alaska, the second-largest air ambulance company in the state.

It was returning to Anchorage from Kenai after picking up a patient, Johnson said.

Shortly before 10 p.m., the plane encountered "some pretty extensive icing" as it approached the airport's east-west 07R runway from Cook Inlet, Johnson said.

The plane's anti-icing system was ineffective, Johnson said, and pilots were already "committed for approach."

"They were unable to see exactly where they were," Johnson said.

With visibility limited as the Learjet touched down about a third of the way down the runway, the plane veered to the right. The right wing struck a snow bank, pivoting the plane around.

The crew of two pilots, two flight paramedics, a flight nurse and the patient were uninjured. Citing privacy concerns, LifeMed has not released the patient's name and medical condition or the names of the crew. The NTSB doesn't release pilot or crew names, said Johnson.

The patient was sent to an Anchorage hospital, his intended destination.

"The crew did everything they were supposed to do," asserted Tim Nixon, the director of flight operations for LifeMed Alaska.

Anchorage-based LifeMed Alaska came into being with the 2008 merger between the former Providence-owned LifeGuard Alaska and AeroMed International, which was a division of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp.

In 2007, a LifeGuard helicopter crashed into Prince William Sound near Whittier, killing all four onboard.

Nixon said that he believed this was the first time a LifeMed incident involving aircraft skidding off a runway.

The NTSB is investigating why the icing system was ineffective and what weather advisories the pilots received before making the decision to land, among other aspects of the incident, Johnson said.

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at or 257-4344.

Anchorage Daily News