Plane loses power; pilot makes emergency landing on Bethel -area lake

Kyle Hopkins

A Cessna 172 lost engine power while flying at about 1,500 feet Sunday night. With three passengers -- including a mother and young daughter on board -- the pilot was able to safely land the plane on the glare ice of a nearby lake.

That according to Alaska State Troopers and Yute Air, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta airline that was operating the short flight from Nunapitchuk to Bethel.

"It's looking like a crankshaft failure, which led to the loss of engine failure," said Dan Knesek, director of operations for Bethel-based Yute Air.

The pilot, who Knesek declined to name, "did an absolute excellent job" of safely landing the plane at about 6:45 p.m. on the lake ice in dark conditions, he said. The pilot has worked for the airline for about four months, Knesek said.

No was injured in the emergency landing, said Mike Riley, a member of the Bethel Search and Rescue team that retrieved the pilot and passengers.

Riley said the girl, who looked to be about 8 or 9 years old, rode the 7 miles to Bethel wrapped in a blanket, protected from the cold air by the snowmachine windshield.

The temperature at the time was about 0 degrees, with a windchill of about 17 below, Riley said.

"The plane was intact," he said. "The pilot did a really good landing on one of the lakes near the trail."

Medics examined the pilot and passengers in Bethel, troopers said.

Twitter updates: Call Kyle Hopkins at 257-4334 or email him at

Contact Kyle Hopkins at or on