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NTSB: Fourth flight of day for pilot in deadly Petersburg sight-seeing crash

Colleen Mondor

The pilot in a sight-seeing flight near Petersburg in Southeast Alaska that ended in one fatality and multiple injuries, two serious, told National Transportation and Safety Board investigators that the accident was his fourth flight of the day, according to a preliminary report. 

A Santa Fe, N.M., resident on the plane, 66-year-old Los Alamos National Laboratory engineer Thomas Rising, died in the June 4 crash. All six of the passengers, who scheduled the flight from the cruise ship Sea Bird, were members of the same Pennsylvania family.

At about 3:40 p.m. the float-equipped Dehavilland Beaver, operated by Pacific Wings, crashed in the trees at an elevation of approximately 912 feet, 14 miles west of Petersburg Airport. In an interview on June 6 the pilot, who suffered minor injuries, told NTSB investigators that he was attempting to fly through a mountain pass while en route to LeConte Glacier. He "initiated a left turn to avoid rising terrain and subsequently impacted the tree-covered terrain."

There were no reported mechanical anomalies prior to the accident.

The preliminary report states that visual meteorological conditions prevailed. A weather report at Petersburg Airport, issued at 3:36 p.m., reported calm winds, visibility 2 1/2 statute miles with light rain and mist, scattered clouds at 500 feet, broken clouds at 1,300 feet and overcast clouds at 1,800 feet. The accident aircraft departed from Petersburg Harbor at 3:19 p.m. In his interview, the pilot told NTSB investigators that the weather had deteriorated all day. Following the accident, troopers were unable to remove Mr. Rising’s body that night due to worsening conditions and the aircraft's precarious position.

According to the Federal Aviation Regulations that Pacific Wings operates under (FAR Part 135), single pilots may fly eight hours within a 24-hour period or within a 14-hour scheduled duty day. He may not be on the job in any capacity (flying or not) for more than 14 hours and must have had 10 hours of rest prior to reporting for work. It is unknown how the pilot’s duty time was scheduled and what his flight activity was in the day prior to the accident. This will be addressed in the final report, along with the accident’s probable cause. The final report will likely be released in the next nine to 12 months.

Contact Colleen Mondor at colleen(at)alaskadispatch.com


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