Grant Aviation pilot killed in Southwest Alaska crash

The pilot and sole occupant of a Grant Aviation plane was killed Monday in a crash on a Southwest Alaska mountainside, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The pilot was identified Tuesday morning by Alaska State Troopers as 54-year-old Gabriele Cianetti of Anchorage. Grant Aviation President Bruce McGlasson described Cianetti as an experienced bush pilot who worked at several other Alaska aviation companies before spending about 2 1/2 years with Grant.

An emergency locator transmitter signal from the Cessna 208B prompted the launch of an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, the Coast Guard said in a post on its Alaska Facebook page.

"The Jayhawk crew lowered a rescue swimmer to assess the wreckage but unfortunately the pilot did not survive," the Coast Guard wrote.

Cianetti was a dual citizen of the United States and Italy, where his family resides, McGlasson said. He was not married and did not have kids, but Cianetti was close with employees and customers, particularly those out of his home base of King Salmon and the crew in Dillingham, he said.

Petty Officer 1st Class Brent Flanick, with the Coast Guard's 17th District command center, said the Cessna was on a flight from Port Heiden to Perryville when the locator signal was detected just before 2 p.m.

"They spotted the wreckage at about 3,000 feet on one of the mountains," Flanick said.


McGlasson said Cianetti was on an "extra session flight." The pilot was taking mail to communities on and around the Alaska Peninsula, he added, "he was heavily loaded with cargo, mostly mail, some commodities."

A single passenger had been flying with Cianetti but got off the plane at Port Heiden, McGlasson said.

The helicopter crew was able to electronically confirm the plane's location, about 225 miles southwest of Kodiak, by about 4:20 p.m. Cloud cover prevented the Jayhawk crew from lowering a rescuer for another two hours.

Clint Johnson, the National Transportation Safety Board's Alaska chief, said the crash site was in steep, snow-covered terrain roughly 8 miles south of Chignik Lake. Investigators and Alaska State Troopers were hoping to travel there Tuesday, but cloudy weather may continue to hinder their efforts.

"Right now, we're trying to form a plan on how to get there and get this done," Johnson said.

Grant's Dillingham and King Salmon facilities were closed Tuesday in response to Cianetti's death, the company said on its Facebook page. Counselors will visit the locations Wednesday, McGlasson said.

"As the NTSB investigates the cause of the crash, we at Grant Aviation encourage our employees and customers to reach out to one another to share comforting words and memories of Gabe," Grant officials wrote.

Cianetti's remains were not recovered Monday, Flanick said.


Chris Klint

Chris Klint is a former ADN reporter who covered breaking news.

Jerzy Shedlock

Jerzy Shedlock is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2017.