Troopers release name of pilot who died in plane crash near Whittier

Update 7:30 a.m. Thursday:

Alaska State Troopers on Wednesday confirmed the identity of the pilot as Brett Andrews, 31, of Anchorage, after positive identification by the State Medical Examiner's Office. Andrews had been listed as the registered owner of the plane.

Original story:

A pilot's body was recovered on Sunday from the wreckage of an airplane crash near Whittier, an official said.

The student pilot had been flying solo to Valdez, where he was planning to keep the Piper PA 28-180 single-engine airplane for the summer, when the accident occurred, said Noreen Price, aviation accident investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board's Alaska Region.

The pilot took off from Anchorage's Merrill Field around 9:05 a.m. on Saturday, Price said.

Around 9:40 a.m., the Rescue Coordination Center got a signal from an emergency locator transmitter. The center began coordinating with the Alaska Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, Price said, but they weren't sure whether the emergency signal was valid.


At 2 p.m. Saturday, a family member called the FAA to report the overdue plane, Price said. At that point, an Alaska Air National Guard helicopter was launched, followed by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, Price said.

The plane was found around 9 p.m. on Saturday, Price said. One helicopter lowered a person to the site, who was able to determine that the pilot had died.

The pilot crashed about a mile south of Whittier. He impacted a mountain at about 2,000 feet altitude, Price said.

The pilot was near a flight path that follows Turnagain Arm and Portage Pass, a commonly-used route to Valdez, Price said.

The man's name has not been released. Alaska State Trooper spokesperson Megan Peters said Monday the agency was awaiting a positive identification on the body.

The plane's FAA registration number, provided by Price, shows the registered owner as Brett A. Andrews of Anchorage. Price was not able to say whether Andrews was the man who died.

Price said the airplane suffered significant damage to the nose section, which indicates a high speed of impact. The plane was found upright, and it appeared to have taken a slight right turn before the accident.

On Sunday, Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group made it to the site, and recovered the pilot's body.

The airplane is located in an avalanche-risk area of deep, wet snow, Price said.

The insurance company will organize the plane's removal from the mountain, Price said. Then, the airplane manufacturer, FAA, National Transportation Safety Board, and maybe the engine manufacturer will conduct an investigation to see if anything malfunctioned on the plane that may have contributed to the accident.

Student pilots are able to fly solo, Price said, so long as they have an endorsement from their flight instructor. The investigation will include a review of the pilot's training and whether that endorsement had been made, Price said.

A preliminary report will be out in seven to 10 days. The final report could take upwards of a year, depending on what information investigators uncover, Price said.

Laurel Andrews

Laurel Andrews was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Dispatch. She left the ADN in October 2018.