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Aviation

Alaska aviation crashes bring federal board to Anchorage for roundtable on safety

  • Author: Alex DeMarban
  • Updated: September 6
  • Published September 6

The federal agency that investigates aviation crashes will hold a meeting Friday in Anchorage to find ways to improve safety in the industry in Alaska.

The National Transportation Safety Board will hear from experts to find solutions to “safety gaps” that officials believe have contributed to scores of accidents and deaths over the years, according to a statement from the agency.

The meeting is open to the public at Wendy Williamson Auditorium at the University of Alaska Anchorage, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. A live webcast will be at www.ntsb.gov/Part135-Akroundtable.

Since 2008, the NTSB has investigated has 182 crashes in Alaska, resulting in 74 deaths, involving the fixed-wing operations often associated with air taxis, flightseeing tours and charter operators.

The accidents have involved companies known as Part 135 operators, which are not required to meet the same safety requirements as airlines, the NTSB said.

“Unique terrain conditions, challenging weather, and congested airspace are factors (in the accidents)," the NTSB said.

But it said many of the accidents could have been avoided if operators implemented proper training and safety systems, including improved infrastructure and technology such as “flight data monitoring devices” that can be reviewed and used to reduce risk.

NTSB chair Robert Sumwalt will attend, alongside Dana Schultz, the agency’s director of aviation safety, and Kerry Long, administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration in Alaska.

It’s unusual for a chairman to be in Alaska for a board event, said Chris O’Neil, NTSB spokesman.

Previous chairwoman Debbie Hersman was the board member on scene for the 2010 floatplane crash near Aleknagik in which former Sen. Ted Stevens and four others were killed, he said.

On Friday, panels of experts will focus on problems such as midair collision hazards and controlled-flight-into-terrain accidents, when a pilot in control of an airworthy plane unintentionally flies it into the ground or water.

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