Plane carrying 9 lands safely after unexpectedly plunging thousands of feet during flight, NTSB says

A passenger plane suddenly dropped and was severely damaged during a flight Monday near Fairbanks, but no one was injured, a National Transportation Safety Board official said.

Eight passengers and their pilot boarded a Cessna 208 Caravan owned by Wright Air Service on Monday afternoon at the Fairbanks International Airport, said Clint Johnson, chief of the NTSB Alaska office. The plane was scheduled to land in Huslia, he said. Around 2:50 p.m., less than a half hour into the flight, “there was some type of upset — we don’t know exactly what it was, but the airplane lost a significant amount of altitude,” he said.

In about a minute, the plane plummeted about 7,500 feet — going from about 10,700 feet altitude to about 3,200 feet, according to flight-tracking data from FlightAware.

The pilot was able to recover, turned the plane around and made an emergency landing at the Fairbanks airport, Johnson said.

While no one was injured, the plane sustained significant damage, Johnson said, including to the ailerons, a portion of the plane that allows it to turn.

It was not immediately clear if weather contributed to the incident. Rain persisted in the Fairbanks area Monday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Chriest. There was low cloud cover and visibility throughout the day, ranging from 6 miles in the morning to about 2 miles in the evening, he said.

The NTSB will be investigating, Johnson said.

“At this point right now, we’re trying to figure out what happened and what initiated the upset, so we just don’t know at this point,” he said.

Brett Carlson, an owner at Wright Air, said he is “extremely grateful that the pilot and guests returned to Fairbanks safely.”

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, focusing on breaking news. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota and previously helped cover the Nebraska Legislature for The Associated Press. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.