Longtime Brooks Range wilderness guide killed in floatplane crash after take-off attempt

A 75-year-old Fairbanks man died Wednesday after his floatplane flipped while taxiing after a take-off attempt, authorities say.

Jerald Stansel was the owner of a longtime Brooks Range wilderness guiding business, and led clients into what’s now Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve starting in the 1970s.

Stansel was piloting a float-equipped Cessna 185 at the Chena Marina airstrip in west Fairbanks on Wednesday afternoon when the crash occurred, according to Clint Johnson, Alaska chief for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Witnesses in the area said the plane flipped over forward while taxiing at slow speed, Alaska State Troopers said in an online report.

Troopers reported a plane upside down in the float pond at the marina, Johnson said.

“Our understanding is there was an attempted take-off that was aborted,” he said. “That’s where the plane rolled slightly to one side, nosed over and then became partially submerged.”

Stansel was extricated from the submerged plane and taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead, troopers said.


An NTSB investigator flew to Fairbanks on Thursday.

Stansel ran his guiding business, Alaska Fish & Trails Unlimited, for 40 years, according to the company website. It was up for sale. Stansel, a Vietnam veteran, said he was ready to retire. He told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in December that he wanted to spend more time with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Zaz Hollander

Zaz Hollander is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su and is currently an ADN local news editor and reporter. She covers breaking news, the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at zhollander@adn.com.