A rash of small plane crashes late this summer in Alaska has pushed the number of crash related fatalities past last year’s total, according to National Transportation Safety Board Alaska Region chief Clint Johnson.
In comparing Thursday’s date with Sept. 10 of last year, Johnson says the actual number of light plane crashes is down.
“In 2012, we had a total of 98 accidents; in 2013, on September 10, we had a total of 85,” Johnson said. “However, that’s where the similarities change.”
“Last year, in September 2012, we had 10 fatalities and, unfortunately, this year, we have 32 fatalities, which is pretty surprising.”
The crash of an experimental home-built airplane took the life of Big Lake pilot Kenneth M. Whedbee, and seriously injured passenger Jason Scott.
Johnson says late summer and fall tends to have more fatal plane crashes.
“Obviously, during the latter part of August September, historically for our office has always been a busy season,” he said. “However, this year, it seems to be a little busier in years past – no doubt about it.”
He says it is too early to tell if there are determining factors related to all the crashes.
“Keep in mind that all of these investigations; these most recent accidents here are still very much in progress, whereas they’re still in the very preliminary stages,” Johnson said. “So, it’s way too early to look and see if there are any similarities between any of the accidents.”
NTSB keeps records on the number of crashes and fatalities on a calendar that runs Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.
Johnson says a crash in Soldotna in July took 10 lives, another at Merrill Field in Anchorage recently took two more, while a plane crash on Sept. 5 killed one man.
Other light plane accidents ended without fatalities.
Two men walked eight miles to safety after their plane went down near Nondalton earlier this month, and three men were rescued after their helicopter iced up and was weathered in on Mt. Mageik at Katmai National Park.
A pilot and passenger survived a crash into a lake near Talkeetna over the weekend.