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N8385G accident description

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Tail numberN8385G
Accident dateJune 30, 1995
Aircraft typePiper PA-32-301
LocationKodiak, AK
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On June 30, 1995, approximately 2000 Alaska daylight time, a Piper PA-32-301, N8385G, sustained substantial damage when it collided with terrain while maneuvering in Buskin Pass, about five miles west of Kodiak International Airport, Kodiak, Alaska. The commercial pilot and his three passengers were fatally injured. The flight, operated under 14 CFR 135 as a non-scheduled air taxi flight, originated at Karluk, Alaska, about 1910, with a destination of Kodiak Municipal Airport, which is about six miles north of the Kodiak International Airport. A company flight plan was filed for the flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at Kodiak International Airport at the time of the accident. There was no fire, and no report of the ELT actuating.

The aircraft was the fifth of six aircraft that flew through Buskin Pass within an approximate thirty minute time frame. Each of the pilots encountered differing meteorological conditions, with one of them diverting to the north before returning to successfully traverse the pass.

The first pilot of the six aircraft, who was owner of Island Air Services, first approached Buskin Pass and, because of weather, decided not to enter the pass. Instead, he flew around to the north side of the island. He stated that he found marginal weather there, and he was about to divert to Port Lions when he heard the pilot of the second aircraft, from Seahawk Air, had made it through the pass. The first pilot stated that the weather had improved to good VFR with a light mist, from his first attempt ten minutes before. He stated that he had flown through the pass and landed before the accident aircraft crashed, and had heard no distress calls. In a written statement he stated that approximately 15 minutes before the accident he flew over the same route and the weather was VFR with adequate visibility, terrain clearance, and cloud separation. He could clearly see the Kodiak airport and the ocean from the pass.

The Seahawk Air pilot stated that he was returning from a trip to Kupreonoff Strait, returning to Kodiak via Anton Larsen Bay. He was communicating with the owner of Island Air on the radio and realized that he would be preceding him through Buskin Pass. He stated that the weather at the time in town was reported as 600 feet. He recalled that the Anton weather was about 1500 feet and the visibility was better than five miles. He stated that he slowed his aircraft and started through the pass; at the point that he could see the other side of the valley, he radioed to Island Air's owner, and reported the pass was open. He said he did not learn of the accident until later the same evening. He stated that the weather on that evening had been becoming worse and there was much low-lying stratus in the area.

The next pilot through was an Andrews Airways pilot, followed by an Island Air pilot. The Island Air pilot was number four in the line, and the pilot of the accident aircraft was about five to seven minutes behind him. He said that when he was in the pass, the accident aircraft was near Port Lions. He said that he could see very well and it was clear through the pass, and he became concerned when he made it through the pass and was unable to contact the accident aircraft by radio. He did not hear any distress calls. He then became aware of an ELT signal, and, upon returning to the Island Air facilities at the municipal airport, he and Island Air's owner drove out to the pass, where they discovered what had happened.

The pilot of the aircraft following the accident aircraft stated that he found good VFR weather in the pass.

The aircraft was found approximately 400 feet above sea level near the bottom of the pass. The accident was reported by a passer-by in a vehicle, who left the scene and called in the accident from a site near Buskin Lake. He did not witness the accident, but reported low fog and visibility at the time he sighted the wreckage. Alaska State Troopers responding to the crash site noted that about 2003 they were dispatched to the crash site. About 2019 they arrived at a location on the road adjacent to the airplane crash, which was located about 250 yards northeast of the Anton Larsen road. The cloud cover in the area of the crash appeared to be solid and hovering at about the 500 foot level. The crash site was located on the south side of Pillar Mountain.

A US Coast Guard Military Police Petty Officer, who preceded the troopers to the accident site, stated that from the roadside to the airplane was about 250 yards. When he looked up the hill toward the airplane he saw a lone tree above it; the fog appeared to be 30 feet over this tree. While he was up on the mountainside, he noted that the fog appeared to be lifting and dropping just as fast.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

According to company records, the pilot's date of hire was in January, 1995. He was given a checkride March 1, 1995.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

Island Air Services' FAA issued operations specifications that authorized the company to obtain and disseminate aeronautical weather data for the control of flight operations by doing the following:

Weather Conditions will be checked daily by visual observations at the base of operation. Current weather and forecasts will be obtained from the nearest FSS or other approved source for the area of operations. Sources to include but not limited to FSS, NWS, visual observations, local village observations and marine vessels in our operating area.

An employee of Island Air stated that he had checked the weather along the route for the company's three charter flights, including calling weather observers at Larsen Bay and Karluk. He did not contact FSS for weather briefings, and stated that none of the pilots involved did either. He said he monitored the flights using company flight-following procedures and that the round-robin flight for N8385G was for two hours and 30 minutes. He stated that he heard the flights returning and when he heard that one aircraft had gone down, he and another person went to the crash site; they stated that the weather at the site was sunny and good VFR. Three other Island Air employees went to the site and also stated that the weather was good VFR with the sun out.

COMMUNICATIONS

The pilot of N8385G made no radio contact with the Kodiak International Airport control tower. While en route, he had communicated with the other aircraft in the vicinity. According to an Island Air dispatcher who was on duty at the time of the crash, the pilot was near Larsen Bay about 1900. She could not reach him on the regular radio frequency, so she tried the side- band radio. She heard the pilot state that he was in Buskin Pass and about ten minutes out. She said his voice was calm and there seemed to be no problems. She did not hear any distress calls.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The wreckage was located in the Buskin River Pass about two miles past the golf course, on Anton Larsen Road, and approximately 1/2 mile past the switchback at the base at the southern side of 2420 foot elevation Pyramid Mountain.

The wreckage was on the north side of the pass, to the north of the road, which runs northwest to southeast from Larsen toward the Kodiak International Airport. The wreckage was about 300 yards from the road, and at about the same elevation as the road, with a shallow valley with a stream between the road and the wreckage. The wreckage was on a knob, with the nose of the aircraft pointed down steeply on a face of the knob, in a southeasterly direction, approximately parallel with the road. The elevation of the aircraft was measured at 390 feet with a hand-held altimeter. A ground impact scar with a furrow approximately 6 feet wide and three to four feet deep was found on a knob about 75 to 100 yards southeast of the wreckage. The elevation of that ground scar was measured as 425 feet with the hand-held altimeter. The left wing, including the left main landing gear, and two ground scars attributed to propeller slashes or strikes were found at that ground impact scar site.

The wreckage was on a steep slope on the knob estimated as about 45 degrees. The vertical fin and rudder were intact, with a small dent in the training edge of the rudder. The stabilator exhibited leading edge crushing and folding on its left side, The fuselage exhibited dents and folding forward of the vertical fin, and was partially separated aft of the left side cargo door. The left side of the fuselage was open, with the left wall open aft of the instrument panel, and the left flap remained with the fuselage. The nose was extensively crushed. The left horn of the pilot's control wheel was broken from the control wheel. The cabin floor and foot wells were compromised by crushing. The right wing remained attached at the spar attachment fittings, however it exhibited crushing and folding and forward displacement immediately outboard of the spar attachment fitting.

One blade of the propeller exhibited spanwise scratches and leading edge dents and impacts, and was bent through an approximate 30 degree arc, and was loose in its hub. The second blade remained embedded in the hillside. The powerplant was visually inspected, with no apparent preimpact damage or discrepancies noted.

Control cable continuity to the empennage was established. The right wing flap was extended approximately 15 degrees.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy of the pilot was conducted by the Alaska State Medical Examiner's office on July 18, 1995 in Anchorage, Alaska. That agency also performed toxicological testing, which noted 41mg/dl alcohol in the blood, with no alcohol detected in the urine. The urine tested negative for screened abusive drugs. The medical examiner stated that the cause of death was multiple blunt impact/deceleration injuries due the airplane accident. Additionally the medical examiner noted that the "small amount of ethanol present in the decedent's blood may be a consequence of postmortem production of ethanol by microorganisms, or, less likely, premortem ingestion of beverage alcohol."

ADDITIONAL DATA/INFORMATION

The aircraft useful load was approximately 1477 pounds. The pilot weighed about 184 pounds, with passenger weights estimated as 160, 175, and 185 pounds. Personal effects and cargo were estimated to be approximately 250 pounds.

The Safety Board did not take possession of the wreckage. After the on-scene investigation, the wreckage was removed through arrangements made by Northern Adjusters, Anchorage, Alaska.

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.