At Least Four Killed in Alaskan Tour Aircraft Midair

 - May 14, 2019, 12:34 PM

An NTSB Go-Team was scheduled to arrive this afternoon at the scene of Monday’s midair collision near Ketchikan, Alaska, between two float-equipped tour airplanes: a de Havilland Beaver and a DHC-3 turbine Otter carrying a total of 16 people. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, four people are known killed, 10 are injured, and two are missing. The passengers on both aircraft came from the cruise ship Royal Princess. At the time of the accident, VMC was reported. 

The single-turboprop Otter (N959PA) was operated by Taquan Air of Ketchikan. In a statement, the 40-year-old company said it is canceling flights while federal authorities investigate. The name of the other operator was not immediately released, but FAA records indicate that the registered owner of the ill-fated Beaver (N952DB) is Mountain Air Service, also of Ketchikan. There are no official reports of any previous serious accidents involving Mountain Air Service aircraft.

Taquan has been involved in three previous fatal accidents and one serious accident, according to NTSB data. On Dec. 12, 1996, a float equipped DHC-2 Beaver crashed during takeoff from the water near Port Johnson, Alaska. The pilot was killed and the passenger received minor injuries. The NTSB blamed the “pilot's inadequate compensation for wind conditions, and failure to maintain adequate airspeed, which resulted in an inadvertent stall and collision with water.”

On August 5, 1998, a float-equipped Cessna A185F was destroyed when it hit terrain about 24 miles northeast of Ketchikan, Alaska. The pilot and one passenger sustained serious injuries. The remaining passenger was killed. The NTSB determined the probable cause to be fuel starvation due to the pilot’s “improper fuel tank selection.”

On July 24, 2007, a Taquan operated DHC-2 Beaver was destroyed when it hit mountains about 40 miles northeast of Ketchikan, Alaska. The pilot and the four passengers were killed. Instrument meteorological conditions were reported in the area at the time of the accident. The NTSB determined the probable cause of this accident to be “the pilot's decision to continue under VFR into an area of IMC.”

Taquan was also involved in a nonfatal serious accident last year. On July 10, 2018, a DHC-3 turbine Otter crashed into Mount Jumbo on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska, in low cloud conditions. The aircraft sustained substantial damage. Of the 11 occupants on board, the pilot was uninjured, four passengers sustained minor injuries, and six passengers were seriously injured. This accident is still under NTSB investigation.