May 24, 2011 | Mark Paradies

Press Release from the NTSB: NTSB CITES PILOT’S TEMPORARY UNRESPONSIVENESS IN PROBABLE CAUSE OF AUGUST 2010 ALEKNAGIK, ALASKA ACCIDENT

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NTSB PRESS RELEASE
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National Transportation Safety Board
Washington, DC 20594

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 24, 2011 

SB-11-16

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NTSB CITES PILOT’S TEMPORARY UNRESPONSIVENESS IN PROBABLE
CAUSE OF AUGUST 2010 ALEKNAGIK, ALASKA ACCIDENT

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WASHINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the August 9, 2010, airplane crash into mountainous terrain near Aleknagik, Alaska, was the pilot’s temporary unresponsiveness for reasons that could not be established from the available information. Contributing to the investigation’s inability to determine more precisely what occurred in the final minutes of the flight was the lack of a cockpit recorder system with the ability to capture audio, images, and parametric data.

“One of the greatest lessons from this tragedy is the powerful reinforcement of the need for onboard crash resistant recorder systems,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “With onboard recorders, we can learn so much more from crashes like this one to prevent future tragedies and loss of life.”

On August 9, 2010, at about 2:27 p.m., a single-engine de Havilland turbine Otter floatplane carrying a pilot and eight passengers departed a private lodge on the shore of Lake Nerka en route to a remote fishing camp approximately 52 miles southeast on the Nushagak River.  The pilot was highly experienced and familiar with the route.  However, during the flight, the airplane turned toward the east- northeast, away from the intended destination and crashed into mountainous terrain at about 2:42 p.m.

The pilot’s medical history included an intracerebral hemorrhage on March 3, 2006. His most recent first-class medical certificate was issued on December 1, 2009.

“This tragedy also highlights inadequate FAA guidance related to the medical certification of pilots who have had a cerebrovascular event,” Chairman Hersman added.

As for the accident airplane, it was equipped with a variety of avionics designed to assist the pilot with navigation, situational awareness, and terrain avoidance.  However, the airplane was not equipped with a cockpit voice recorder, flight data recorder, or other crash resistant flight recorder.  Minutes prior to the crash, the last position report showed the plane on course. “What we do not know, and can never know,” Chairman Hersman said, “is what happened in the last three minutes of that fatal flight.”

A synopsis of the NTSB report, including the probable cause, conclusions, and safety recommendations is available at:

http://ntsb.gov/Events/2011/Aleknagik_AK/synopsis.htm.

The NTSB’s full report will be available on the website in several weeks.

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Media contact: Terry N. Williams (williat@ntsb.gov)

            (202) 314-6100

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