A holiday cruise turned tragic for eight passengers on board a sightseeing float plane which impacted a rock face in the Misty Fjord National Monument Wilderness. On June 25, 2015 the vacationers from Maryland, California, Nevada and Oregon boarded a Promech Air de Havilland DHC-3CT Otter turboprop aircraft for a sightseeing excursion as part of their cruise on the MS Westerdam operated by Holland America Line. The trip was part of a tour called CruiseFly which consisted of two groups of passengers from the MS Westerdam; one group that boarded the sightseeing aircraft and another that boarded a marine vessel. The two groups then met at a floating dock in Rudyard Bay and switched modes of transportation to meet back at the cruise ship in Ketchikan, Alaska. The crash occurred on the aircraft’s return leg to the cruise ship.
The aircraft bearing Federal Aviation Registration Number N270PA was owned by Pantechnicon Aviation located in Minden, Nevada and operated by Promech Air. When the aircraft failed to return to the ship in Ketchikan, the operator, Promech Air, began a search for the overdue aircraft. It then heard an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal on the aircraft’s intended route of flight. An ELT is a device that automatically activates after a crash to help determine the location of the aircraft. A helicopter was then dispatched to the site of the ELT transmission but could not search the upper levels of the mountainous terrain due to poor weather which limited visibility. After the weather improved, the helicopter was then able to search the upper levels of the rock face where the wreckage was discovered.
The National Transportation Safety Board is conducting its investigation into the crash. It was determined that the aircraft impacted the rock face in a nose high wings level attitude approximately 1600 feet above mean sea level. The wreckage then slid down the rock face approximately 35 feet where it came to rest. Recovery efforts have been hampered by the treacherous terrain forcing the NTSB investigators to use ropes to access the site. The wreckage will ultimately be transferred to a secure facility in Ketchikan where a detailed examination of the wreckage will take place. All eight passengers and the pilot were killed.
The investigation will certainly focus on weather conditions at the time of the crash which were reported to consist of heavy overcast skies with rain and mist. The aircraft was equipped with an avionics package that assisted the pilot with terrain recognition as well as a moving map display that depicted terrain awareness information. The investigation will also undoubtedly focus on the aircraft itself to determine whether its engine and systems were operating normally prior to impact.
The partners at Speiser Krause extend their deepest sympathies to the families who lost loved ones in this tragedy.