Alaska's high rate of accidents/incidents warrants Feds to review AK Safety - NTSB

Alaska needs a comprehensive review effort to improve aviation safety because its aviation fatal and non fatal accident rates are far higher than the national average, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday.

The NTSB issued a safety recommendation to the Federal Aviation Administration calling for the formation of a group focused on safety to better review, rank and integrate Alaska’s unique aviation needs into the FAA safety enhancement process.

We need to marshal the resources of the FAA to tackle aviation safety in Alaska in a comprehensive way," NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt said in a prepared statement. “The status quo is, frankly, unacceptable.”

Alaska’s aviation accident rate was 2.35 times higher than the rest of the nation from 2008 to 2017, the NTSB said. The fatal accident rate in the Alaska was 1.34 times higher than the national average, according to NTSB statistics.

The latest fatal crash occurred Feb. 6. A pilot and four passengers died when a Yute Commuter airplane crashed near Tuntutuliak in Southwest Alaska.

Aviation safety in Alaska has been an ongoing concern for the NTSB. The board in August 2017 met in Anchorage in a rare investigative hearing outside Washington, D.C., to increase awareness of “controlled flight into terrain” accidents, in which an airworthy aircraft is flown unintentionally into ground or water.

The hearing (That NTSB held in Anchorage) focused on an Oct. 2 , 2016, crash of a Hageland Aviation Services airplane into a mountain between the Southwest Alaska villages of Quinhagak and Togiak, two tiny communities off the road system. The crash killed two pilots and a passenger.

The two villages. like dozens of other Alaska communities, are not connected to the state road system. Flying is a way of life to reach such destinations. The challenge is increased by the need to cross mountain ranges, open water or regions where weather changes quickly.

Alaska also lacks infrastructure that is routine in other parts of the country, including technology that can provide certified weather information. Without certified weather information, flying under instrument flight rules is prohibited and must be conducted under visual flight rules.

Flying at an altitude of 500 feet is allowed under visual rules. Testimony at the 2017 hearing indicated that pilots sometimes turn off an airplane’s Terrain Avoidance and Warning System to avoid repeated alerts or hard warnings when an aircraft drops to 700 feet.

The FAA has initiatives to improve Alaska aviation safety. But the “silo-like” nature of the FAA’s sprawling organization makes it difficult to develop a comprehensive plan for a statesuch asAlaska, Sumwalt said.

The FAA in a statement provided by spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the agency has a long history of promoting safety initiatives in Alaska and strongly supports bringing together stakeholders to identify safety risk areas and potential solutions.

“The FAA will carefully review the recommendation that the NTSB issued today,” the agency said.

The NTSB recommendation was prompted in part by a September meeting in Anchorage in which aviation groups discussed how flying safety could be improved.

The September discussion focused on aviation regulations that cover charter and business flights. Participants discussed improving pilot training and consistently managing weather risks. But the challenges apply to all aviation operations, the NTSB said.

“All pilots must deal with Alaska’s challenging geography and weather,” Sumwalt said. “We need to give them all the tools and resources to do so safely.”

The FAA in its response said it holds pre- and post-season discussions with air tour operators to discuss safety lessons learned from recent operations.

The FAA has deployed 230 weather cameras throughout Alaska, providing pilots with visual weather information and updates every 10 minutes. The FAA continues to work with the National Weather Service to increase coverage of Automated Weather Observing Stations and forecast programs for 157 Alaska airports, the agency said.


WOW! i can see why tho, there is a lot of mountainous terrain and dangerous weather conditions such as updrafts from the mountains which cause problems for smaller aircraft


That’s part of the issue, I think about 99% of the time is “Get there Itis” and the company pushing on pilots to get from Point A to Point B. Up here you don’t mess with Alaska and every year people mess with her she kills. We are recovering from a plane crash that took place in November while its still under investigation I think everyone knows the cause sadly.


Interesting to know. Alaska is a crazy place for flying much of the time. I’d be interested to know what all they are going to do to fix the safety issues.

When it snows, I shovel the driveway of a commercial pilot with a bunch of ratings for all sorts of things. He’s older now, so he doesn’t fly much. He’s been all over the country. He says that a lot of pilots in the Lower 48 are scared to fly in Alaska. They say that Alaskan pilots are elite and must really know what they’re doing. Most of the time, yes, that’s true.


Everything from better reporting sites to more cameras to more Instrument infrastructure


All those (that @RotorGuy just mentioned) seem good to help safety in flight, but responsibility is also on the pilots as well. But these tools will help the pilots be prepared and at the top of their game. I hope to see the safety rate of Alaska flying get better soon.

Now that must be cool, @anon38496261! Not the shoveling part, but just the fact that he’s a pilot, and you like aviation.


Oh for sure pilots, I mean heck look at the Kobe incident and how that affected the rotor industry we just saw a guy land on a train track cause bad weather moved in. As aviators if we encourage good behavior it comes out!

Yeah, it was great when I figured that out. He’s probably like, 70 something so he can barely do the snow himself. He asked me to come in and sit down for a minute. He asks me, “So, Luke, what do you want to do when you become an adult?”

I told him a pilot for Alaska Airlines. He was surprised a little to have a chance encounter with someone who likes aviation like him.

So, we talked about planes for maybe an hour. I showed him a pattern in the 172 on IF. He thought it was pretty good.

And, yeah. It is pretty cool actually. Me and him talk about planes (or random stuff) sometimes, once I’m done with his driveway. I’m like a visitor for him because he lives alone. He’s nice.


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