Deadly Mid-Air Plane Crash Near George Inlet

On Monday, May 13, 2019, two small planes collided in mid-air, killing at least six people. Two sightseeing planes collided around 12:12 PM near Ketchikan after one plane quickly descended hundreds of feet, according to officials.  Passengers on both planes were in Alaska as guests on a Royal Princess cruise ship that left from Vancouver on May 11, 2019. The plane that descended was returning from a tour of Misty Fjords with 11 passengers on board. The pilot of that plane survived and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials want to interview him about the events that transpired. The plane was operated by Taquan Air, which is a regional carrier that operates sightseeing tours and also flies regularly scheduled flights.

The other plane, operated by Mountain Air Service, was carrying four passengers and a pilot.  Both planes were small float planes and neither had so-called black boxes, meaning that flight data recordings were not made. Both planes were operating in an unrestricted area, meaning that neither was required to be in contact with air traffic controllers. The debris field created by the collision is large and partially on land and partially in the water. A total of 16 people were involved in the crash and six have died.

Incredibly, another Taquan Air deadly crash occurred a week later on May 20, 2019, killing the pilot and a passenger.  According to the NTSB,  preliminary information indicates that the accident occurred as a Taquan Air de Havelland DHC-2 Beaver floatplane was landing in the harbor of Metlakatla, Alaska.

Unfortunately, small plane crashes are common in Alaska, especially when the planes are operating in uncontrolled air space. While all pilots make it a priority to keep their planes and passengers safe, this type of flying is inherently dangerous and requires constant vigilance to maintain safe distances between planes. The NTSB is investigating these incidents and hopes to have preliminary reports available within a few weeks. It is important to note that the Taquan Air flights were commercial flights while the Mountain Air flight was considered a general aviation flight, meaning that the flights were operating under different requirements and different regulations.


Common Causes of Small Plane Crashes

Small plane crashes are all too common, with at least three small plane crashes having occurred within the last month in the contiguous states (one each in Alabama, Washington and California). Common causes of these crashes include:

  • Poor weather conditions including strong winds, rain, and fog
  • Poor visibility
  • Mechanical issues
  • Human error, often brought on by inexperience or poor judgment created by unfamiliar circumstances


Who is Liable in a Case Like This?

Cases such as this require thorough investigation to determine who is at fault. Given that it appears that the cruise line facilitated two of these flights, there will always be a concern as to whether they properly vetted the companies conducting the flights. Of course, the companies operating the flights will also come under scrutiny for the maintenance and upkeep of their planes. The qualification of the pilots and their actions will also be investigated to determine possible liability. In this instance, the NTSB will make a determination as to the cause of the accident and only time will tell.

With the continued expansion of sightseeing flights in Alaska, unfortunate accidents are bound to happen. Innocent people get hurt and even lose their lives. It is the responsibility of the pilots, airlines, and those hiring their services to ensure passenger safety. If you have been injured or a loved one was killed in an airplane crash in Alaska, there are attorneys who have the expertise to help you. The skilled legal professionals at Power & Power Law in Anchorage have decades of experience helping airplane crash victims. Give us a call today at 907-222-9990 or toll free at 833-669-9990 or click here to set up your initial consultation to see what we can do for you.