This photo, posted Sunday, June 28, 2015, on the Twitter page of the National Transportation Safety Board, shows the wreckage of a sightseeing plane that crashed in remote, mountainous terrain about 25 miles from Ketchikan in southeast Alaska on Thursday, June 25. All eight pasengers and the pilot were killed. The plane was on its way back from the Misty Fjords National Monument when it crashed. The eight victims were passengers on a cruise ship, and the side trip on a floatplane was sold through the cruise company Holland America. (National Transportation Safety Board via AP)

This photo, posted Sunday, June 28, 2015, on the Twitter page of the National Transportation Safety Board, shows the wreckage of a sightseeing plane that crashed in remote, mountainous terrain about 25 miles from Ketchikan in southeast Alaska on Thursday, June 25. All eight pasengers and the pilot were killed. The plane was on its way back from the Misty Fjords National Monument when it crashed. The eight victims were passengers on a cruise ship, and the side trip on a floatplane was sold through the cruise company Holland America. (National Transportation Safety Board via AP)

Crashes in Alaska brought safety steps for tourism flights

  • By Becky Bohrer
  • Monday, June 29, 2015 10:06pm
  • News

JUNEAU — A federal agency installed weather cameras and took other steps in Alaska in recent years to aid the safety of sightseeing planes like the one that crashed last week and killed all nine people aboard, officials said Monday.

The locations of the webcams include Misty Fjords National Monument in southeast Alaska, where the plane operated by Promech Air crashed on a cliff above a lake.

The cause of the crash has not been determined and an investigation was continuing.

The safety measures were implemented after two sightseeing planes crashed within a month in 2007, killing 10 people and raising concerns about Federal Aviation Administration oversight of the Alaska air tour industry and pilot training to deal with weather conditions.

In the eight years prior to 2007, there were five fatal air tour crashes in Alaska, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said by email.

“A lot of people down south think we’re just a bunch of reckless cowboys up here who don’t care about safety, which couldn’t be further from the facts,” said Kevin Roof of Taquan Air, which operated a Misty Fjords flightseeing plane that crashed in 2007.

He welcomed the steps that have been taken to make aviation in Alaska safer.

The weather cameras have “made a huge difference in making a go or no-go decision,” Roof said about flights, noting the company no longer has to send a scout to check the weather on questionable days.

The webcams provide glimpses of near-current conditions, with images updated every 10 minutes, according to the FAA. The images can be compared with the view on a clear day.

Officials with Alaska aviation safety groups say strides have been made to improve flight safety in general in a state notoriously treacherous for pilots — many times because of weather.

All air tour operators with more than one pilot must now put their pilots through the training program, Gregor said.

Among other things, the FAA created a computer program that gives pilots a visual display of the route to and from Misty Fjords, and air tour companies can program in different weather scenarios so pilots can see what they might encounter and know when they should turn around for safety reasons, he said.

Every region of the nation’s largest state has its own unique weather systems and patterns.

Ketchikan, like most of southeast Alaska is in a rainforest, where subtle temperature changes in the high-moisture content can make clouds suddenly appear or disappear.

Weather continuously shifts in mountainous southeast Alaska, making for different conditions in a small geographic area. It can be beautiful in Misty Fjords National Monument but horrible just a few miles away in Ketchikan.

Officials have not released any details about the weather at the site of the crash last week. The eight passengers on the plane were on an excursion offered through Holland America Line. The pilot also was killed.

Holland America has suspended flightseeing tours operated by Promech, cruise line spokeswoman Sally Andrews said by email.

No decision has been made on the length of the suspension, she wrote.

Andrews said Holland America will continue offering flightseeing excursions in Ketchikan and other Alaska ports but has offered guests a chance to cancel any currently booked flightseeing excursion this week with a full refund.

Associated Press reporter Mark Thiessen contributed to this report from Anchorage, Alaska.

More in News

The Homer Spit stretching into Kachemak Bay is seen here on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020 in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Homer woman indicted over seaplane incident

Marian Tillion Beck was indicted on charges of negligent operation of a vessel and attempted interference with the navigation of a sea plane

Soldotna High School can be seen in this Sept. 2, 2021, photo, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion file)
‘Little Sweethearts’ family dance to debut at SoHi

The event will be hosted by SoHi’s freshmen student council

Soldotna City Council members interview city manager applicant Elke Doom (on screen) during a special city council meeting on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Doom, Bower named finalists for Soldotna manager gig

The two will visit Soldotna for in-person meetings on Feb. 7 and 13, respectively

The northern fur seal rescued by Alaska SeaLife Center staff is seen on Jan. 31, 2023, at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kaiti Grant/Alaska SeaLife Center)
Northern fur seal pup admitted to SeaLife Center rescue program

The pup was reported by Sitka residents using the center’s 24-hour stranding hotline

The Kenai Community Library children’s section is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Literary competition returns to local schools

Battle of the Books aims to instill in kids a love of reading

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire
Climate activists hold a rally outside the Alaska State Capitol Friday afternoon in advocacy for legislative action to improve Alaska’s renewable energy development and future sustainability.
Climate activists hold rally near the Capitol

Statewide organizations advocate for legislative action

Shanon Davis, the executive director of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, hands out candy during the Sweeny’s St. Patrick’s Parade in Soldotna on March 17, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Davis to step down as Soldotna chamber head

Davis oversaw the implementation of Soldotna’s “Holding Our Own,” shop local program

Golden-yellow birch trees and spruce frame a view of Aurora Lagoon and Portlock Glacier from a trail in the Cottonwood-Eastland Unit of Kachemak Bay State Park off East End Road on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong)
State parks advisory boards accepting applictions

Alaska State Park advisory boards provide state park managers with recommendations on management issues

Most Read