The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating a plane crash after a Soldotna resident and his passenger hiked out from the crash site in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge last week.
Alaska State Troopers were made aware of a downed plane when a pilot reported it to the Rescue Coordination Center in Anchorage after spotting it in the Kenai Mountains near Dinglestadt Glacier on July 19, according to a July 21 dispatch. The pilot had been unable to land and locate the tail number, so troopers responded with search and rescue personnel. Upon locating the tail number and calling the plane’s owner, troopers discovered 24-year-old Joshua Mastre had been flying the plane when it went down in the refuge approximately 25 miles northeast of Homer on July 14.
“Mastre reported he was flying… when he was caught in a strong down draft which caused the plane to crash into the mountain,” the dispatch reads. “He was uninjured and hiked out.”
Mastre did not report the plane crash to the FAA or NTSB, according to the dispatch. Steve Miller, deputy manager at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, said Mastre did report the crash to the refuge days later, after he and an unidentified passenger hiked away from the crash site to meet a float plane.
“They called us a few days after it had gone down in order to recover the aircraft,” Miller said.
Miller said planes cannot be removed from refuge land without a permit, which he said Mastre is in the process of obtaining.
Plane crashes in the refuge are not entirely uncommon, Miller said. Last year, two planes went down and had to be recovered from refuge land.
Miller said, in hindsight, the refuge ought to have notified troopers of the crash, but that refuge personnel were unaware they hadn’t already been called.
Alaska State Trooper Public Information Officer Megan Peters said one reason it took troopers a while to find out about the crash is that they don’t generally consider the refuge as a source of aviation information.
“(Mastre) told somebody,” Peters said. “They self-rescued, which was awesome, (and) while they did call and tell somebody, it wasn’t an agency… that we would normally look at.”
Once troopers made contact with Mastre and determined no one was injured, Peters said their jurisdiction in the case ended.
“Aviation is dealt with on a federal level,” she said.
“Once we determine there’s nobody actually missing, we’re done.”
Ian Gregor, public affairs manager for the FAA Pacific Division, said in an email that federal regulations require plane crashes to be reported to the NTSB. He said both the FAA and NTSB will continue investigating the crash.
Attempts to reach Mastre for comment were not successful.
Reach Megan Pacer at firstname.lastname@example.org