Solo Pilot dead in cargo plane crash near Skwentna




Searchers on Tuesday found a pilot dead in the crashed cargo plane he was flying from Wasilla to an Interior mine, officials say.

The Grumman C-1A was flying on Monday to Nixon Fork Mine, about 32 miles northeast of McGrath, said National Transportation Safety Board investigator Chris Shaver. It never arrived, and authorities called the Alaska Air National Guard for help finding cargo plane, which was carrying fuel, Shaver said.

After failing to find the plane Monday night, rescuers located it Tuesday morning near Skwentna, about 60 miles west of Wasilla, and discovered the pilot, who was the lone occupant, dead inside, said Guard spokesman Maj. Guy Hayes.

The Pilot's name has not been released, and the cause of the crash is unknown, as it is still under investigation, the NTSB said.

The C-1A took off from Wasilla about 2 p.m. Monday, Shaver said. By about 7 p.m., officials with the Federal Aviation Administration had been notified and were asking for help from the Guard, he said.

A helicopter crew in an HH-60 Pavehawk flew along the plane's flight path, scanning the ground with night-vision goggles, but they failed to locate the C-1A, Hayes said. The crew needed to take mandatory rest after other recent search-and-rescue missions, and since they hadn't found anything, they turned back, Hayes said.

Tuesday morning, the Guard's Rescue Coordination Center ordered the launch of an HC-130 Hercules with equipment to search for electronic signals. Shaver said the Hercules crew located the wrecked plane somewhere between Willow and Skwentna, 20 and 60 miles west of Wasilla, respectively. A Pavehawk helicopter carrying para-rescue jumpers was again dispatched to the plane, now with precise information about its location.

"The PJs hoisted down from the helicopter to a wooded area that contained the crash site," Hayes said. "They were able to identify the single occupant pilot, who was deceased."

Alaska State Troopers were en route to the crash site Tuesday in their helicopter, Helo 1, to confirm the pilot's identity. NTSB investigators would likely charter a helicopter Wednesday to get to the plane, Shaver said. Until then, the cause of the crash remains a mystery, he said.

Meantime, the search for a Palmer man flying home over the weekend from Soldotna continues. The pilot, Brendan Mattingly, is believed to have been flying a red, white and green Piper PA-18.

Hayes said neither the C-1A found crashed and Mattingly's PA-18 are equipped with newer emergency-locator transmitters, which would allow satellites to pinpoint their locations.

"They're just a lot more difficult to find," Hayes said.



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