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Old 06-26-2015, 11:52 AM   #1
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Float Plane, Alaska

I found this worthy of mentioning here due to the number of persons here in Alaska and knowing at least one is a float plane pilot.

DeHavilland DHC-3T Otter, a floatplane, crashed in steep, mountainous terrain about 25 miles northeast of Ketchikan.

From CNN

A sightseeing plane carrying a pilot and eight cruise ship passengers crashed into a cliff in southeast Alaska, killing everyone on board.

"There are no survivors," said Promech Air, the plane's operator.

Because of poor weather conditions, the body recovery process won't take place until Friday, the Alaska State Troopers said.

The DeHavilland DHC-3T Otter, a floatplane, crashed in steep, mountainous terrain about 25 miles northeast of Ketchikan.

Authorities haven't determined why it went down.

The plane was on a shore excursion, sold through Holland America Line. A private helicopter pilot reported seeing the plane's wreckage against a granite rock face, 800 feet above Ella Lake.

"We are incredibly distressed by this situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with those on board the plane and their families," Holland America said.

The eight passengers were from the MS Westerdam, which left Seattle on Saturday for a seven-day round-trip cruise.

The plane had taken off on a tour of the 2-million-acre Misty Fjords National Monument, accessible only by floatplanes or boats.

"Towering granite cliffs, 1,000-foot waterfalls, lush and remote valleys and serene crystalline lakes make up this incredible landscape," the airline says in its website.

The names of the victims will be withheld until family members are notified.

"There is nothing I can say that can alleviate the pain and overwhelming sense of loss that we and the loved ones of those affected are feeling," said Marcus Sessoms, Promech Air's president. "At this moment, all of us share the pain and anguish of this terrible event."


June 16, 2014. We took a float plane to see Misty Fjords, a DeHavilland DHC-3T Otter.

That gives you pause. Reminds you to be thankful for every day and everyone in your life. Reminds you to make the most of each day because tomorrow is never guaranteed. These casualties were doing just that. Cruise to Alaska, Float Plane. Having the time of their life I'm sure. Unfortunately, it turned into the last time of their life. To all the families and friends, our condolences. To what I'm sure is a very shaken cruise ship of passengers and to what I'm sure is also a shaken community in Ketchikan. May strength be with you all as you struggle through this.
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Old 06-26-2015, 12:01 PM   #2
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Wifey B: Right now a horrible picture is in my mind. The incredible beauty of the Fjords, so peaceful, so calm. Representing the beauty and purity of nature. Blood splattered. I see the bodies of loved ones and the wreckage of a plane. The peace is broken by screaming and crying. I hear even the birds and animals calling out. Humpty Dumpty. All the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put Humpty together again.

This is just one of many tragedies around the world each day. But this one hits knowing we were there, knowing others we either know through here or through our trip there are impacted.

The words I really want to use I can't here...but they're something like ^%$@$(*)^RSS&$*(%%(%&
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Old 06-26-2015, 12:17 PM   #3
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Not long ago A Beaver went down in Ward's Cove. It's part of Ketchikan.
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Old 06-26-2015, 12:26 PM   #4
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We've flown and camped and fished the lakes in Misty Fjords many times. On nice days it's incredibly beautiful. On days of low visibility it can be incredibly dangerous. Many is the day we've stayed at a lake rather than take off because of the danger of getting getting into a cloud or fog, becoming disoriented, missing a pass and hitting a mountain or cliff. We've had to spiral up from a lake through littles holes in the cloud that forced me to climb in a 60-degree bank for two thousand feet, not something that's easy to do in a heavily loaded plane.

I've flown an Otter turbine conversion and it's a bit of a truck, fairly heavy on the controls and not as nimble as the Beaver. It's not a plane I would like flying in Misty Fjords through the narrow canyons and passes in poor visibility.

The tour planes tend to have a set route through the Fjords and I suspect the pressure to give the tourists the tour they're paying for is pretty high. It's the sort of thing that can lead to accidents, particularly if the pilots are not all that experienced in the area.

Promech is one of the older operators in the area; in years past they let us keep our Beaver at their facility when we visited Ketchikan as we were good friends with one of their managers, Mark Easterly, who sadly passed away from cancer long before his time.
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Old 06-26-2015, 12:28 PM   #5
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Here's my perspective as a float plane pilot, familiar with Alaska.

Cruise ship comes in...
Only in port for say 12 or 18 hours.

There is ALLOT of pressure on the pilots to make money while the cruise ship is in port. I'm not saying its external pressure, but I'll guarantee there is allot of internally generated pressure.

This pressure can lead to decisions being made that are not what the same pilot would normally make.

That's often when tragedy strikes.

Its not just the tourist town pilots either. Its guys trying to get back to their job. Its small commercial pilots in commuter applications that have a schedule to meet.

Heck, its even boaters... The difference is that boaters don't normally die, they just get the snot beat out of them by the ocean.

I flew light aircraft for a solid decade in bush Alaska. Always on floats. Made my share of pressure based good decisions, and a few bad decisions. Survived long enough to sell the plane and buy a boat, knowing what could happen.
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Old 06-26-2015, 12:31 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BandB View Post
Wifey B: Right now a horrible picture is in my mind. The incredible beauty of the Fjords, so peaceful, so calm. Representing the beauty and purity of nature. Blood splattered. I see the bodies of loved ones and the wreckage of a plane. The peace is broken by screaming and crying. I hear even the birds and animals calling out. Humpty Dumpty. All the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put Humpty together again.

This is just one of many tragedies around the world each day. But this one hits knowing we were there, knowing others we either know through here or through our trip there are impacted.

The words I really want to use I can't here...but they're something like ^%$@$(*)^RSS&$*(%%(%&
Seriously?

The sea you find so rewarding has been swallowing people forever.

Plane crashes in Alaska are forgotten and overgrown in no time.

The family and friends of everyone involved have their own thoughts...and for them I can relate.

I lost friends there.....doesn't blemish Alaska one tiny bit.

But Alaska, like a glacier, just keeps moving with time. Millenia are insignificant in its shadow.

You really don't want to think of animals and unrecoverable bodies....it will ruin your sensibilities in a second.

Along with what Kevin posted....be very wary of "group" tours for large operations...seems like a little too many like tour busses have troubled histories.
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Old 06-26-2015, 12:38 PM   #7
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I have been to Misty Fiords several times in the past 20 years to view the beauty of the Fiord and the majesty of her glaciers. I have watched the float planes making hard left 180s at the edge of the glaciers and cringed at the thought of a pilot's potential bad judgement. (The "Gs" some of these planes pulled in that maneuver must have been considerable.)
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Old 06-26-2015, 12:47 PM   #8
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Seriously?

The sea you find so rewarding has been swallowing people forever.

Plane crashes in Alaska are forgotten and overgrown in no time.

The family and friends of everyone involved have their own thoughts...and for them I can relate.

I lost friends there.....doesn't blemish Alaska one tiny bit.

But Alaska, like a glacier, just keeps moving with time. Millenia are insignificant in its shadow.

You really don't want to think of animals and unrecoverable bodies....it will ruin your sensibilities in a second.

Along with what Kevin posted....be very wary of "group" tours for large operations...seems like a little too many like tour busses have troubled histories.
Wifey B: Yes, seriously. I have compassion for those there. It hit because we flew there a year ago. And it doesn't ruin my sensibilities to see an ugly picture of things at this moment. I have ways of recovering. But I hope I never reach the point where tragedies and loss of lives become nothing more than newsprint to me. When we become callous to such, we lose our humanity.

We chartered a float plane just for us and those with us. It was a beautiful clear day. Had it not been, we would have said no.

Yes, the sea swallows people and I get p...ed off at it too when it does. As a Captain though I understand the sea more than I do the air.
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Old 06-26-2015, 12:59 PM   #9
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Promech is one of the older operators in the area; in years past they let us keep our Beaver at their facility when we visited Ketchikan as we were good friends with one of their managers, Mark Easterly, who sadly passed away from cancer long before his time.
We flew through Misty Fjord's Air. I just noticed the same planes and located down the street from Promech. Made me wonder if there's a connection or even if they're the same?
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Old 06-26-2015, 01:19 PM   #10
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I have been to Misty Fiords several times in the past 20 years to view the beauty of the Fiord and the majesty of her glaciers. I have watched the float planes making hard left 180s at the edge of the glaciers and cringed at the thought of a pilot's potential bad judgement. (The "Gs" some of these planes pulled in that maneuver must have been considerable.)
The standard procedure I was taught by very experienced mountain pilots for landing on a short lake surrounded by high mountains or cliffs where takeoffs and landings can only safely be made in one direction is to fly the downwind leg (which may not be downwind at all) with the right wingtip damn near in the trees growing up the slope as you descend fairly steeply, then turning a very hard, steep left at the end of the "bowl," again with the wing just a span or two from the slope or cliff, and rolling out lined up with the lake and dropping fast. Full flaps on a Beaver are to be used "only in an emergency" according to the manual, but I always use them on the very short final we'd roll out on to ensure landing too long on the lake.


The plane does not pull all that many g's because it is descending steeply as it's banking around at about 60 degrees (I never looked at the bank angle as it's a totally visual maneuver) and that tends to reduce the apparent g-effect.

I'm sure it's a pretty unnerving maneuver to watch but it's actually (assuming good visibility and good, responsive plane with a lot of power) a lot of fun to do, at least for the pilot. My wife is totally used to it but I suspect some of the friends that went with us on some of these trips found it a little worrying. As I recall, I describe this landing technique in pretty good detail in the floatplane instructional book I wrote back in the 1980s
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Old 06-26-2015, 01:44 PM   #11
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As I recall, I describe this landing technique in pretty good detail in the floatplane instructional book I wrote back in the 1980s
Yes you did. Great book!

I used your book as part of my float plane instruction. I'm sure I still have my copy somewhere.
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Old 06-26-2015, 02:33 PM   #12
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Holland America ship and float planes in Alaska.


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Old 06-26-2015, 03:04 PM   #13
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Holland America ship and float planes in Alaska.
Yes, I recall hearing the comment "That's a Plane?"
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Old 06-26-2015, 03:57 PM   #14
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I can remember watching Chalks twin engine seaplanes take off next to the cruise ships in Miami. Pretty cool to sail by while watching the planes take off next to those ships. Shame Chalks went out of business.

Later,
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Old 06-26-2015, 04:01 PM   #15
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This is so sad. For those of us that have experienced Alaska scud flying the accident is too close to our experience. I learned to fly floats in Alaska in the early 60's and try as I may to avoid the scud it still occasionally is there. There is a quote from the book "The Thosand Mile War" that goes " the weather here (on the Alaska chain) goes up and down quicker then a pair of hore's drawers." This weather occurs especially in SE Alaska too. May God rest their souls.
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Old 06-26-2015, 04:14 PM   #16
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I once flew up through a hole in the clouds, we call them "sucker holes"

Flew probably 75 miles befoore I found another hole to come down through. Not a fun day.

only did that once.
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Old 06-26-2015, 06:41 PM   #17
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I once flew up through a hole in the clouds, we call them "sucker holes"

Flew probably 75 miles befoore I found another hole to come down through. Not a fun day.

only did that once.
That would pucker my hole.
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Old 06-26-2015, 09:04 PM   #18
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The float plane crash was indeed a catastrophic event. On the other hand, last night we had a catastrophic accident on I-75. Many vehicles involved, and 6 fatalities. It was hardly mentioned. I drove over the spot today. The only thing marking it were the horrible skid marks going helterskelter in different directions. We accept risk in everything we do. In reality our chances are better to complete a trip flying than driving.
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Old 06-26-2015, 10:53 PM   #19
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The float plane crash was indeed a catastrophic event. On the other hand, last night we had a catastrophic accident on I-75. Many vehicles involved, and 6 fatalities. It was hardly mentioned. I drove over the spot today. The only thing marking it were the horrible skid marks going helterskelter in different directions. We accept risk in everything we do. In reality our chances are better to complete a trip flying than driving.
You're right. I felt the float plane worth mentioning because we have members here who fly and also many who take trips to Alaska and use them there. For discussions here I'll typically bring up boating casualties and I see float planes as semi-boating.

Now, I've seen all those odds on flying vs. driving. There are some issues with those numbers but I don't want to argue that here. However, I doubt those numbers are representative of float planes in Alaska.
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Old 06-27-2015, 02:20 AM   #20
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The problem with car vs plane statistics is that you have probably a 95% or better chance of surviving a car accident, you might have a 5% chance of surviving an aircraft accident. It's not the fall the kills you, it is the sudden stop!
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