The plane crash northwest of Moose Pass that killed three people late last month followed a loss of control in low visibility conditions, according to the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report on the incident.
Three of the four people on board were killed in the crash. The Alaska State Troopers identified them as pilot Michael Scott Christy, 73, and his wife Jean Tam, 69, both of Anchorage, and Suzanne Glass, 29, of Sterling, Va. Passenger Andrea Joy Cooper, 28, of Sterling, Va., sustained serious injuries and was airlifted to Providence Anchorage Medical Center.
Cooper suffered a spinal fracture and collapsed lung, according to an online fundraiser begun on her behalf. An update on that page reports that Cooper has left the hospital intensive care unit.
The aircraft struck mountainous terrain immediately northwest of the intersection of the Seward and Sterling highway a little after 4 p.m. on June 28, the NTSB says. The report indicates that the plane impacted in a nose-down orientation.
Smoke from the Swan Lake Fire had reduced visibility considerably. A witness interviewed by the NTSB told investigators that vertical visibility was around 100 feet and horizontal visibility around a quarter mile.
Images taken from a Federal Aviation Administration weather camera in Moose Pass and included in the NTSB’s preliminary report show dense smoke completely obscuring nearby mountains.
The aircraft was a float-equipped Maule M6 Super Rocket. It departed from somewhere near Seward around 3:30 p.m. on June 28, the NTSB found. The pilot utilized a GPS device capable of recording flight data, which the NTSB used to reconstruct the flight’s final minutes.
Just after the plane passed the Seward-Sterling highway intersection, it initiated a 180-degree right turn and descended to an altitude of just over 1,200 feet. It then began a left turn to the northeast and climbed to 2,000 feet
The last recorded flight data point showed the plane at a GPS altitude of 1,587 feet with a groundspeed of zero knots. Alaska Air National Guard pararescuers later located the wreckage at 1,546 feet above sea level.
NTSB investigators confirmed on site that the pilot likely still had control of at least the left and right ailerons, the hinged fins on the wing edge that control the roll of the aircraft. They could not confirm pilot control of the rudder or elevators, pending a more detailed examination of the wreckage.