Birchwood crash victims include former NTSB investigator

The pilot of a plane that crashed on Wednesday, killing all four aboard, was an experienced airman with a long history with the FAA and the NTSB.

George Kobelnyk, age 64, was flying the Cessna 172 when it plunged through dense woods and crashed, shortly after takeoff from the Birchwood Airport.

Shaun Williams, an investigator with the NTSB, said on Wednesday, that investigators would be working on Thursday to remove the wreckage.

It is difficult, he said, because “the Alaska air community is so tight – knit.”

“We’re going back there, there are family members out there that this is the worst day of their life. And we always keep that in mind and try to do right by them, and get them the information that they deserve, ” Williams told reporters Wednesday.

Kobelnyk was himself and NTSB investigator in Alaska during the 1980s, and was an FAA senior manager after that. At the time of the crash, he was the sole operator of Alaska Aviation Adventures, a flightseeing and instruction operation. Anchorage Police initially reported Kobelnyk’s age as 54, later correcting it to 64.

There was one witness to the crash, Williams said, although he did not reveal who that witness was on Wednesday. Alaska Dispatch News reports that a camper near the crash site, Deborah Schaeffer, called in the crash moments after it occurred.

Christian Bohrer, age 20, was co-pilot at the time of the accident. Bohrer held a commercial pilot’s certificate and an instructor’s certificate since last year.

Kyle Braun, age 27, was thought to have been flying for his work. Braun grew up in the Butte area near Palmer.

Williams said the destination of the plane was not known on Wednesday. He said on Thursday, the wreckage would be taken to storage for further investigation.

Representatives from Cessna and from Lycoming Engines will be participating in the investigation.

APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone.
Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA
elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen

Previous articlePreventing child neglect through social networks
Next articleCalista campaigning to reduce quorum requirements before descendants enroll