Documents: pilots had just seconds to see each other before fatal George Inlet crash

The floats of a plane jut out from the water surrounded by large rocks with green spruce covered mountains in theh background.
Debris from a deHavilland Beaver is seen following a mid-air collision in George Inlet near Ketchikan on May 13, 2019. Federal investigators recently released over 300 pages of reports on the crash. (U.S. Coast Guard image)

Federal investigators have released hundreds of pages of documents about last year’s fatal midair collision between two sightseeing planes near Ketchikan.

Six people died — five cruise tourists and a local pilot — and 10 more were injured when Mountain Air Service and a Taquan Air planes collided above George Inlet during a May 13, 2019 flightseeing trip to Misty Fjords National Monument.

The 300 pages of documents released Aug. 6 say the pilots likely only had a chance to see each other for a few seconds periodically in the minutes preceding the collision. One plane was not capable of receiving alerts about nearby aircraft and was not transmitting data about its own altitude to the other plane.

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The National Transportation Safety Board documents include passenger interviews, weather studies, a timeline, injury charts and other reports.

Taquan Air referred questions to the NTSB.

Passenger interviews taken after the crash describe a cloudless trip to Misty Fjords. One passenger recounts a steep descent followed by struggling to get seat belts off as the Taquan plane rapidly filled with water. One of the 11 people on that plane died.

The widow of Randy Sullivan, the Mountain Air Service owner and pilot killed in the collision, reportedly told investigators that her husband had expressed concerns about flying near Misty Fjords. According to the report, she told investigators that Sullivan said he worried that many of the pilots flying near the national monument didn’t have much experience flying in the area.

The Mountain Air Service plane broke up on impact. All five people on board were killed.

The crash occurred during a summer that saw four floatplane crashes in Southeast. Another Taquan Air plane crashed near Metlakatla about a week after the midair collision, killing two people.

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