Federal investigators have released more information about a commercial passenger plane that crashed at Juneau’s airport during takeoff in late October. But they have yet to determine what caused the small passenger aircraft to lose control as it picked up speed on the runway, forcing the pilot to crash land.
“The $64 question at this point right now is what caused that loss of control,” said the National Transportation Safety Board’s Alaska chief Clinton Johnson. “And that’s what we’re trying to figure out.”
No one was reported hurt in the Oct. 22 crash operated by Alaska Seaplanes. The single-engine Cessna 208B was departing shortly before 9 a.m. for an 80-mile commuter flight to Skagway with a pilot and five passengers.
According to the NTSB’s two-page preliminary report released Tuesday, the plane veered sharply to the right while accelerating down the runway. The pilot’s efforts to turn the rudders left were ineffective and the plane was in danger of crashing into a float pond that parallels Juneau International Airport’s paved runway.
The pilot couldn’t stop so instead lifted off to become airborne, turned and made an emergency crash landing on the runway.
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Investigators say they examined the nosewheel steering system, brakes and flight control systems but found nothing that would explain the sudden loss of control that led to substantial damage to the aircraft.
“During the emergency landing the right main landing gear and nose wheel collapsed, and the airplane sustained damage to both wings,” the report said.
Investigators also spoke with passengers who say nobody interfered with the controls during takeoff.
“A passenger seated in the right front seat reported that his seat was moved aft, his feet were on the floor near the control pedestal with his knees pointed toward the passenger door, so as not to interfere with any of the flight control movements,” the report said.
The report doesn’t identify the pilot or any of the five passengers. But Kent Craford, co-owner of Alaska Seaplanes in Juneau, says the pilot is doing very well, and he’s relieved nobody was hurt.
“She was uninjured, thankfully, as were the passengers,” Craford told CoastAlaska. “We were very, very thankful that she was able to make an emergency landing that everyone was able to walk away from.”
The investigation is continuing and is expected to take several months or even a year. Weather isn’t believed to be a factor. Visibility was good, there were broken clouds and winds were light, according to the report.