NTSB responds to crash that killed longtime Bush pilot Jim Tweto

Jim Tweto
Jim Tweto, known for his appearances on the Discovery TV series “Flying Wild Alaska,” and passenger Shane Reynolds were killed in a Friday, June 16, 2023 plane crash near Shaktoolik. (Courtesy Discovery)

Federal crash investigators were traveling Tuesday to the site of a Friday plane crash near Shaktoolik, which left Alaska aviation legend Jim Tweto and a passenger dead.

Alaska State Troopers said in an online dispatch that Tweto, 68, and 45-year-old Shane Reynolds of Orofino, Idaho were aboard the Cessna 180 that crashed about 35 miles northeast of Shaktoolik. Tweto was nationally known as the face of the Discovery TV series “Flying Wild Alaska,” which chronicles flights by his family’s airline, Era Alaska.

“The Cessna 180 aircraft was witnessed taking off but not climbing and then crashing,” troopers said.

Troopers were initially informed of the crash just before noon Friday, by the activation of an InReach satellite device’s SOS signal. Nome troopers responded to recover the victims’ bodies.

Clint Johnson, the National Transportation Safety Board’s Alaska chief, said Tuesday that the crash took place as Tweto was helping a hunting party break camp. A guide in the party saw the Cessna go down.

“My understanding is that they were operating from a ridgeline,” Johnson said.

Johnson said NTSB investigator Millicent Hill was part of a team headed to the scene from Nome on Tuesday, after poor weather over the weekend kept flights from reaching the crash site.

Investigators are also gathering information on Friday’s weather conditions in the area, Johnson said, and plan to fully examine the Cessna for any possible mechanical issues.

“Hopefully, by the end of the day, we will have completed the on-scene portion,” Johnson said. “And then we’re going to go into wreckage recovery, and that is probably going to take a little bit of time.”

The NTSB typically issues preliminary reports on fatal Alaska crashes within weeks, with formal determinations of their causes often taking about a year.

Johnson said he had spoken with Tweto on several occasions during the production of “Alaska Aircrash Investigations,” a Smithsonian Channel series detailing several prominent NTSB cases across the state.

“Jim was an icon here in the state, a very successful businessman, very successful pilot, and it’s gonna leave a huge gap in the aviation community here,” Johnson said. “We’re sorry to see this happen.”

A GoFundMe account has been formed for Reynolds, a fishing and hunting guide who left behind a wife and daughter in Idaho.

Chris Klint is a web producer and breaking news reporter at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at cklint@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Chris here.

Previous articleAlaska renewable energy advocate expects green bank bill to pass next session
Next articleVandals target pride flags at Homer family planning clinic