No accredited pilot was aboard plane in deadly Nondalton crash, NTSB says

a plane crash
The wreckage of a Taylorcraft BC-12D small plane in the waters of Six Mile Lake near Nondalton before its May 22, 2024 recovery. Both occupants were killed when it crashed May 17, with their bodies removed by divers that evening. (From NTSB)

Neither of the men killed last month in a Southwest Alaska plane crash had a pilot’s certification, according to a preliminary report from federal investigators.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s report, issued last week, takes a closer look at the May 17 crash on a lake near Nondalton that killed pilot Dave Hedgers, 58, and his sole passenger Aaron Fryar, 45. Investigators said they spoke with acquaintances of the men, who told them Hedgers had recently purchased the wheel-equipped Taylorcraft BC-12D.

“According to the Federal Aviation Administration, neither the pilot/airplane owner, nor his passenger, possessed a pilot certificate, and neither had an FAA medical certificate (student pilot certificate),” investigators said in the report.

Clint Johnson, the NTSB’s Alaska chief, said investigators and the FAA haven’t been able to find any signs that Hedgers or Fryar had ever previously held pilot certificates or student-pilot certificates.

“At this point right now, all indications are that neither one of these occupants were certified pilots,” Johnson said in an interview Monday.

Uncertified pilots are rarely seen in Alaska incidents investigated by the NTSB, Johnson said, occurring about once a year.

He said investigators are still determining how much of a factor the lack of certification was in the crash.

“We don’t know what the training was, what the decision-making was,” Johnson said. “The basic answer to that question is, we don’t know what kind of training the pilot had because he never received the pilot’s certificate.”

According to the NTSB report, the plane left Port Alsworth around 11:30 a.m. on May 17 and headed for Nondalton, about 24 miles away.

Search efforts for the plane began at about 8 p.m. that evening, and it was found about 90 minutes later two to three miles southeast of the Nondalton airport. Alaska State Troopers said the plane was flipped in the water. Divers retrieved Hedgers’ and Fryar’s bodies from the aircraft.

“The partially submerged wreckage was situated in a shallow portion of Six Mile Lake, and approximately 200 yards from the shore,” investigators said.

Five days after the crash, the wreckage was removed from the lake and taken to Port Alsworth for an examination. The plane had sustained extensive lower-fuselage damage consistent with crashing on water, but investigators didn’t spot any “preaccident mechanical anomalies,” according to the report.

“To date, the accident airplane’s maintenance logbooks could not be located,” the report said.

According to witnesses, weather along the route from Port Alsworth to Nondalton on May 17 included low clouds, fog and reduced visibility. The NTSB is still gathering weather data on conditions at the time of the crash.

Troopers said both men’s bodies had been sent to the state medical examiner’s office for autopsy.

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

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