Floatplane in fatal Kenai Peninsula crash was set to visit different lake, NTSB says

a search team
Alaska Dive Search Rescue and Recovery Team members use a remotely operated vehicle during work to find and recover a plane that crashed June 18, 2024 on Crescent Lake near Moose Pass. (Courtesy ADSRRT Facebook page)

A floatplane that crashed and sank on a Kenai Peninsula lake last month, killing a senior Air Force officer and a civilian instructor, had been set to practice touch-and-go landings on another lake that day, according to federal investigators.

The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report Wednesday on the June 18 crash on Crescent Lake near Moose Pass that killed Col. Mark “Tyson” Sletten, 46, and Alaska Float Ratings pilot Paul Kondrat, 41.

Sletten, a longtime fighter pilot who was director of operations for the U.S. military’s Alaskan Command, was learning to fly a floatplane from Kondrat when the Piper PA-18 Super Cub crashed and sank. The plane was found nearly 200 feet underwater. The Alaska Dive Search Rescue and Recovery Team helped to recover it with both pilots’ bodies still inside.

According to the report, Alaska Float Ratings told investigators the training flight’s planned destination was Bench Lake, about 10 miles northeast of Crescent Lake. The plane departed Trail Lake at Moose Pass at about 12:45 p.m. on June 18, and was expected to return by 2:30 p.m.

Two hikers saw the Super Cub making touch-and-go landings on Crescent Lake just before it crashed at about 2 p.m.

“They said that as the airplane continued a northeasterly approach for another touch-and-go, at an estimated 400 (feet) above the water, their attention was drawn to the airplane after it pitched down in a nose low attitude, and as it began a slight counterclockwise rotation before impacting the water,” investigators said in the report. “One witness recalled seeing the airplane pitch up slightly just before impact.”

Clint Johnson, the NTSB’s Alaska chief, said Wednesday that Sletten was sitting in front of Kondrat during the crash, but both the front and rear seats of the Super Cub were equipped with flight controls. Investigators are still trying to determine where the plane traveled before the crash.

“We don’t have any information to suggest if they went directly to Crescent Lake, or they went to Bench Lake and then came back to Crescent Lake,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the NTSB will be relying heavily on the hikers’ account of the crash. In addition, underwater video of the plane from divers and remotely operated vehicles has offered investigators a look at the Super Cub’s state immediately after it crashed, before any disturbance by recovery operations.

“We can get a chance to look at all the control surfaces and do a deep dive into that information – so it’s going to be crucial, especially in this accident,” Johnson said.

The plane has been moved to a secure location, Johnson said. NTSB investigators, as well as representatives from airframe maker Piper and engine manufacturer Lycoming, are planning to closely inspect its wreckage later this month.

a portrait of a man outside

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

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