On August 5, 2021, a DeHavilland Beaver seaplane operated by Southeast Aviation out of Ketchikan, crashed in the mountains approximately 8 miles northeast of Ketchikan while on a Misty Fjords National Monument scenic flight. There were no survivors among the five passengers and the pilot on board.  While the National Transportation Safety Board is just commencing its investigation, controlled flight into terrain and poor weather are early suspects in the crash.

Aviation Law Group just spent nearly two years investigating and filing legal claims from another fatal Misty Fjords scenic flight accident that was a cruise ship excursion, which occurred on May 13, 2019. ALG represented 4 passengers from that accident. While it involved a mid-air collision, and this most recent Southeast Aviation accident appears to be terrain and weather-related, a common thread with these types of accidents is pilot training, decision making, the lack of full use of technology, and possibly a company culture averse to risk. These issues are all too common for scenic flights and part 135 commercial flight operations in southeast Alaska.

On September 6, 2019, following the May 13, 2019 accident, the National Transportation Safety Board held an Alaska Aviation Safety forum in Anchorage, in which NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt addressed the need to improve training, risk management, technology, and the aviation infrastructure, all in an effort to improve safety and reduce accidents in Alaska.

“The number of Part 135 fatal accidents in Alaska is troubling, if the FAA and industry do not address these safety gaps, the Part 135 accident rate in Alaska is unlikely to budge. 

NTSB chairman, Robert Sumwalt, September 6th, 2019

Aviation Law Group attended that all-day meeting. There were numerous panel discussions with industry persons, and NTSB and FAA officials.  As controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) is a common factor in many Alaska accidents, CFIT training was considered inadequate, and needs for improvement were discussed, including more weather monitoring. The extent to which many of the safety recommendations discussed were in fact implemented, should certainly be addressed after this most recent accident. Obviously, it wasn’t enough.

Unfortunately, the cruise ship passengers taking these “exciting” Alaska scenic flights have no idea of the accident history or risks involved. While it is becoming all too common as history once again repeats itself with another Southeast Alaska fatal scenic flight accident, something more must be done.

For many years attorneys at Aviation Law Group have represented victims involved in Alaska aviation accidents. We are uniquely qualified to handle these cases in Alaska. For example, unlike most attorneys in the lower 48 states, we are licensed to practice law in Alaska. All ALG attorneys are FAA certified commercial pilots and flight instructors, with mountain flying experience. We are also rated in seaplanes, have flown DeHavilland Beaver aircraft, and our attorneys have piloted commercial scenic flights. We have also given industry talks on seaplane safety and Alaska aviation accidents. We have litigated and tried many aviation cases. No other law firm has comparable experience.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an aviation accident, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.