• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 11s

After deadly year for Alaska aviation, a renewed focus on training

By KTVA Alaska 7:25 PM November 25, 2013

Survivor testimony bolsters industry message of importance of practice

ANCHORAGE – Nine seconds are all that stood between pilot Tyler Renner and almost certain death.

“Nine seconds,” Renner said Saturday. “You get one choice, and you don’t get to change your mind.”

Those nine seconds were captured by a friend’s iPhone in July 2012, when a routine takeoff from Lake Konovolof, just north of Kenai, went from routine to disastrous.

Seconds after takeoff, more than nine inches broke off the plane’s propeller, throwing Tyler’s cockpit into chaos. Missing the tip of one end of the prop, the engine created enough torque to rip itself right out of the plane. Just 50 feet in the air, Tyler had no choice but to kill the engine.

Nine seconds to figure out where he’ll land.

“The right choice for me was flying the airplane,” Tyler said. “No matter what happened.”

Nine seconds to choose between trees or water.

“I was still over the last remaining part of the lake,” he said. “So I pretty much made a falling left turn back into the water.”

He pauses, remembering the flight. “Fortunately for me, I made the right choice.”

Miraculously, Tyler and his friend both walked way unharmed.

“I think with the repeated training, you train yourself more or less how to react,” he said. “If I have my license, but didn’t train or practice anything for 20 years, I don’t know if I would have reacted and done the same things.”

This year has been one of the deadliest for flying in Alaska: 33 deaths spread out over 13 fatal crashes, with a total of 21 crashes resulting in death or serious injury. While the total number of reported incidents is down compared to last year — 85 so far in 2013, compared to 109 in 2012 — the number of aviation deaths has tripled, from 11 last year to 33.

Now aviation safety experts are turning to survivors like Tyler to stress the importance of training, in simulators or in the air. Training that can make the difference, and save lives, when pilots find themselves with nine seconds — or less — between life and death.

“Most of our fatalities from 2013 came from accidents where the eventual issue was that the pilot lost control,” said National Transportation Safety Board investigator Chris Shaver. “Nothing that we’re seeing is new.”

Shaver sees the deaths firsthand, including the July crash in Soldotna that killed 10 people: Pilot Willy Rediske and two families, the Antonakos and McManus families, both visiting Alaska on vacation from Greenville, S.C.

“Our team just finished another week in Soldotna, doing some follow-up work, surveying and going through some other things with the airplane,” Shaver said. “We took a lot of data at the airport, we’re trying to do some surveys to see if we can find out how high the airplane was, what the pitch attitude was, things of that sort.”

Shaver said NTSB investigators have closed the case on 30 of Alaska’s 85 accidents this year; all 13 fatal crashes remain under investigation.

Shaver and other flight safety experts said more training is the only option to make 2014 a safer year. On Saturday, the Alaska Aviation Safety Foundation, along with other aviation organizations, were promoting options to train Alaska’s seasonal pilots ready for the worst.

“You hope that people learn,” Tyler said after presenting the video of his harrowing landing to the assembled pilots, students and others at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Aviation Technology facility at Merill Field. “If somebody’s taking off of Merill Field and has an accident, you hope that they look at that and say, ‘I’m taking off from the same airfield, in the same airplane. What happened to them, and how can I avoid that?’” he added.

After one of the deadliest years in Alaska’s aviation history, experts stress it’s that kind of learning that can keep deaths from happening in years to come.

Latest Stories

  • News

    Obama places parts of Beaufort, Chukchi seas off-limits for future oil and gas leasing

    by Hope Miller on Jan 27, 8:42

    The Obama administration is placing parts of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off-limits from consideration for future oil and gas leasing, citing the need to protect areas critical for subsistence use by Alaska Natives. The Tuesday announcement comes as the administration is also proposing to open up a large section of the Atlantic Coast for […]

  • News

    Pick.Click.Give. hits $1 million mark

    by Lauren Maxwell on Jan 27, 8:11

    Alaskans are proving generous with their Permanent Fund Dividend checks. The people who run the Pick.Click.Give. program say they hit the $1 million mark over the weekend. Program Manager Heather Beaty said the money was raised in a record amount of time. The average donation is right around the $100 level, but even people who […]

  • Weather

    Daybreak weather, Jan. 27

    by Brett Shepard on Jan 27, 7:54

    Mostly to partly cloudy skies today with a few morning snow showers up and down the Cook Inlet. In the Southeast the weather will be quiet with mostly to partly cloudy skies. In the Interior it will be bitterly cold again with patchy ice fog in the valleys. On the North Slope skies will be […]

  • News

    Alaska Air Guard deploys to Africa

    by Bonney Bowman on Jan 27, 7:33

    The families of 70 Alaska Air National Guard members are saying goodbye as the unit prepares to deploy. The members of the 176th Wing and the 210th Rescue Squadron are headed to the Horn of Africa for four months. They’ll be flying rescue missions for both military and civilian personnel who need evacuation. It’s Tech Sgt. […]

  • Crime

    2 dead after early morning fourplex shooting

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 27, 4:37

    Last updated 9 a.m. Two people have died after a shooting at an East Anchorage fourplex early Tuesday morning, police say. The shooting, on the 6000 block of East 41st Court, happened just before 3:30 a.m., according to a statement from the Anchorage Police Department. Christian Haynes, 27, was declared dead at the scene. A 23-year-old woman […]

  • Lifestyle

    Measles in Alaska? State health department waits for results

    by Lauren Maxwell on Jan 27, 1:32

    Health officials in Alaska say it could be several more days until they learn whether the state is experiencing its first measles case in more than 15 years. A 1-year-old girl tested positive for the virus on Friday. The child had been traveling in California with her family, a state that is experiencing a measles outbreak. […]

  • Politics

    House, Senate discuss marijuana legalization

    by Associated Press on Jan 26, 23:47

    Alaska lawmakers are grappling with how to decriminalize marijuana after voters in November approved a ballot initiative to legalize the substance. The House and Senate judiciary committees are considering bills that would decriminalize marijuana in certain situations and create new laws, including making it illegal to provide pot to minors. But the bill being considered […]

  • News

    Proposed Anchorage School District budget includes no teacher layoffs

    by Alexis Fernandez on Jan 26, 23:31

    Teachers across the Anchorage School District can breathe a sigh of relief tonight – Superintendent Ed Graff says their jobs are safe next school year. Graff presented his proposed budget for the 2015-16 school year to the school board Monday night, and it includes no direct cuts to the classroom. He says he will use $17 […]