Former state representative Mike Kelly was the pilot and only person onboard a plane that crashed miles away from Fairbanks in early December. A preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sheds light on the events that led up to the fatal incident.
According to the report, in the morning of Dec. 7 Kelly had taken the ski-equipped Bellanca Citabria 7GCBC airplane out for a test flight, from which he never returned.
During a interview with investigators — two days after the crash — the airplane technician who worked on the plane shortly before the flight said he had installed skis, a new throttle cable and alternator.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recordings, written about in the NTSB’s report, at 10:26 a.m. Kelly departed the Chena Marina Airport to head for the Tanana Flats, south of Fairbanks. A few minutes later, the report says, he requested the Fairbanks tower activate his flight plan.
Shortly after 1 p.m. on the day Kelly took flight, two Army helicopters heard a “faint” emergency locator transmitter beacon signal. Not long after, crew members spotted the wreckage and were able to land. Three soldiers made their way to the wreckage, where they found Kelly with fatal injuries, according to the report.
Kelly’s plane crashed in snow-covered tundra — about 17 miles from Fairbanks and 7 miles from Clear Creek Butte.
His body was recovered two days after the wreck and his plane was recovered Dec. 10.
NTSB regional chief Clint Johnson says a final report is expected to be filed until after the new year.