New details from NTSB in crash that killed pilot on Anchorage Hillside
More details have emerged about what happened before a plane crashed in a Hillside neighborhood Saturday, killing the pilot.
A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released Wednesday states that around 4:30 p.m. Saturday, an “amateur-built” Hefty Polar Cub floatplane hit the ground and caught fire after the pilot lost control and crashed into a forested residential neighborhood.
The pilot, 75-year-old James Hefty, was killed. A post-crash fire destroyed the airplane, registered to Hefty under tail number N62905.
At the time of the crash, NTSB spokesman Clint Johnson said a dog was also onboard and died as well.
Hefty reportedly took off in southwest Anchorage from Jewell Lake at about 3 p.m., according to the NTSB report, but the actual time and route of flight are unknown.
The report states a friend of Hefty’s said the man had planned to fly over a potential hunting site near Willow and then return to Anchorage. The friend told the NTSB that Hefty and a group of friends were planning a fly-in hunt later that week.
During on-scene interviews with the NTSB, multiple witnesses reported seeing Hefty’s plane complete two “low-level, high-speed, 360-degree turns” over the neighborhood. Witnesses said the first turn was about 150 to 200 feet above ground, but the second was “much lower.”
In the report, one homeowner stated at one point the airplane was about 50 feet above his roof.
It was also reported the plane’s angle during flight increased significantly on the second turn. One witness, who is identified as a pilot in the report, observed the turns and estimated the bank angle of the second turn was more than 60 degrees.
Multiple people reported hearing the engine making noises in ways consistent with high power settings in both turns. Those near the accident site told the NTSB that as Hefty completed the second turn, the nose of the airplane pitched down and began a rapid descent.
The plane leveled out just before hitting a stand of tall trees near a home.
During the collision, the plane’s floats were torn off. The plane crashed, landing upside down, onto a neighborhood road. A fire started nearly 30 seconds after the crash-landing, quickly spreading through the plane.
At the time of the crash, a nearby weather observation station reported light winds, good visibility and mild temperatures.
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