NTSB: Weather likely led to long-lost plane’s Southeast crash
Investigators say a state official killed a decade ago along with one of his sons in a Southeast Alaska plane crash, missing until its wreck was found last year, likely flew into a mountainside in poor weather.
The National Transportation Safety Board released its final report this week on the Aug. 9, 2008 Admiralty Island crash that killed pilot Brian Andrews, 56, and Brandon Andrews, 24. The NTSB determined that the crash’s probable cause was the decision by Brian Andrews, then the state’s deputy revenue commissioner, “to continue visual flight into an area of instrument meteorological conditions.”
“Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s self-induced pressure to complete the flight,” NTSB officials wrote.
Andrews’ youngest son told the NTSB that he, his father and his brother had been camping at Young Lake. The fatal flight was the second the Cessna 182 floatplane made that day to Juneau International Airport’s seaplane base from the lake, about 15 miles south of Juneau.
“The pilot's son said that after discussing various options, they decided that all three would fly back to Juneau, one of them would stay behind in Juneau, and the other two would return to pick up the remaining camping gear,” NTSB officials wrote.
Weather recorded at the Juneau airport that afternoon included light rain and mist, with a broken ceiling of clouds at about 1,200 feet, becoming completely overcast at about 2,000 feet.
“[The surviving son] reported that when they left Young Lake, the weather was ‘open’ on the north end of the lake but was ‘closed’ on the south end of the lake,” NTSB officials wrote.
After landing in Juneau at about 3:40 p.m., Brian and Brandon Andrews took off again to make the second trip, on a trip from which the surviving son said they were supposed to return at about 4:30 p.m. A witness last saw the plane taking off from Young Lake at about 4 p.m.
The Cessna was never found during an air and water search, with no signals ever received from the Andrews or their plane’s emergency locator transmitter. The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its official search on Aug. 20, 2008, with friends and family continuing to look for them and maintaining a website.
Both men were missing and presumed dead until a deer hunter discovered the crash site on Oct. 25, 2017, according to the report. An NTSB photo from the crash site, just over a mile north of Young Lake, shows the plane’s structural spars and floats strewn across the hillside where it went down.
Investigators who visited the crash site found the Andrews’ plane at an elevation of about 1,075 feet, in an area covered with trees an average of 100 feet tall. The plane’s engine was slammed into the forest floor beneath its corroded body, and its ELT wasn’t found in the wreckage.
“Due to the remote location, the wreckage was not recovered,” NTSB officials wrote.
A limited autopsy conducted on the crash victims’ remains showed that both likely died of blunt-force injuries.
The plane’s maintenance records showed “no evidence of uncorrected mechanical discrepancies with the airframe, engine and propeller,” NTSB officials said.
An annual inspection of the Cessna was conducted on May 21, 2008, during which an entry in the plane’s logbook stated that its ELT had been “inspected and tested” and received a new battery. A second logbook entry the following month said the transmitter had again been inspected and tested.
The NTSB’s report concluded with a discussion of how to prevent future crashes like the 2008 wreck, noting that two-thirds of crashes which occur during visibility reduced by weather are fatal. In addition to stressing the importance of preflight weather briefings in deciding whether to fly, the report noted that pilots can use instrument flight to navigate dangerous areas.
In many cases, investigators said, when pilots try to turn back after they encounter dangerous weather “it is too late.”
“Pilots shouldn't allow a situation to become dangerous before deciding to act,” NTSB officials wrote. “Additionally, air traffic controllers are there to help; be honest with them about your situation and ask for help.”
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