Taquan Air safety record shows air tour danger in Southeast Alaska
Taquan Air was operating one of the two floatplanes that collided midair near Ketchikan Monday, leaving at least four people dead.
A search of a National Transportation Safety Board database found that Taquan Air has been involved in five other aircraft accidents in Alaska since 1992, two of which were fatal.
A 2015 LA Times article reported that, in the last 30 years, 697 floatplane accidents have killed 258 people across Alaska.
The most recent crash involving Taquan Air, prior to Monday’s collision, happened on July 10, 2018 about 9 miles west of Hydaburg. An Otter operated by Taquan was carrying 10 passengers and a pilot. The pilot told NTSB investigators that visibility decreased rapidly and he became disoriented when he tried to turn around, then crashed into snow-covered mountains. While six passengers had serious injuries, everyone on board survived.
A Taquan flight was also involved in a non-fatal accident in Ketchikan 2012. The de Havilland Beaver tipped to the side when the pilot attempted to step taxi before takeoff. The plane’s wing was damaged, but none of the six people on board were injured.
On July 24, 2007 a pilot and four passengers were killed on a Taquan flight about 40 miles northeast of Ketchikan. The Otter aircraft encountered a wall of weather and mountainous terrain. An investigation found the primary cause of the crash was pilot misjudgment. Continuing poor weather kept the NTSB and Federal Aviation Administration from reaching the accident site for three days.
This crash brought up concerns that the FAA’s supervision of the flight tour industry in Southeast Alaska was inadequate.
A year later, after an investigation, the NTSB issued four recommendations to the FAA:
- Install and maintain weather cameras at critical areas of tour routes.
- Establish monthly ground and en route inspections of air tour flights to observe and enforce safe-flying practices.
- Provide training for commercial air tour pilots in responding to changing local weather conditions.
- Require pilots to take the training.
An NTSB report from 1996 reports says a Taquan pilot and one passenger aboard a Beaver encountered gusty conditions and crashed into water about 18 miles southwest of Ketchikan. The passenger was able to escape uninjured, but the pilot’s body was recovered inside the plane.
A 1992 NTSB report describes a Taquan Air accident in Metlakatla where an Otter aircraft started vibrating on landing, but the pilot and sole person on board, was not hurt.
In a statement after Monday’s collision, Taquan Air stated, "There are no words other than we are heartbroken over this loss. We are focused now on extending our full support to our passengers and their families, along with first responders and other agencies involved."
All Taquan scheduled flights are currently suspended and the company is working with the NTSB, FAA and other authorities to examine the incident.
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