NTSB Releases Details of Ketchikan Sightseeing Crash

Published May 16, 2019 9:03 PM by The Maritime Executive

The mid-air collision that killed five cruise ship passengers and one pilot outside Ketchikan, Alaska on Monday occurred as both aircraft were headed back to the harbor, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. 

In a press briefing Wednesday, NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said that the larger of the two float planes involved - a De Havilland Otter operated by Taquan Air - was returning to Ketchikan from a sightseeing flight on a southwesterly course at about 3,800 feet. It descended to about 3,200-3,300 feet, where its course converged with another inbound seaplane, a De Havilland Beaver operated by Mountain Air Service. 

The collision caused both aircraft to crash in George Inlet, a fjord located about seven miles from Ketchikan by air. Five passengers and one pilot died in the collision, and ten were rescued by a good samaritan. All of the passengers on board both aircraft were guests from the cruise ship Royal Princess. 

The NTSB investigation continues, and Hornedy said that staff will be continuing their interview and evidence-gathering process in Ketchikan for at least one more week. The wreckage from both planes has been recovered and loaded on a barge for transport back to the port. 

Both aircraft were equipped with a transponder system that is designed to help pilots avoid mid-air collisions, much like the AIS system for vessels. Neither plane carried a flight data recorder, according to NTSB; the device is not required by the FAA for aircraft of the size and type involved in the casualty.