Pilot Dies After Ejecting Just Before Accident
ANN REALTIME UPDATE 01.25.06 2145 EST: The
Associated Press is reporting the pilot of an L-39 that went down
Wednesday afternoon in Ketchikan, AK was found dead, still strapped
in his seat, approximately 100 yards from the accident site. Alaska
State Troopers spokesman Greg Wilkinson stated the L-39 was owned
by Las Vegas-based USA Air, Inc. The pilot's identity has
not been released.
Reporter Rob Stapleton, who is based in Anchorage, tells
Aero-News the L-39 may have had pre-existing maintenance issues.
(Rob also provided the photograph below, which is of an L-39
belonging to Security Aviation and is NOT the accident aircraft.)
Here's Rob's report:
"According to Security Aviation Chief pilot Craig Wolter in
Anchorage the L-39 that crashed in Ketchikan today (600 NM miles
south of Anchorage) was not one of their aircraft. The aircraft had
been in Anchorage for an inspection by Security for a possible sale
by the owner (not identified).
"We opted not to purchase the aircraft due to serious
maintenance issues," said Wolter. "The owner came and got the
aircraft unannounced. He left here several days ago... and now the
rest is history."
A news-tip provided by one of ANN's News-Spys reports weather at
the time of the accident was less than favorable, with low clouds and snow, temperature of 34 degrees F and
winds between 10-20 mph.
Few details are known at this point about an Aero Vodochody L-39
"Albatros" jet that went down in Ketchikan, AK Wednesday
afternoon. Witnesses report the pilot ejected from the aircraft
before in crashed near a grocery store.
A nearby trailer caught on fire following the accident, but a
spokesman for the Alaska State Troopers told the Anchorage Daily
News all occupants of the trailer were accounted for and safe. It
is unclear if the trailer was hit, or if debris from the wreckage
fell on it.
There are also
unconfirmed reports the pilot has been found. Helicopters had been
searching for survivors since shortly after the accident.
Witness Robbie Whitton told The Associated Press he heard the
plane go down, and looked outside to see what was going on.
"I was inside the building when apparently the plane came down.
I heard the explosion and a couple of big rumbles," he said. "We
looked outside and there was a ball of fire."
The Air Force, Army, and National Guard each reported all of
their aircraft in Alaska were accounted for.
The L-39, a Czechoslovakian aircraft built as the successor to
the earlier L-29 Delfin trainer, is still flown by forces overseas.
As many as 200 private owners also fly the sleek single-engine jet,
and it's likely the aircraft involved in Wednesday's
accident was in private hands at the time.
Aero-News will continue to follow this story, and update it in
Real Time as more information becomes available.