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Wed, Jan 25, 2006

L-39 Down In Alaska

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.

Original Report:

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.

FMI: www.l39.com

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