Senator Stevens' Plane Crashed Into A Mountainside Without Warning


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Senator Stevens' Plane Crashed Into A Mountainside Without Warning

By Jim Douglas

August 14, 2010 - On Monday August 9th Senator Ted Stevens and eight other passengers departed from Nerka Lake, Alaska in a de Havilland DHC-3T (N455A) to go on a fishing ship at Nushagak River. The aircraft departed sometime after 6 PM and about 15 to 20 minutes into the flight the aircraft crashed 10 miles northwest of Aleknagik, Alaska into a mountainside.  

The crash took the lives of five out of the nine onboard the de Havilland Otter which was owned by GCI Communication Corporation of Anchorage, Alaska.

GCI was unaware that the plane had crashed until hours after the plane failed to show up at its fish camp destination on the Nushagak River at which time authorities launched a rescue.  

The National Transportation Safety Board on Friday released photos of the crash site located in a mountain range in Aleknagik. Among the dead are former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, Terry Smith the pilot, Bill Phillips lobbyist, Dana Tindall GCI senior vice president, and Tindall's 16 year old daughter Corey.  

The pilot, Terry Smith was 62 years old and lived on Campbell Lake. He had 28 years as an Alaska Airlines pilot flying the Boeing 737, Smith had worked two years for Conoco Phillips as an aviation manager. Smith left that position on July 1st and then went to work for GCI Communication Corporation as one of their pilots.


Smith always preached the mantra, ?that you always have to stay ahead of the airplane and you will always have an out." Smith had over 29,000 flight hours and had 35 hours in the de Havilland Otter. Smith gain an interest and basic flight training from his father, Theron "Smitty" Smith who had supervised and trained pilots at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Smith was involved in an aircraft accident on August 26, 1997, when a tundra tire equipped Cessna 185E airplane, N454CF, was substantially damaged when it nosed over during landing at the King Salmon Airport, King Salmon, Alaska. Smith and two passengers were were uninjured. The flight originated from Seldovia, Alaska, as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. 

The airplane was landing on runway 29. At the time of the accident, 8,500 feet by 75 feet (one-half width) of runway 29 was open due to resurfacing. The runway surface was dry, newly coated, asphalt. The airplane was configured with Schneider SWS 29 x 11 x 10 inch tires. Winds were from 310 degrees at 6 knots. 

Smith had stated to the NTSB investigator that during landing he allowed the airplane to swerve left and depart the runway edge. The right tire struck a dirt berm, and the airplane nosed over. He said there were no mechanical discrepancies with the airplane. 

The National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable cause(s) of this accident as was The Smith failed to maintain directional control while landing the oversize tire equipped airplane on dry, newly surfaced, asphalt. 

On Friday National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman appeared at a news conference in Anchorage. Hersman reported that one survivor had described Monday afternoon's crash by saying, "they were flying along, and they just stopped flying." The survivor further stated he didn't notice any changes in the plane's pitch or hear any unusual engine sounds before the plane suddenly slammed into an upward sloping side of a mountain. Poor weather conditions will likely be a contributing cause of the crash.

Hersman further stated the NTSB investigators examined the wreckage found that the propellers were twisted and had extensive impact marks, suggesting that the two engines were still running at the time of impact. (See other related story Senator Stevens And Four Passengers Die In Alaskan Plane Crash)


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