ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A pilot was communicating by radio with her boyfriend before their planes collided in the air over Alaska last week, killing him, a federal investigator said.
The two pilots took off from different western Alaska villages Friday but met up in the air on the way to Bethel, Alaska, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Clint Johnson told the Anchorage Daily News on Sunday.
Kristen Sprague, 26, was flying a Cessna 207 operated by rural freight carrier Ryan Air, according to Alaska State Troopers. She made an emergency landing with one airplane wing seriously damaged and wasn’t hurt.
The other plane, a Cessna 208 Caravan, crashed and burst into flames Friday around 1:30 p.m. near the village of Nightmute, Alaska, about 400 miles west of Anchorage, Alaska, killing Scott Veal, 24, of Kenai, Alaska. Each was the only person onboard.
Johnson said investigators still need to review data collected on the Ryan Air plane and that the other plane didn’t collect similar data.
Veal was from Southern California and always dreamed of becoming an Alaska bush pilot, his grandfather, Robert Veal, told the Anchorage newspaper. “It’s in the family. His father and myself are both flight instructors,” the grandfather said by phone from Winchester, Calif.
It was the state’s third midair crash since July. A federal accident investigator has said two earlier midair collisions were marked by the same factor: aircraft that were difficult to spot amid mountainous terrain.
In a July 30 midair crash, Corey Carlson, his wife, Hetty, and their two young daughters, all from Anchorage, were killed when their single-engine Cessna 180 floatplane crashed and burned after hitting another floatplane north of that city. The other plane, a Cessna 206, sustained significant damage but was able to return to Anchorage with its pilot uninjured.
On July 10, nine people aboard a Piper Navajo and four people in a Cessna 206 were uninjured when the planes collided as they were flying directly toward each other in Lake Clark Pass — a narrow river valley that runs between Anchorage mountains. Both aircraft had minor damage but were able to land safely.