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On May 24, 1996, approximately 1800 Alaska daylight time, an amphibian Republic, RC-3 Seabee airplane, N99FJ, registered to and operated by the pilot, crashed into Eagle Lake located 43 nautical miles northwest of Ketchikan, Alaska, at geographic coordinates 131 degrees, 27 minutes west, 56 degrees, 3 minutes north. The personal flight, operating under 14 CFR Part 91, was supposed to depart Eagle Lake and fly to Ketchikan to pick up the pilot's son. The airplane never arrived at Ketchikan. No flight plan was filed and visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The certificated private pilot and the passenger were fatally injured. The airplane sank in the lake and the wreckage has not been recovered.
According to information from the passenger's personal diary, the Seabee airplane was parked on the beach and the lake water rose and submersed the tail end of the airplane.
During an interview with Mr. Tyler Robinson of Sunrise Aviation, Wrangell, Alaska, on May 25, 1996, he stated that on May 23, 1996, he received a call from the Coast Guard in Ketchikan relaying a message from the pilot of N99FJ. The message stated that the pilot of N99FJ was having airplane problems at Eagle Lake. Mr. Robinson and a mechanic, Mr. John Calvert, flew to Eagle lake on May 23, 1996 and arrived at the lake at 1630. Mr. Robinson stated that they saw the airplane, N99FJ, with the tail sunk in the water over an embankment. Mr. Robinson said that the pilot told him the airplane had been that way for a couple of days. Mr. Robinson and the mechanic returned to Wrangell without raising the airplane out of the water.
Mr. Robinson, the mechanic, and a diver returned to Eagle lake on the morning of May 24, 1996. He dropped off the mechanic and diver and departed.
According to the mechanic, Mr. John Calvert, he and the diver raised the airplane. Once the airplane was on the beach, he opened all 5 watertight hull compartments to check for water. He stated that the first compartment was dry. Compartments 2, 3, 4, and 5 were full of water and had to be pumped out. Mr. Calvert stated that they did not perform any additional mechanical work on the airplane.
Mr. Tyler Robinson returned to Eagle Lake at 1600, picked up the mechanic and diver and departed the lake between 1630 and 1700. Mr. Robinson described the lake's surface water as "glassy water." He stated the wind was blowing at altitude and in areas of open water and terrain. Mr. Robinson stated that the pilot of N99FJ indicated to him that he was going to depart Eagle Lake as soon as Mr. Robinson departed.
DAMAGE TO AIRCRAFT
The airplane wreckage was not recovered. A video tape of the lake bottom shows airplane debris scattered over a large area. A sponson was found floating in the lake and the damage showed that the sponson was torn away from the airplane's wing consistent with a rearward force.
During a telephone conversation with the pilot's son on May 28, 1996, he stated that the airplane's logbooks were on board the airplane. The airplane logbooks have not been recovered. The son also stated that the airplane had a history of leaking in the tail section. He stated that his father was going to purchase a new bilge pump upon reaching Ketchikan. He could not say if the installed bilge pump was operating.