On October 30, 2001, about 1150 Alaska standard time, a Piper PA-32-260 airplane, N5573J, was destroyed during an aborted landing at the Port Heiden Airport, Port Heiden, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country positioning flight under Title 14, CFR Part 91, when the accident occurred. The airplane was operated by Redemption Inc., dba Island Air Service, Kodiak, Alaska. The commercial certificated pilot, the sole occupant, received serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. VFR company flight following procedures were in effect. The flight originated at the Kodiak Municipal Airport, Kodiak, about 1020. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), on October 30th, the director of operations for the operator reported the pilot was transporting a barrel of aviation fuel to Port Heiden. The fuel was intended for company use on CFR Part 135 flights scheduled for later in the day. The director of operation said the pilot landed on runway 23, but the pilot aborted the landing by adding engine power. The airplane departed off the end of the runway and collided with a berm. The airplane then caught fire. The pilot was transported to a medical facility, having sustained thermal injuries on about 20 percent of his body.
Witnesses at the airport reported that three airplanes landed on runway 23 in a 15 minute period before the arrival of the accident airplane. The witnesses said the accident airplane landed on runway 23, but then added engine power as it approached within about 300 feet of the end of the runway. The airplane appeared to become airborne to a height of about 18 inches, and did not gain any additional altitude. The airplane then collided with a gravel berm about 200 feet beyond the departure end of runway 23. The left wing of the airplane separated from the fuselage as it bounced upward. The airplane caught fire and came to rest inverted. Witnesses and pedestrians ran to the wreckage with fire extinguishers and pulled the pilot from the wreckage.
In a telephone interview with the pilot on April 22, 2002, the pilot reported that during the approach to runway 23, he noticed snow drifts across the runway. He decided to over-fly the area of drifted snow, and touched down on the runway about 1,000 feet from the approach end. Because there was snow on the remaining portion of the runway, the pilot said he kept his roll-out speed higher than normal to avoid getting stuck in the snow. When the pilot attempted to fully retard the engine throttle, he said that he discovered the engine idle would not go below about 1,500 rpm. The pilot said he saw the end of the runway approaching, and applied the brakes, but said there was no braking action. He said he then debated about shutting off the engine, applying full brakes and sliding off the runway, or attempt a go-around. The pilot said he applied full power. The airplane became momentarily airborne before colliding with a snow-covered gravel berm. The airplane pitched over and came to rest inverted. The pilot said he noticed flames at the rear of the airplane. Ground personnel arrived to fight the fire, and pull him from the wreckage.
During a review of the airplane's maintenance records, an FAA Airworthiness inspector noted a throttle cable change due to stiffness on July 5, 2000, and August 22, 2000, and a change of cable on May 4, 2001, after a write-up that the engine would only produce 60 percent power.
Runway 23 at Port Heiden has a gravel surface and is 6,250 feet long, and 100 feet wide. An FAA notice to airmen (NOTAM) had been issued for the airport, stating, in part: "Patchy 1/2 inch of packed snow and ice on the runway; runway plowed 100 feet wide; 24 inch berms outside of plowed area."
At 1155, an automated weather observation system (AWOS) was reporting, in part: "Wind, 080 degrees (true) at 5 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, 100 feet overcast; temperature, 28 degrees F; dew point, 21 degrees F; altimeter, 29.54 inHg."
Witnesses at the airport reported the AWOS sky condition report was erroneous, more consistent with a sky condition of about 4,500 feet overcast.