Broken mechanical gate blamed for crash

Posted: Monday, April 14, 2008

ANCHORAGE - A broken mechanical gate at the airport in Unalaska is being blamed for the crash of a small plane last week.

Federal investigators say the pilot of the commercial airplane properly signaled the aircraft's approach, but the gate allowed a truck to pass into the landing zone.

The gate appears to have been inoperable for years. However, its warning lights were working.

Eight passengers and the pilot were aboard the Peninsula Airways Grumman Goose. They suffered minor injuries. The crash occurred Wednesday when the plane clipped the top off the truck. The airport is operated by the state.

The aircraft was flying in from Akutan at about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday when it came down on the truck as the vehicle passed through the flight path on Ballyhoo Road, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Clint Johnson said.

"A Grumman Goose has a pretty big nose on it, so, depending on the configuration, (the truck) could have been hidden from view," Johnson said.

A set of landing gear was torn off during impact, and the tail rudder was torn as well, he said. After striking the truck, the airplane tipped hard into the runway, he said.

The truck driver was not injured. The plane's passengers sustained minor scratches and bruises. One woman suffered a broken bone in her hand, Unalaska public safety director Jamie Sunderland said.

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