Gustavus loses two in Arctic plane crash

Pilot finds teen in the wilderness

Posted: Sunday, August 19, 2007

Gustavus pilot Steve Wilson, 41, and hunting partner Eric Lochman, 36, died in a small-plane crash while scouting for Dall Sheep above the Arctic Circle on Monday.

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The pair left Wilson's 15-year-old son Mickey Wilson at a hunting camp for the 30-minute scouting trip and never returned.

Two days later, a pilot in a passing plane saw the boy signaling from a camp in the Brooks Range, 235 miles north of Fairbanks. The pilot saw the younger Wilson's SOS.

The boy was flow to Fairbanks on Thursday and later was picked up by his grandfather Elden Wilson.

A National Guard search and rescue helicopter found Wilson's plane Thursday. The single engine Maule crashed at 4,000 feet on a mountainside.

"This is a huge loss for Gustavus," said Judy Brakel, a resident of Gustavus. "Steve grew up here."

Elden Wilson said his son had flown and hunted in the area on a previous trip. His son was a licensed pilot by age 18. He always wanted to be a bush pilot, and he flew small planes all over Alaska and the Lower 48, he said.

During a 23-year career, Wilson flew for most of the air taxies in the Southeast. He started Gustavus-based Air Excursions before creating Wilson Air, his recent air taxi operation.

"He was an excellent pilot," Brakel said.

Having grown up in Gustavus, Wilson was considered an old-timer at 41. He was known and liked by most in the community of just over 400.

"He flew just about everybody," Elden Wilson said.

Lochman married into the community and built a small construction company, Brakel said.

"He a was wonderfully talented person," she said.

What caused the fatal crash has not been determined. Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were flown to the crash site Friday as authorities recovered the bodies of Wilson and Lochman.

Elden Wilson said a memorial will be held soon for his son, but no date was set.

"His main thing was flying airplanes and hunting," the elder Wilson said. "He was good at both."

• Contact Greg Skinner at 523-2258, or

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