Air taxi emergency landing near Bethel smooth as on runway

Passengers on board included familly with two twin baby girls

Posted: Sunday, November 22, 2009

BETHEL - An air taxi with eight people aboard made an emergency landing on tundra when the single engine failed on a flight from Bethel to Kipnuk, near the Bering Sea coast.

Passengers told The Anchorage Daily News the Yute Air pilot remained calm, and the landing Wednesday was so smooth it could have been on a runway. No one was injured.

Rescuers on snowmachines from the village of Tuntutuliak arrived in less than four hours with blankets and hot tea and took everyone to safety.

The director of operations for Bethel-based Yute Air, Ron Dudley, said the Cessna 207 had plenty of fuel, but the engine seized.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

One passenger, Quila Dock Jr. who was flying home to Kipnuk with his wife and twin baby daughters, said pilot Bradley Amos didn't panic, which made everyone feel good.

Dock says everything seemed normal on the 85-mile trip until the pilot started tapping the oil pressure gauge.

When the engine stopped and the plane started gliding, Amos was able to find a good spot of hard snow and grass to touch down.

Gabriel Olick of Tuntutuliak heard about the emergency landing and joined the five snowmachiners from the village that went to the rescue in growing dark and the temperature 10 below zero.

"Some creeks are still pretty thin, so we had to go slow," he said.

Olick says the rescuers prevented hypothermia.

"I think we stopped three or four times, just to make sure those babies were OK," he said.

The passengers warmed up at the village public safety building before flying back to Bethel on two waiting Yute Air planes, said Village Public Safety Officer Wassillie Gilila.

Dudley said the incident is Yute Air's first total engine failure in memory.

"The public needs to know that these engines are really dependable, but like any mechanical device that's highly stressed, once in a while, something catastrophic happens," he said.

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