A plane crashed Friday morning in the Muklung Hills, roughly 20 miles northeast of Dillingham, but by 6pm Friday, authorities had not been able to reach the crash site.
A pilot and co-pilot are believed to have been onboard an ACE Air Cargo Beechcraft 1900 Super King that went missing at 8:15am while enroute to Dillingham from King Salmon. Authorities are withholding the names. The plane appears to have crashed near the site of the 2010 crash that killed former Sen. Ted Stevens.
Efforts to locate the plane and attempt a rescue have been hampered by poor weather throughout the day. There was confusion earlier as it was believed the wreckage had been spotted; as of 6pm Friday evening, there have been no confirmed sightings of any wreckage, including by the Air National Guard assets on station. Authorities have determined a location based on coordinates from the plane’s ELT 406 beacon.
The search has been turned over to the Air Force’s Rescue Coordination Center at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson. An Air National Guard HC-130 and HH-60 Pave Hawk Helicopter arrived early Friday afternoon. Both aircraft have Guardian Angel pararescue crews onboard and are expected to continue searching for the wreckage through Friday evening.
According to a written statement from the Alaska National Guard, snow and rain are creating icing problems for the aircraft, and a low cloud ceiling continues to frustrate the search.
“No sighting of the overdue aircraft has been made, and although the satellite is picking up the 406 signal, when crews fly overhead of the satellite coordinates, they can’t hear an audible VHF emergency locator signal,” said Master Sgt. Sal Provenzano, non-commissioned officer in charge of the RCC.
The first search and rescue efforts Friday morning were coordinated by the Alaska State Troopers in Dillingham; most were also thwarted by bad weather. Local pilots reported a “o/o visibility” over the Muklung Hills. A ground-search effort of about a dozen volunteers and EMTs on snowmachines left Dillingham at 11am, but were turned around within an hour; it was determined that recent rain and warm temperatures have created difficult, if not dangerous conditions for ground travel. An Egli Air helicopter in from King Salmon was also waved off on account of low visibility.
A U.S. Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk from Kodiak was on station by shortly after 12pm. The Jayhawk searched the area until it was relieved by the Air National Guard Assets at about 2pm.
The cause of the crash is unknown. Both the NTSB and the FAA will be investigating.