Weather conditions blamed in Prince of Wales plane crash, preliminary report says

A downed plane on Mount Jumbo July 10 on Prince of Wales Island. (Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)

The pilot in a non-fatal plane crash likely became disoriented after weather conditions worsened during a trip to Ketchikan.

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A preliminary report by National Transportation Safety Board summarized a conversation between investigators and Taquan Air pilot Mike Hudgins, 72.

All 11 on board survived the July 10 crash about 2,000 feet up Mount Jumbo on Prince of Wales Island near Hydaburg.

Hudgins told investigators soon after the accident that while flying over Sulzer Portage, visibility rapidly decreased to zero.

When Hudgins tried to turn back, he thought he saw a body of water. He told investigators that he became disoriented and leveled the wings, before realizing he was flying toward snow-covered mountains.

Hudgins pulled the deHavilland Otter into a steep climb, but wasn’t able to avoid hitting the rocky mountainside.

The plane’s floats sheared off on impact, and the rest of the plane suffered substantial damage, according to the report.

Six passengers suffered serious injuries, according to the report, and four others received minor injuries. The pilot was not injured.

Investigators also talked to two passengers for the preliminary report.

Both confirmed the weather was poor and said they were concerned during the flight.

One said he texted the front-seat passenger, asking him to suggest landing on the water to wait for better weather.

The pilot called in the crash shortly before 9 a.m. on July 10.

The U.S. Coast Guard and local rescue groups were able to find the site and get everyone to Ketchikan by mid-afternoon.