A pilot killed in a plane crash along with three passengers near Girdwood last summer had been drinking alcohol prior to flying, according to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board.
The plane had also been over its weight limits for takeoff on what was supposed to be a 15- to 20-minute personal sightseeing flight, the NTSB says.
The pilot, 31-year-old Charles Weimer, flew commercially and was certified as a flight instructor. The Piper PA-22 was registered to a student pilot, 55-year-old Karl Erickson, who told a friend via text message before the flight that he and Weimer had been drinking. Weimer and Erickson were joined by fellow Girdwood resident, 60-year-old David Osborn, and 37-year-old Paul Wiley of Arizona.
All four on board died in the crash.
Witnesses said the plane took off from Girdwood the afternoon of Aug. 4 and flew parallel to a mountain ridge.
“The airplane then disappeared from view, and then they saw a plume of black smoke,” according to the report.
One witness reported seeing the plane make aggressive maneuvers early in the flight and approaching the ridge with its nose pitched up, going into a steep climb, before disappearing from view.
Military rescuers in a helicopter found the plane’s burned wreckage on the south face of Goat Mountain, not far from Eagle Glacier, according to Alaska State Troopers.
After recovering the bodies, a toxicology test of Weimer’s blood showed it to contain nearly six times the amount of alcohol allowed by the Federal Aviation Administration for the crew member of an airplane. The report notes that such concentrations could, for some people, cause a loss of motor coordination, disorientation and even blackouts or double vision.
An NTSB investigator also added up the weights of Weimer, his passengers and the fuel the plane had been carrying. According to the report, the aircraft is thought to have weighed about 50 pounds more than its maximum approved takeoff weight.
The NTSB report does not mention any problems with the plane’s engines.