All safe after plane catches fire and burns on the ground in Bethel

People look on as a plane is on fire.
A Yute Commuter Service Cessna 207 caught fire on the Bethel runway on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. (Leslie Hunter III)

A Yute Commuter Service airplane caught fire over the weekend at the Bethel airport. The pilot and passengers are uninjured, according to the airline, but the plane and the luggage on board went up in flames.

The YCS Cessna 207 departed from Bethel sometime after 5 p.m. Saturday, according to the airline’s director of operations, Terry Cratty. Cratty said there were six people on board: the pilot and five passengers. He did not say where the plane was going.

About 10 minutes into the flight, the pilot detected an issue in the plane.

“What he had was smoke in the cockpit. And we think it might have been related to the contents in the aircraft in some way,” Cratty said.

He declined to elaborate or say what was onboard the plane. Once the pilot detected smoke, he was able to control the situation, said Cratty.

“He brought the aircraft back to Bethel, safely landed it, and then proceeded to get his passengers off safely uninjured. And the aircraft caught on fire on the ground,” he said.

He said that an Alaska Department of Transportation crew stationed at the Bethel airport put out the fire, but not before most of the plane and the contents inside burned up.

Cratty said that YCS will reimburse the passengers for their lost luggage, and he said the airline made sure the passengers had a place to go after the fire.

“We brought them from the aircraft. We took them to the hospital, every one of them to include the pilot, to get checked,” he said. “We provided them housing, we took care of them in any way we could.”

Cratty said that YCS has now transported the passengers to their intended destination.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the fire. NTSB Alaska Chief Clint Johnson said that a preliminary report may be completed by early December.

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