News


Two die after plane rented by Palo Alto flight club crashes in Alaska

Authorities cite bad weather in crash near Fairbanks; identities of victims released

A plane that was leased by the West Valley Flying Club of Palo Alto crashed 40 miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska, on Wednesday, killing two people, Alaska State Troopers have confirmed.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Clint Johnson confirmed on Thursday afternoon that two people died. State troopers and the Alaska Civil Air Patrol in Fairbanks launched a recovery effort, but the operation was delayed by bad weather and low clouds.

Alaska television station KTUU reported late this afternoon that the crash victims have been identified by the state troopers office as pilot Stephen Knight, 64, and Gillian Knight, 60, both of Queensland, Australia.

Johnson said the plane, a Piper PA 32-301 Saratoga, was heading from Fort Yukon to Fairbanks shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday when it disappeared from the radar. It was a single-engine, high-performance six-seat aircraft. Weather conditions were poor and foggy at the time of the crash, and the plane went down in a mountainous area, he said.

The aircraft was discovered about two hours after it was reported missing. Troopers and a rescue team flying over the area in a helicopter and C-130 aircraft reported the plane was burning after the crash.

Megan Peters, spokeswoman for the Alaska State Troopers, said the plane's pilot initially made contact with a control tower to ask a question. When the tower controller responded back, the pilot did not answer. Then the plane went off radar, she said.

Johnson said the aircraft was one of two and possibly three that were part of the flight club and they were all flying to the same place.

The pilot had not yet filed a flight plan, but at the time the call was made to the control tower the pilot was in the process of filing an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) plan, he said. IFR plans are filed when a pilot switches from visual to instrumental navigation.

Johnson said he could not speculate about why the pilot wanted to switch to instrument navigation, but generally the procedure is done under poor weather conditions, he said.

Lee Price, owner of Palo Alto-based aircraft-rental company LNP Saratoga, confirmed the plane belonged to his company. He said the plane was rented to an Australian couple who left Palo Alto about a week ago. The couple was to fly through Canada and Alaska and back to the mainland United States. He referred further inquiries about the incident to the West Valley Flying Club, which leased the plane.

West Valley Flying Club of Palo Alto provides flight training at the Palo Alto and San Carlos municipal airports.

Calls to West Valley have not yet been returned. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Gennady Sheyner contributed to this report.

Comments

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 19, 2012 at 5:30 pm


The couple killed in this crash have been identified--
---
Australian couple killed in plane crash north of Fairbanks
by Rod Boyce / rboyce@newsminer.com

Web Link

Jul 19, 2012

Updated 4 p.m. The people killed in the plane crash have been identified as pilot Stephen Knight, 64, and passenger, Gillian Knight, 60, both of Queensland, Australia. Next of kin has been notified. Recovery efforts are ongoing.
---


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 19, 2012 at 5:50 pm

There seem to be a number of sites that data mine airplane accident reports, posting them, with some supporting data, soon after the reports start hitting the Net:

Web Link


Posted by John F, a resident of another community
on Jul 20, 2012 at 12:58 pm

As a member of the West Valley Flying Club, I want to clarify a few technical points in the article. The club is a non-profit and does not lease planes or provide instruction. The club enters into agreements with members who own aircraft to manage the rental and maintenance of the planes. The mistake is a common one, because many for-profit flying businesses do lease planes and then rent them.

Likewise, the instructors at West Valley Flying Club are not employees. They are members who have been granted permission by the club to provide instruction in planes operated by the club.

Accidents like this are tragic. Thank you to Palo Alto online for not engaging in speculation about the cause of the accident.


Posted by Ted N., a resident of another community
on Jul 21, 2012 at 5:17 am

This is weird, or he must be kidding
"The club is a non-profit and does not lease planes or provide instruction."
Non-profit = TRUE
"does not lease planes or provide instruction" = 100% FALSE
I wonder, what is the purpose of stating such false information?

Verbatim form their Home Page: Web Link

"Providing 40 years of quality flight instruction and aircraft rental in the San Francisco Bay Area at Palo Alto and San Carlos airports."

Those guys were from Australia and rented the plane from them. Period.


Posted by Paul, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 23, 2012 at 10:49 am

>>"does not lease planes or provide instruction" = 100% FALSE

>I wonder, what is the purpose of stating such false information?

>"Providing 40 years of quality flight instruction and aircraft rental in the San Francisco Bay Area at Palo Alto and San Carlos airports."

Club itself does not provide instruction as every student pilot deals directly with instructor. Club is not directly involved in that. You can even go to the club, find instructor and then ask him/her to teach you to fly in another club. It is essentially an agreement between private parties.
All airplanes are privately owned by their owners so these airplanes do not belong to the club.
These are minor details and I do not see why somebody would claim "100% FALSE".
Looking for conspiracy? Wrong place :)


Posted by John F, a resident of another community
on Jul 23, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Dear Ted N.,

I'm sorry if it seemed weird to you. As for the purpose of stating the information, it was just to correct a factual error in the story, in the interest of accuracy. As far as what the club web site says, I suppose somebody thought it would sound awkward to say that the club helps members rent planes to other members.


Posted by El B Jay, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 11, 2012 at 1:34 pm

It doesnt matter who leases them or not, or whether or not the club provides instruction. All that matters was whether or not the plane crashed because of pilot error or because of a mechanical issue.


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