News Release

National Park Service pilot rescued after plane crash

Date: April 15, 2019
Contact: Pete Christian, 907-644-3512

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – At 9:09 AM on Monday, April 15th, the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) received a 406 MHz emergency locator transmitter signal from a National Park Service (NPS) aircraft. The airplane, identified as a Cessna 185, had crashed approximately 4 miles northeast of Serpentine Hot Springs, within Bering Land Bridge National Preserve on the Seward Peninsula.

The NPS pilot, based in Kotzebue, was able to communicate with an overhead airplane and reported he had minor injuries and that there were no other passengers on board. He was on duty flying a mission from Kotzebue to Nome when the plane went down, and sustained significant damage. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pilot from Nome attempted to overfly the area later in the morning, but was turned back due to poor weather conditions.

The Alaska Region Communications Center (ARCC) based in Denali National Park was monitoring the mission and when the pilot did not check in as scheduled, was able to use its automated flight following technology to relay accurate identification of the pilot as well as the exact location of the airplane to the RCC.   

RCC dispatched pararescuemen with the Alaska Air National Guard who responded to the remote area from Joint-Base Elmendorf-Richardson with a C-130 refueling tanker and a HH-60 Pavehawk helicopter. However, despite multiple attempts to reach the site, their progress was hampered by high winds and blowing snow. These conditions continued all day with temperatures remaining in the low teens.

Alaska State Troopers activated a ground-based Search and Rescue team in Shishmaref, but ground rescue operations were also unable to get underway due to white-out conditions. Eventually, weather improved enough for the Pavehawk to land safely at the crash site.

According to Alaska Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Evan Budd, the downed pilot was located with adequate food and survival gear to wait out the storm despite his injuries. He was stabilized and transported to Elmendorf and then to Providence Hospital in Anchorage, where he was treated and released.

Last updated: April 17, 2019