NTSB issues safety recommendations after Alaska mid-air crash

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A federal agency charged with investigating plane crashes is recommending that all pilots be required to report their locations on a designated radio frequency when entering and exiting areas not controlled by towers. air traffic control throughout Alaska.

The recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration are included in a National Transportation Safety Board report following a mid-air collision that killed seven people, including an Alaska state legislator, near Soldotna on July 31 2020. The report was dated February 22. , and published on Friday.

In the 2020 crash, the two planes collided just over 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from Soldotna Airport, which does not have an air traffic control tower. Aircraft in the area are supposed to monitor traffic on a set frequency.

Although there are 21 airports within a 30-mile (48 kilometer) radius of Soldotna with five different communication frequencies, a post-crash check of the two planes could not determine which frequency each was monitoring.

“Because both aircraft were operating in uncontrolled airspace, it was the responsibility of both pilots to visually acquire aircraft flying in their vicinity and maintain separation from them,” the report said.

The NTSB has not released a report on the probable causes of this crash.

“Safety recommendations are usually issued at the end of an investigation, but each year the NTSB issues recommendations before that point,” NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said in an email to the Associated Press.

“Sometimes the completion of an accident investigation can be delayed for a number of reasons. In such cases, the NTSB sometimes decides to proceed with the recommendations when all the factual information is collected and the analytical work is complete, which was the case here,” Knudson said.

Pilot diligence is important since only 13 airports in Alaska have air traffic control towers, according to the report.

Between 2005 and 2020, there were 14 mid-air collisions in Alaska, 12 of them in uncontrolled airspace, according to the report. The collisions left 35 dead and 15 seriously injured.

The NTSB in the report also recommended that pilots report their position near established reporting points and airport traffic patterns within the common traffic advisory frequency area unless the pilot is in contact. with air traffic control.

The Safety Board also advises the FAA to establish additional common traffic advisory frequency areas in parts of Alaska at high risk for mid-air collisions. It also recommends that a frequency be associated with all towerless airports in these areas and define the locations and mandatory requirements for position reports.

“The FAA will review the recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board,” FAA spokeswoman Tammy Jones said in an email to The Associated Press.

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