The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the emergency landing of an Air Excursions plane flying from Juneau to Gustavus Monday morning.
The Piper PA-32 Cherokee landed safely on a beach at Pleasant Island, about five miles short of Gustavus, at about 9:30 a.m., said Chris Shaver, air safety investigator with NTSB in Anchorage.
Shaver said the landing was forced by a loss of power to the engine. Federal regulations require Air Excursions pilots to fly within gliding distance of land, he explained. “Everything indicates (pilot Matt Fuss) did a fine job.”
The six-seater plane carried five people, including Fuss. Names of passengers, a family of four, were not available.
A search and rescue team from Gustavus responded to the pilot’s Mayday call. Those from the plane were taken by boat to Gustavus, where they were met by emergency medical technicians. There were no reported injuries. “They were very fortunate,” Shaver said.
The plane was recovered and is in Gustavus, where the NTSB was to investigate further. There is damage to the nosewheel and front of the plane, but the extent of the damage has not yet been determined.
Mike Loverink, director of operations for Air Excursions, said Wednesday afternoon that the company hadn’t yet examined the engine. “I can’t confirm anything yet (but) it sounds like catastrophic engine failure,” Loverink said. He pilot Fuss did a “great job” landing the plane on all three wheels on the wet, gravelly beach.
Loverink characterized catastrophic engine failure as unforeseeable. “You can’t prevent anything like this. It’s nothing we could have done or prevented.”