ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A 24-year-old Kenai pilot who died in a Sept. 2 plane crash near Nightmute after a midair collision was flying in formation with his girlfriend when he pulled up over her aircraft without warning, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.
The report says Scott Veal’s Cessna 208B, operated by Grant Aviation Inc., took off from Toksook Bay at about 1:25 p.m., ten minutes after a Cessna 207 operated by Ryan Air and piloted by his girlfriend, 26-year-old Kristen Sprague of Idaho, took off from Tununak. The pilots were the sole occupants of each aircraft.
Sprague told investigators she and Veal were both headed to Bethel, and they agreed by radio to meet up for the flight at an altitude of 1,200 feet, with Veal flying to Sprague’s left. The two pilots continued to fly in formation, chatting via radio.
At about 1:35 p.m., Veal unexpectedly pulled up and maneuvered his aircraft directly above Sprague’s, causing her to radio Veal that she couldn’t see him and was concerned about where he was. Veal then radioed back, saying in part, “Whatever you do, don’t pull up,” just before his aircraft collided with the right wing of Sprague’s plane.
Veal’s aircraft lost its vertical stabilizer and rudder in the collision, causing his plane to fall below Sprague’s and to the left in a steepening dive. Sprague’s plane lost a large section of its right aileron, and she radioed Veal saying she thought she would crash -- receiving a response that he thought he would crash as well.
As Sprague watched, Veal’s plane plummeted vertically into the ground, where it immediately burst into flames. Although Sprague was still in the air, her plane was losing altitude as she fought to maintain control and she selected an area of rolling tundra for a forced landing. The aircraft’s stall horn was on throughout the approach and the front landing gear collapsed on impact, but Sprague was uninjured.
Investigators found the pieces of both Cessnas lost in the collision about half a mile west of Veal’s crash site, about nine miles north of Nightmute.
The crash is Alaska’s third midair collision this year, following a July 10 incident in Lake Clark Pass after which both planes landed safely and the July 30 accident near Trapper Creek after which one plane crashed, killing a family of four.