Alice Rogoff’s terrifying crash landing: NTSB report

Piloted by Alaska Dispatch News owner Alice Rogoff, a Cessna 206 floatplane crashes into a tree, before crash landing in the waters of Halibut Cove on July 3, 2016. 

Alice Rogoff, owner of the Alaska Dispatch News, had just completed a trip to the Nushagak River on July 3, 2016. She had dropped off her daughter for a fishing excursion. She flew as a co-pilot, meaning she had another pilot with her, doing the actual flying.

As she told it to the National Transportation Safety Board, “Afterwards, we flew back to Homer airport to drop off the pilot and take on additional fuel. I followed my pre-flight check list and checked Homer A TIS for weather for the flight back to Halibut Cove.

“I departed runway 22 and conducted a standard rate 180 degree turn climbing to approximately 1000′ for the flight to my destination. Very familiar with this 10 minute flight, having landed on water at Halibut Cove many times,” she reported in her statement.

She radioed her intentions to land from the west, and then flew over the landing area at approximately 600 feet to confirm there was no traffic and check the wind direction and water conditions. Then she circled back to land downwind.

“I followed my approach to landing checklist {FFCARS-Fuel, Flaps and Gear, Clear Area, Rudder, Radio and Speed) setting full flaps and descending at approximately 70 mph on final,” she reported.

But she came in hot from the east and touched down faster than she expected to, and sooner than where she’d intended the floats to contact the water. The aircraft began to bounce.

Rogoff decided to not try to complete the landing, but to attempt a go-around. So she gunned the engines, and on her steep climb out of the cove, she could not see where she was headed, nor could she see the tree that her left float then crashed into.

The NTSB report says “the airplane subsequently made a slight turn towards the vessel before passing off the right side and impacting trees. The airplane then descended into the water, about 100 feet from the tour boat.”

But that’s not quite how bystanders described it and photographs taken at the time don’t reflect an immediate descent. The plane continued to fly, although not far.

Photo taken by Delores Wilbur from the Danny J motor vessel, shows that the plane continued to fly, rather than simply crash to the water.
Alice Rogoff’s plane continues to fly long after losing one of its pontoons (now in the water), on July 3, 2016, in Halibut Cove. It crashed not far from the stern of the Danny J.  – Delores Wilbur photo.

Rogoff landed near the Narrows, which is the entrance to the cove which is located on an island. The community of Halibut Cove is located on Ismailof Island and the south shore across the Narrows.

“The pilot stated there were no mechanical failures that would have precluded normal operation,” the NTSB investigator wrote. Her last biennial flight review was three years prior, in September of 2013, in the same make and model as the plane she crashed.

The weather was mild, with light winds, broken clouds, 10 miles of visibility, about 61 degrees, and a barometer reading of 29.92. The water was described by the NTSB as glassy, although the photos tell a slightly different story: There appears to be a ripple on the surface on all photos observed from that day.

Glassy water can be a problem for floatplane pilots, as it is notoriously difficult to judge altitude when touching down. But the water was arguably not all that glassy, merely calm.

As she climbed, Rogoff banked the plane at about 40 feet altitude, and then struck the tree and crash landed in the water. A tour boat nearby was full of visitors who witnessed the crash.

“Thereafter, I have little recollection other than realizing that water was coming into the cabin and I needed to get out,” according to Rogoff. “I kicked out the pilot window and pulled myself from the cockpit.”

She was rescued by people nearby, who jumped into skiffs and went to her aid, but by the time the Alaska State Troopers arrived at 10 pm, she was long gone.

Her attorney says she left because she needed to get warm and dry and be medically evaluated. If she has little recollection of the crash, but only remembers she was kicking out the pilot window to escape, she may have been in shock.

After the crash, however, Rogoff issued a different kind of statement:

“Fortunately she was not hurt and wants to thank all the people in Halibut Cove for their generosity and good spirits,” she said last July through her attorney. “Clem Tillion’s 91st birthday party went on as planned and Ms. Rogoff was delighted to attend.”

NTSB never interviewed Rogoff at the scene, and troopers also passed on the opportunity,  saying they were unable to locate her. This too is questionable since most people in Halibut Cove would have been aware that Rogoff was at the Tillion house. Roughly 75 people live around the cove and many are related to the Tillions in some way. No toxicology report was ever done.

Rogoff no longer has her FAA floatplane rating but is still a licensed pilot for land. Experienced Alaska pilots say she is fortunate indeed for having lived through the ordeal, and so are the people aboard the Danny J, who came close to being casualties of a crash landing on the way to a birthday bash, one that will go down in the family histories of all concerned.


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