Rep. Gary Knopp, who died in a midair collision on July 31 some 2.5 miles from the Soldotna Airport, had been denied medical certification eight years earlier in June 2012 by the Alaska Regional Flight Surgeon due to unacceptable vision issues. The denial was appealed and sustained in July 2012.
Why the late lawmaker’s vision was not corrected with glasses is not known, but certainly will be a line of investigation for the National Transportation Safety Board, which is trying to piece together the events that led to the crash.
Not having a medical certification could have something or nothing to do with the accident, but it’s like driving a car without a valid license.
The midair collision led to the death of seven people, including Knopp, who was piloting his own Piper PA-12, which struck a de Havilland DHC-2 (Beaver) airplane, with six souls aboard.
The DHC-2 was operated as an on-demand charter flight. The PA-12 was operated as personal aircraft.
According to the NTSB report, the float-equipped DHC-2, operated by High Adventure Charter, departed Longmere Lake in Soldotna, bound for a remote lake on the west side of Cook Inlet. The purpose of the flight was to transport the passengers to a remote fishing location.
Knopp’s plane departed Soldotna Airport, bound for Fairbanks. Knopp was flying in an “experimental airplane,” as rated by the FAA and was not subject to stringent FAA standards.
Knopp’s plane’s N number was not valid, however. The word “EXPIEREMENTAL” was applied to the inside of the lower clam shell door, an FAA requirement so passengers on such planes know that they are experimental.
A search of the FAA registration database revealed that the registration number had been reserved by Knopp but was not a valid registration. His registration number on the aircraft was for twin engine aircraft, but the PA-12 he was flying was a single engine.