Listen to control tower audio prior to DC-54 crash on Tanana River: ‘Tell ’em I love ’em, man.’


The DC-54 aircraft that crashed on Tuesday seven miles from the Fairbanks International Airport was a Douglas 54-D Skymaster, owned and operated by Alaska Air Fuel, and operating as a bulk fuel cargo plane.

The plane was en route to Kobuk with 3,200 gallons of heating fuel when a wing caught fire and the engine exploded midair, shortly after takeoff. The pilots attempted to return to the airport when the plane crashed and an explosive fire consumed the wreckage and fuel along the banks of the Tanana River, which is still frozen.

Both occupants — pilot and co-pilot — are presumed dead. The names of the souls onboard have not been released; their remains will be sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office for identification.

The tail number of the plane is N3054V. The aircraft is known to have had Pratt and Whitney R-2000 engines.

The plane crash is seen in a video that was posted online by a farmer at Rosie Creek Farm, who had a security camera mounted in such a way that it that caught the event.

Listen to the Fairbanks International Airport control tower audio of the takeoff communications and then hear the pilots and air controllers respond as the disaster unfolds at this link, where at minute 1:12, a voice can be heard saying, “Tell ’em I love ’em, man, tell ’em I love ’em.”

The National Transportation Safety Board will release a preliminary report 30 days after the accident, and a final report within one to two years.


  1. The pilots had 9 seconds of their lives to live after the left outboard engine exploded. Only about 5 seconds left of their lives to live after the plane began to invert and dive strait in. Yet, they still had time to say “I love them.”
    Noble pilots flying life-saving heating fuel to the Bush residents.
    RIP, gentlemen.

    • On the contrary. It’s disgusting that she thought we needed to hear this, particularly in a low population close knit state where the likelihood that family members would see and hear this.

      It’s nothing other than death porn clickbait, and Suzanne should be ashamed of herself.

      • John, you fail to understand the role of a news organization. Not all news is pretty. But even bad news informs. In a state with so many pilots what happened here might get some other pilot to reassess a situation and it might even save his life, and those of his passengers. I say this as a pilot who has lost six friends to aviation accidents here in Alaska.

        Finally, if the family or friends of the deceased pilots did read this they heard that they were loved.

        • M: You fail to understand that this information, recordings, videos, etc., should be held in confidentiality until the families have had time to fathom what has happened to their husbands and their fathers.
          The summary of the radio transmissions should have been presented to the families by the person handling the investigation WHEN the family was ready to hear it.

          Years ago when an aircraft accident occurred, radio transmissions, any videos, aircraft information and even pictures of the crash site were, by law, kept confidential until the NTSB completed their investigation.

          There was a reason for this and that was to keep all of the armchair pilots and wannabe pilots from making uneducated guesses as to what happened, therefore tainting everyone’s opinion of what truly happened prior to the official cause being released.

          The social media mentality has demoralized far too many people. The public has ABSOLUTELY NO RIGHT to think that they are entitled to hear the last words of a human being. The FAMILY has that right but not the public.

          Imagine for a moment that you are a family member and it is the day of the crash of this aircraft. You son finds the video of the crash where he sees his father’s airplane spiral in to the ground before he has any more information or even knows if his father is alive.
          This isn’t news, it’s proof of a very sad state of affairs in a world demoralized by social media and the immediate availability of information on the internet.

          • Eagle, the recordings are all public information. Must Read Alaska is reporting what is already public. In other words, this web site is doing its job. Further, the video was made public by the person who owned it, for the public benefit. Your declaring the public has no right to public information is disappointing.

          • You have “ABSOLUTELY NO RIGHT” to decide what news I should be able to see and hear.
            You might be more comfortable living in a totalitarian state like under the CCP, where the government infantilizes the citizenry, and decides what they can see and do, treating everyone as naughty children, who must be monitored 24/7, and “big brother” will control every single aspect of your daily life.
            As for the rest of us, we prefer to live the real, and adult, world, where people can decide for themselves what news they want to consume, and how informed they want to be.

      • Martin, nothing disgusting about it at all. This is life. And death. In Alaska. It shows the rest of us how fragile life is. Those pilots are heros, maybe not to you because you could never do what those pilots do. We are proud of those guys…….flying fuel and other essentials out to the villages. I hope the people in the villages find a way to honor these brave pilots.
        ps… sound like an old sour puss!
        Maybe a Democrat?

        • Tiffany: See my response above, you have no right to any information other than to have the news media report on a crash and maybe who the plane belonged to, etc.

          You, nor anyone else other than the families, have any ‘rights’, assumed or otherwise, to know any other information, especially information that could devastate the lives of the families.

          • The Zapruder film devasted the Kennedy family. Yet, with the click of a few buttons, anyone on earth can see JFK’s brains getting blown apart.

          • EagleOneAK. It’s very thoughtful of you to consider the feelings of the family members, and I hope they were not hurt and saddened even more than they already are (by the tragic news), by the early release of the audio recording of the tower-to-aircraft communication.
            I am very saddened by the news, and I saw the smoke from a distance here in Fairbanks on Tuesday morning, though I didn’t know what it was until many hours later.
            I must confess, that I was, and am, very curious and very interested in finding out any details, so as to understand what the cause of the tragedy was, and what lessons can be learned, so as to somehow perhaps apply those lessons somewhere in our lives.
            Of course, we will have to wait until the official investigation and report comes out to get some answers.
            I must confess, that in my mind, I have speculated on possible aspects, though I also admit I know nothing. But I wonder, was there a light that lights up on the instrument panel showing a fire or over-heat situation in the affected engine? Or just gauges? How fast can a pilot shut off fuel to that engine? What sort of fire extinguisher system was on that C-54, for each engine? Should the fuel be shut off first, before activating the extinguisher? We of course, may never know exactly what happened on board. I don’t know if there is a black box on a DC-4 type of aircraft. I wish I could talk to a DC-4 or DC-6 pilot.
            I have a private pilot’s license, though I have not flown in decades. I hope to pilot a plane again someday. I have an A&P mechanics license that I got in 1978, though I’ve never worked in that field.
            But I must say, I do appreciate all the information that was provided in the above article, and other articles about this tragic accident. I hope that my learning about the several details so far, has not added to the grief of the family, and I offer my deepest condolences to the family, though I don’t know yet who they are, since names have not yet been released.
            I’m going to speculate (there I go again) and hope, that the family members won’t mind if I and others find out a few of the details at this time.
            Judging from the audio recording, the pilots handled themselves professionally and with courage, and I feel I have at least a tiny bit of a link and touch, with who they are, and I share in the sorrow that the family is going through.

      • None of us are under obligation to listen to the recording, which is in the public domain. I suspect if she had not pointed out that particular part of the recording, you would have not gotten your panties in such a wad.

  2. These fuel runs to the villages would have been greatly diminished if the Ambler Road project had been allowed to proceed possibly in the future. I used to fly with Foster Aviation in the ’80 and ’90. During that time both Richard Foster and I would discuss this road project which he felt was needed for the Kotzebue area. At that time, bread was over $5.00 per loaf, and fuel was over $5.00/gallon in the communities. He understood that in the future, the people in his area could not stay in their local environments without some sort of either rail or road system in order to bring the costs of goods down in the surrounding communities. In Ester in the ’80’s and met with a pilot who landed there working for the Dept of Interior. Asked what he was doing, he stated that he was flying the Fed survey markers from Kotzebue to Fairbanks that were put in back in WW-II. He said that the road had been planned all the way to the coast due to the Japanese invasion. He said that every 5 0r 7 years ?, the Dept. of Interior checked these Federal markers to ensure they were still in place.

    • Remaining in the village and expecting costs to be on par w/ an urban area is unwise.

      Assuming others should pay that cost is worse.

      Be that as it may this article is not about a financially irresponsible road to Ambler.

  3. That aircraft made many fuel deliveries to my village under a previous owner. Minor correction Suzanne: the aircraft in civilian designation is a Douglas DC-4, in military use, it is a C-54 – this one a D model.

    • Yes, I agree. FAA and ATC tapes are public.
      Suzanne did nothing wrong. Reporting about life and death is newsworthy.

    • I agree, Dan.
      I have greatly appreciated Suzanne and her honest and meticulous reporting ever since I found her site.
      Life is harsh, and those prefer to not see or hear news from the real world, are free to pass on by and not listen to or read her reporting real news about what is happening around them.

  4. Other then the fact a engine exploded and pretty much doomed these amazing men’s fate, there’s really not a whole hell of a lot to investigate.. I myself have always admired the pure courage of these kind of pilots , and yes it’s is really sad that it happens this way for the families /freinds
    involved, but these guys probably died doing what they loved to do, and it’s easy to say this stuff should of
    Never been released , but the reality is this pretty much says what needs to be said between the video and audio clips, there’s no need for the secrets and speculation for months or years, any acts of courage and professionalism like this should always be shared with the public, and the sooner the better, my hats off to all

  5. I personally knew one of the pilots and being from Washington state where he was from makes this report so much more meaningful to me and im sure anyone that knew him understands now what happened instead of guessing .thank you so much for this news feed and video.

  6. Real men doing a real job in a real tough spot. Be grateful we have such men left. The Lord has a special place for them. God rest their souls.

  7. 12,000 plus hours flying heavy radial engines and this makes no sense, what little can be gained is they had a serious problem before the video as expressed in their voices which expressed and even greater concern don’t think it was meant to be transmitted but their statement about putting in down on the river is 1000 percent what they should have been thinking in a worst case scenario. Video only captured the end and not what was happening several minutes before. Audio captured some of that and it was serious enough to shake the crew. Will never make sense to me as to what happened next as that’s not how large radials act and zero fault to the crew as I know they were doing 100,000% to save the aircraft, those on the ground and themselves lastly!

  8. Hey I’m 15 years old geting my private license and learning all I want to say is fly high and rip 🕊️

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