NTSB: Rep. Gary Knopp had severe visual impairments, had failed medical clearance


The late Rep. Gary Knopp, who died in a midair plane collision last July in Soldotna, had been denied a medical certificate by the FAA numerous times. He had diagnosed glaucoma that impaired his field of vision, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The report confirms an earlier report by the NTSB that revealed some of the same information, but this time in greater detail.

The NTSB has released new details about the July 31, 2020 collision that also took the life of the pilot of the other plane, Gregory Bell, and his passengers. Knopp’s Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser aircraft hit Bell’s deHavilland DHC-2 Beaver near Longmere Lake. There were no survivors.

Knopp was flying without medical clearance, as he had been denied his required medical certificate due to his eyesight several years earlier. He had glaucoma, which was diagnosed in 2011, and had had surgery on his right eye for a cataract in 2012.

“In March 2012, the FAA received an eye evaluation report from the Piper pilot’s ophthalmologist. In this report, the ophthalmologist noted that the Piper pilot had medically controlled open-angle glaucoma with visual field loss in both eyes, had undergone previous laser surgery for glaucoma in both eyes (left eye September 24, 2010, and right eye October 8, 2010), and required ophthalmology followup every 4 months,” the NTSB reported.

The Alaska Regional Flight Surgeon sent a denial letter to the Knopp onJune 18, 2012. The letter stated that the Knopp did not meet the general medical standards for first-, second-, or third-class medical certification. Knopp requested reconsideration. The FAA received an ophthalmological evaluation for glaucoma form from Knopp’s ophthalmologist, dated July 2, 2012. This form again noted the open-angle glaucoma diagnosis, with reduced visual fields in both eyes.

“Based on that form, and on the rest of the Piper pilot’s FAA medical certification file, the Aerospace Medical Certification Division sent another denial letter to the Piper pilot, dated July 23, 2012,” the NTSB reported.

Read the complete NTSB medical report at this link.

The families of the deceased passengers from the other plane are suing the Knopp estate, claiming that Knopp “committed negligent acts and/or omissions” by operating an aircraft without a valid medical certificate. The suits also claim Knopp’s widow Helen knew her husband was not supposed to be solo piloting.


  1. His arrogance and irresponsibility puts a black mark against every pilot who faithfully abides by rules. Wonderful attitude for someone who thought himself worthy to represent his constituency. Prayers for the families of those he killed.

    • My 23 year old daughter died in this accident along with her very soon to be fiance, his brother and wife. Thank you for your prayers!

      Change has to happen in Alaska in regards to safety. There is much available in regards to avoidance technology that should be required. It is now my life’s mission to advocate for these changes. Far too many collisions yearly in this State.

  2. The guy was a complete Jack*ss but he is dead and has a grieving family. This type of reporting is not useful as far as I can see. Who does it serve? Let’s work on more pertinent things shall we?
    Just my opinion

    • By your reckoning a forensic analysis of anything is a waste of time. There’s nothing wrong with knowing what happened and were everyone to follow your lead humanity would be disallowed the opportunity to learn from the experience of others… including this crash test dummy, Knopp.

      Bummer for his wife, particularly if she not only knew but was also somehow responsible for turning her husband in to authorities. That seems an unusual responsibility for a wife.

    • It serves the people to see what he was doing. He thought his s__t did not stink and he paid the price and the people can see him for what he was a lawmaker breaking the law.

    • Why is this type of reporting not useful? It is, actually, reporting. MRAK is providing us with factual follow-up to a deadly accident involving an elected official. What is wrong with that? You don’t think this is “pertinent”? I am quite sure the family of Gregory Bell and those of his passengers find it very pertinent.

    • Wesley:
      This is very newsworthy reporting. It really is useful as it explains how serious it can be to fly an airplane with faulty vision. If you are not a pilot I can understand your post. But for us pilots it is something we need to understand.and it seems to
      me that it is inexplicable why Knopp would knowingly fly with his disability. I am sure that the victims of this accident would like to
      know that answer.

    • Because his selfishness which moved into the criminal realm cost other people their lives. Your attitude and bleeding heart is part of the problem we have in this state, not holding people accountable and not shining light on truth. Right wrong or indifferent or if people’s feelings get hurt whatever especially when it comes to air operations but you dont get that Wes. Think it through.

  3. I think there is actually more to this story. Knopp intentionally concealed the registration numbers of his downed aircraft by using the numbers from a different aircraft. That would be akin to swapping out license plates from one vehicle to another in order to cover-up something. Gary Knopp was a bit of a fraud. Sadly, his wife is going to pay the price. By the time Knopp’s estate has been valued, the suing plaintiff’s will wipe her out.

    • As they should. She probably knew everything that he was doing and may or may not feel comfortable reporting it or standing up to him. She will in fact pay the price when his estate settles all civil responsibilities.

    • Unless he was totally incompetent, he had personal liability insurance up the wazoo. Odds are that his wife should come out pretty good.
      Just info. I don’t care either way.

      • I doubt that liability insurance covers illegal activity. Both the aircraft and the pilot violated the law.

        • Businesses buy insurance that protects them from employees and managements illegal acts. The businesses do have to comply with the insurers standards of oversight.
          Whether Knopp did, I don’t know.

        • Notwithstanding the air disaster that he created, Knopp was a defiant and narcissistic member of the House of Representatives. He alone held up organization for nearly one month, then arrogantly tried to gain the Speakership for himself. A disruptive individual to the bitter end, when he though he owned the skies. I feel very sorry for his widow, and pray for the souls of the other downed aircraft.

    • “Knopp intentionally concealed the registration numbers of his downed aircraft by using the numbers from a different aircraft. ”

      no…. he (rightfully) chose an old unused/surrendered N Number to be his NEW “experimental’s” N Number…. but was UNABLE to get an airworthiness certificate issued for that new collection of (old) parts… (original PA-12 fuselage, with PA-18 wings installed ) that’s why there are 2 different N numbers in the case…..

      • Mike,
        Was that new “N” number approved by the FAA? If not, wouldn’t that be considered an FAA violation of fraudulent use of aircraft registry?

  4. And the plane wasn’t legal to fly either. It was a pa-12 with pa-18 wings that got denied an experimental airworthiness certificate……

  5. Knopp killed the passengers in the plane he hit while flying illegally. Sue his estate for everything. Knopp was arrogant to the end.

  6. I am sure the families and their lawyers are well informed of the findings without the help of MRAK. I am in no way proposing any kind of cover up? not sure how that would even happen if someone did want to cover it up. I was merely saying (poorly evidently) what Tom reiterated. His wife and family do not need to be put in the MRAK spotlight. Its tacky and this is a class site. We should be focusing on ways to make sure Forrest does not win as opposed to wating reading time on National Enquirer writing

    • You missed the point evidently. National enquirer as you put it is made up of lies and gossip. Suzanne reports nothing but facts. There’s no harm in talking about facts is there?

      • That’s why we stay loyal to MRAK and Suzanne. She stays loyal to us……….and the true facts.

    • Because he was a lawmaker for the public and lied he needs to be held accountable. At least someone has the will to report what the left refuses to publish. He was wrong and got caught.

  7. He missed an opportunity investing in someone trustworthy paying for their Flight training so they could fly him around. That would have been more awarding than only recipient recieving the joy flying his plane. He could have watched someone he paid for their flight training flying his plane while he was the passenger.

  8. His eyes! It looks lonely and dark. The legislators they need to start bible reading together, many I am sure are professed Christians but know just as much or as little as me. Their accomplishments and legislature tenure means nothing when there is No God in their life. They may look fancy, but they look as shabby as Anchorage homeless without knowing God.

  9. Dear C:
    You are in our prayers. Thank you for connecting through Must Read Alaska. Your mission and advocacy is admirable.

    • Oh Marla… I always knew I was your favorite! Love will flow through the Clam today, thanks to you.

  10. Fundamentally, Knopp denied medical facts. He violated FAA regulations. Because of his hubris, because of his reckless behavior innocent people were killed. Are there others in the Alaska legislature like him?

  11. When that accident happened, my first thought was that it had to be Knopp’s fault. But I never uttered those words for respect of the dead. But watching and reading all of his actions and words that he spoke, I had little respect for the man. One remark that he made and was reported was when he was asked for some of his actions, his remark was “It’s called sleight of hand”. He was a politician, not a dang magician. His wife has my utmost condolences.

  12. To become a lawyer (in Alaska):

    1. Graduate with a four-year college degree, with a decent GPA.
    2. Take LSAT exam, with a decent score.
    3. Apply to multiple law schools.
    4. Get accepted to an ABA accredited law school.
    5. Spend the next three years studying hard with tremendous concentration on reading, writing, and speaking well.
    6. Take brutalizing law school exams.
    7. Graduate at end of three years.
    8. Spend months preparing for nasty Bar exam.
    9. If fail exam, do over step 8.
    10. Pass exam. Get background checked by Bar Association. An investigation into your personal life.
    11. Put out shingle, get employed by reputable law firm, or work as government lawyer….. or, decide you don’t like being a lawyer and become a dish washer or truck driver to pay bills.
    12. Purchase liability insurance for law practice.
    13. Do not get into ethical problems or you will lose your hard-fought law license.
    14. Begin debt repayment for all of the loans you took to go to law school…..
    today, about $225,000.00.
    15. Do pro bono work.
    16. Learn to laugh at good lawyer jokes.
    17. Read AK S. 08.08.210.

    Still thinking about becoming a lawyer?

    • I think Step #9 is where Lisa Murkowski decided to change career paths. Or maybe her dad, Frank Murkowski, pitched-in and appointed her to the US Senate…….his old seat, after she couldn’t get past Step #8.

  13. Thank you. The passing of a Bar test is the “state license”? So would you say the state of Alaska issues a license like a license to be dentist in Alaska? Or is is the Bar the issuer of a license? I thought the Bar Registry was a private club with origins in London with an oath of allegiance to a foreign law arrangement of the monarch. Do you register as a foreign agent somewhere then? Not sure I would want to do that…

    • The Alaska Bar Association issues the license. Self governing association, with lawyer’s professional responsibility enforced by the ABA and the Alaska Supreme Court.

  14. I wonder if the midair was a result of the poor eyesight OR was it from a distraction? Very common to be trying to get a GPS course set after take-off. Or sending a text that you airborne

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