Dillingham crash review yields nothing unusual so far

Posted: Sunday, December 23, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Peninsula Airways pilot Gordon Mills did not call for help or say anything unusual before his Cessna 208 plunged into the tundra shortly after taking off Oct. 10 from Dillingham, according to an investigation update from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The crash killed Mills, 41, and his nine passengers. It was the deadliest commercial aircraft accident in Alaska in 14 years.

The NTSB update Thursday, the first since investigators returned to Washington after visiting the crash site in October, did not pinpoint a cause.

Investigators examined tapes of Mills' radio conversations with air traffic control before the crash and from several previous flights. No unusual calls or sounds were heard.

Witnesses described seeing the plane take off and then suddenly nose dive about half a mile from the runway's end.

Toxicology tests indicate Mills was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to the update, and no problems were found in the engine or propeller hub.

''The engine was running at the time of impact and the propeller was within its operating range,'' the update states.

Investigators are examining other evidence such as the engine monitor recovered from the crash site. It records any engine faults while the engine is running.

The weather was clear and windless the morning of the accident. Dillingham residents were baffled by what could have caused the plane to drop out of the sky.

The safety board's final report on the accident is not expected until next fall.

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