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Plane removed from refuge by helicopter

Picked up in pieces

Posted: Thursday, December 28, 2006

 

  A Mavrik Aire de Havilland DHC3 Otter is pictured in August where it made an emergency landing in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Kenai Municipal Airport. Clarion file photo

A Mavrik Aire de Havilland DHC3 Otter is pictured in August where it made an emergency landing in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Kenai Municipal Airport.

Clarion file photo

After more than three months of puzzling over how to remove a single-engine de Havilland Otter DHC-3 that made an emergency landing on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge this summer, a salvage crew has finally disassembled the plane and removed it by helicopter.

The plane’s pilot emergency landed the plane on a stretch of refuge muskeg approximately six miles northeast of the Kenai Municipal Airport on Aug. 22 after the plane lost power.

The plane lost power due to a failed cylinder head exhaust valve, but suffered almost no damage due to landing on the refuge, said Craig Schweitzer, owner of Mavrik Aire, an air charter service company leasing the plane.

Initially, mechanics who worked on the plane after it landed were optimistic the plane might fly off the refuge under its own power rather than having to be lifted off by a helicopter, he said.

“Originally we thought we could do it without that expense,” he said.

But even after the exhaust valve was repaired, a hump in the airplane’s path and further engine problems undermined attempts made to fly the plane off of the soggy refuge terrain.

Additionally, the airplane was later damaged by high winds that blew across the peninsula at up to 50 mph in November.

“A big piece of the rudder was laying on the ground,” said refuge ranger and pilot Rick Johnston. “Now they not only had to repair the rudder, but still try to figure out how to get this plane out of there and it was never easy.”

Johnston said the final decision to helicopter the plane out was likely a wise one, but still burdened with challenges.

He said even when disassembled to be removed in multiple flights, the approximately 5,200-pound plane remained a hefty load for the helicopter sent to retrieve it.

“It was on the edge of the weight that they could take,” he said.

Schweitzer said that after an early attempt to fly the plane off of the refuge failed, he left to finish working his company’s flying season and returned when the ground had frozen and the refuge agreed to write a permit to allow a helicopter to retrieve the plane.

Schweitzer declined to name the plane’s owner, but Federal Aviation Administration records list the registered owner as Northern Aircraft Leasing LLC, of Cheyenne, Wyo.

Johnston said he wrote permits to Mavrik Aire and Alaska Claims Service Inc. for the removal of the plane and that they had completed removing the plane by Dec. 12.

Patrice Kohl can be reached at patrice.kohl@peninsulaclarion.com.



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