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Plane goes down in stormy Southwest Alaska

Colleen Mondor

Searchers combed the Dillingham area Friday after an ACE Air Cargo plane with two pilots aboard went missing northeast of the Alaska Peninsula town. The aircraft, a Beechcraft 1900, was cleared to land but never arrived at the Dillingham airport. At about 9:15 a.m., an emergency locator beacon began transmitting a signal from about 20 miles northeast of Dillingham in the Muklung Hills.

Efforts to reach the area by snowmachine were turned back by poor weather, according to Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters. She said a wildlife trooper familiar with the area had to turn back “as his snowmachine was constantly getting stuck in the snow.”

A U.S. Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter was dispatched, as was an HH-60 Pavehawk helicopter with a rescue team aboard, and an HC-130 Hercules refueling plane. By 6 p.m., the wreckage had not been found. It appears the crash happened not far from the site of the 2010 crash that killed former Sen. Ted Stevens.

At 8:45 a.m., the National Weather Service reported skies overcast at 1,500 feet, with rain and light snow. Visibility was 7 miles with winds out of the east at 15 knots, gusting to 23. Within an hour, however, the conditions had degraded to skies overcast at 600 feet, visibility at 2 miles with rain and snow.

By 2:30 p.m., Peters said searchers believed they knew the rough area where the plane may be, but she had not gotten word that it had been located.

In December 2011, another ACE Air Cargo plane crashed one mile offshore following takeoff from Sand Point in high winds. The cause of the accident was determined to be “an in-flight loss of control for an undetermined reason.” Both crew members perished.

Contact Colleen Mondor at colleen(at)alaskadispatch.com