According to a preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board, the ACE Air Cargo Flight 51 was operating on an instrument flight rules (IFR) plan when it crashed into "rising terrain" in the Muklung Hills during poor weather on Friday, March 8th. The Beechcraft 1900C dropped off radar at 8:14 a.m. Pilot Jeff Day, 38, and co-pilot Neil Jensen, 21, were both killed in the crash.
NTSB has not yet determined what caused the crash. Next week investigators from Washington D.C. will join the Anchorage team in reviewing all logs and communications between ground stations and the flight crew onboard the Beechcraft.
ACE Air Cargo Flight 51 left Anchorage before 6am, and made a stop in King Salmon before continuing on to Dillingham. The report provides a rough sketch of the communications that transpired as the Beechcraft was on final approach to Dillingham.
At 7:57 a.m., the flight crew was granted an "instrument approach" to the Dillingham Airport by Anchorage Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC). Flight 51 was instructed by ARTCC to approach the Initial Approach Fix (IAF) and maintain an altitude of 2,000 feet or above. The flight crew then requested a holding pattern while they sought an update on runway conditions from the Flight Services Station at the Dillingham Airport. ARTCC granted the request for a holding pattern, then shortly thereafter lost radio communications with the flight.
The Beechcraft dropped off the radar at 8:14 a.m., and the FAA issued an alert notice (ALNOT) at 8:35 a.m.
An extensive search effort by the Alaska State Troopers, local volunteers on the ground and in the air, and later the Alaska Air National Guard and U.S. Coast Guard, was hampered by poor weather Friday. The crash site was located, and the remains recovered, early on Saturday, March 9. That same day, two NTSB Air Safety Investigators and an FAA Inspector began their investigation at the site, describing it as "steep, snow and ice-covered."
At 7:45 a.m. on the morning of the crash, the weather at the Dillingham Airport was recorded as light rain, with east winds at 17 knots, gusting to 30 knots. An overcast cloud ceiling was reported at 1,500 feet, and visibility was seven miles.
Investigators still intend to examine the wreckage when it's been recovered. A determination of the cause of the fatal crash is expected in a final report.