Miracle: Planes Collide in Midair, Then Land Safely

Alaska near-tragedy 'couldn't have worked out better,' NTSB official says

By Greg Wilson
|  Tuesday, Jul 12, 2011  |  Updated 9:24 AM EDT
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Miracle: Planes Collide in Midair, Then Land Safely

JimNtexas / Flickr

A Cessna 206 Float Plane like this survived a midair collision in Alaska.

Two small planes collided in midair over the Alaskan sky, and both pilots lived to tell about it.

The planes, a Piper Navajo and Cessna 206 floatplane, were flying toward each other over a treacherous mountain pass when the struck each other, reported MSNBC. The Piper was taking passengers to Anchorage, while the other craft was carrying a family on a bear-watching tour.

"One was coming northbound. The other was going south toward Port Alsworth and they just didn't see each other until the last second," National Transportation Safety Board investigator Larry Lewis told The Associated Press. "Neither made any evasive maneuvers as far as we can tell."

Nobody uses radar along the heavily-trafficked Lake Clark Pass, a narrow river valley running between mountains. Instead, pilots must follow visual flight plans. According to the Anchorage Daily News, the pass narrows to a quarter of a mile in some areas, and with the planes traveling at about 120 miles per hour, maneuverability was nearly nil.

The Piper, flying slightly lower than the Cessna, was hit on the tail by the Cessna's float, said Lewis. Still, no one was injured and the Piper made it to Merrill Field, its intended destination and the Cessna went to Lake Hood.

"It is extremely unusual," FAA spokesman Mike Fergus said Monday. "It is almost unheard of."

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