The missing plane has been found, according to the Alaska National Guard, which made no mention of the condition of the pilot:
"The plane was found in the Kwethluk River, about 40 miles southeast of Bethel. Wreckage was initially spotted by a Yute Air pilot who was flying a company aircraft during the search. The Civil Air Patrol flew over the area moments later and were able to confirm the aircraft wreckage."
The Cessna 207 was found 6:45 p.m. Sunday. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating and has declined to comment on the condition of the pilot. The Alaska National Guard says "rescue and recovery efforts" are underway.
This story will be updated. Yute Air declined to comment on the search effort Monday.
Rescue and recovery operations are in progress after a Yute Air plane, last seen leaving Bethel with one pilot on board, was found crashed in the Kwethluk River Sunday evening.
The Cessna 207 was found at about 6:45 p.m. Sunday, the Alaska National Guard said in a Monday statement. There was no immediate word on the status of the plane’s pilot.
According to Alaska National Guard Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead, the plane left Bethel on an 8:30 a.m. maintenance flight Saturday headed toward Nyac, a town about 55 miles to the northeast. The Cessna was reported overdue to the 11th Air Force’s Rescue Coordination Center when it didn’t return to Bethel as scheduled at about 11:30 a.m. that morning.
“The plane was found in the Kwethluk River, about 40 miles southeast of Bethel,” Guard officials wrote. “Wreckage was initially spotted by a Yute Air pilot who was flying a company aircraft during the search. The Civil Air Patrol flew over the area moments later and were able to confirm the aircraft wreckage.”
Captain Barry Wilson of Alaska State Troopers told Channel 2 News that he believed the wrecked plane was upside down.
A Twitter message from the NTSB Monday morning indicated that it was looking into a crash consistent with that of the missing Yute Air pilot and plane.
“NTSB investigating the May 30 crash of a Cessna 207 in Bethel, AK,” NTSB officials wrote.
Clint Johnson, the Alaska chief of the National Transportation Safety Board, said Monday that the pilot of the aircraft had been on a maintenance flight to break in an engine newly installed on the aircraft. As a result, investigators plan to give the engine even greater scrutiny than they normally would in a plane crash.
“Wreckage has been found, and we don’t know the condition of the pilot,” Johnson said. “Troopers and NTSB are working the crash.”
Johnson said Sunday that an escalating search for the plane and its pilot had been conducted, with RCC assets and state Department of Public Safety aircraft among others, over the weekend. Initial hopes of quickly finding the plane, however, had not come to pass.
Olmstead said troopers were en route to the crash site Monday in both a jet boat and a helicopter. An NTSB investigator and a representative from the Federal Aviation Administration were accompanying the AST helicopter to the scene.
AST spokeswoman Megan Peters said she hadn't heard any updates from the troopers headed to the crash site as of 10:45 a.m.
Yute Air serves more than 20 Western Alaska communities from its hub in Bethel. A Yute Air employee at the company’s main information number didn’t have further details on the crash Monday morning. Yute's director of operations, Dan Knesek, didn’t immediately answer a call placed to his desk phone Monday.
This is a developing story. Please check KTUU.com and the Channel 2 newscasts for updates.
Bad news just in...
Troopers: Body of Yute Air pilot found amid wreckage in river
June 2, 2015
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The body of a Yute Air pilot was discovered Monday inside the wreckage of the plane he was flying, which crashed in the Kwethluk River, Alaska State Troopers said Tuesday.
Blaze Highlander, 47, of Olympia, Washington, had taken a company Cessna 207 on a post-maintenance check flight from the company's Bethel base Saturday but never returned.
Bethel-based troopers were notified that Highlander was overdue shortly after 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The next day, investigators found the plane upside down in the Kwethluk River.
At first light Monday, troopers said, they began recovery efforts. Highlander’s body was found later in the day.
His next of kin have been notified.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. Highlander’s death will remain an open investigation for troopers until an autopsy is conducted and the NTSB concludes its investigation, trooper spokesperson Megan Peters said.
“This case will be open until we get all of the pieces to close the report,” Peters said. “Right now, it looks like one of many Alaska tragedies we have in the backcountry.”
Weather has hindered the recovery process, NTSB Alaska chief Clint Johnson said. Rain caused the Kwethluk River rise 8 feet above normal, he said.
Two NTSB investigators were still at the crash site Tuesday, Johnson said, but they were expected to be taking their last look.
“There is only so much we can do if the airplane is submerged in the river,” Johnson said. “A lot of other parts and pieces have probably gone downstream. But it will be up to the insurance company (and operator) to recover it.”
A helicopter will likely have to be used to recover what remains of the plane, Johnson said.
Once recovered, the wreckage will be taken to Anchorage for further investigation.
Sunday's crash wasn't Highlander's first. He survived a 2011 crash near Kwigillingok.
A report from Bethel radio station KYUK at the time said the pilot was the only person aboard a Cessna 207 when it crashed just short of the runway in Kwigillingok on Dec. 21, 2011.
He suffered minor injuries in that crash, the NTSB reported.
An NTSB investigation found that the cause of that crash was icing that led to an aerodynamic stall.