Plane hits office building in Alaska


The FBI has been called in, but officials say there is ‘no reason to believe the crash is related to terrorism’.

Some old comedian used to joke whenever a plane flew over, “I hope it’s one of ours!”. Now we really do have to wonder.

A friend of ours saw it happen. Most people don’t know that there is a small-plane airfield (Merrill Field) right at the north end of Anchorage. It was the first airport in Anchorage, and the only one until about 1950. As the city grew, it became a concern to those living in the vicinity, not only because of noise, but because of the danger of a plane crashing into homes and businesses. I have to wonder if this is where the plane originated, or if it was actually out of Ted Stevens, which also gets a lot of small plane traffic.

There are two units based at JB Elmendorf-Richardson, and one at Merrill.

I’m wondering about what happened. A witness said the winds were ‘howling’. CAP said 1LT Demarest was not authorised to fly the aircraft. What does that mean? He did not have a current Form 5? Was he a certified pilot at all? Or was it ‘not authorised’ simply because he did not schedule the flight? Why was he flying so low near buildings? A 747 pilot said the engine sounded normal. Another witness said otherwise. Engine trouble, or not? If 1LT Demarest was not qualified to fly, is this a case of ‘I know I can do this. I’ll just sneak out while no one is looking…’? If he was a qualified pilot, did the ‘howling’ winds just get the better of him? Is it a coincidence that he hit a building housing Law Enforcement offices, or was this a suicide?

I’m sure these questions will be answered once investigators finish their investigation. By that time, I suspect this will be a local story that few outside of Alaska will hear about. Chefguy: If you hear anything about the outcome in the coming months, will you post here?

We’re seeing now that the guy’s wife works in the building that he flew into. The plot thickens. Updates can be see at

Stiff winds, but what I learned to fly in.

I just dismissed it as pilot error since Alaska has so many pilots. I lived on Cange St. for a few years, people had airplanes in their garages and and Sky Harbor Airport in their back yard.

I’ve spent some time in Alaska and it’s amazing how deeply aviation is ingrained in the culture there. I was told to expect that. One native said to me, “Alaska has a tremendous number of pilots, and a few of them even have licenses!”

Knowledgeable back-country travelers in Alaska always ask the pilot how long he’s been flying in the Bush. If it’s less than a year, many people won’t get on the plane unless it’s a clear, warm day with no wind. I had an employee who was a small plane pilot out of Merrill. He told me that once he was airborne he would look to the west, across Cook Inlet. If he saw a cloud bank, he’d land again after a short flight over the city.

The latest news says that the pilot took off from Merrill Field before the tower was open or even manned, and that he left the hangar door open, which is not something a pilot would normally do. The FBI is involved, so it’s unlikely any information will be coming out soon.

20 mph wind gusting to 29? I was handling those as a student pilot. But then, it’s pretty windy out here where I live. Not too fun as a full crosswind in a 172 or smaller, but if you can get runways lined up with the wind it’s not bad.

If you’re used to it.

If you’re not accustomed to that level of wind yes, it could be challenging. Also depends on terrain - winds out on the flat where I live are a lot different than winds in, say, mountainous terrain.

Perhaps a jealous/pissed off husband sort of thing?

Yep. But in the desert, the wind generally blows from one direction and the runway was pretty close to it. Of course I’d avoid approaching the maximum crosswind component (15 kts in a Skyhawk). Did have some nice crabs on the crosswind and base legs. :wink:

Well, since any possible statute of limitations has run out, I can admit I once landed not a C172 but a C150 in a 25 knot full crosswind. It was… educational.

Quite doable, but you don’t want to use flaps. Also helped a lot it was a mostly steady wind.

The “maximum crosswind component” for those small Cessnas is the maximum demonstrated crosswind component, not the maximum the plane + trained pilot is capable of.

Also know of someone who landed a Piper Cherokee in a 50 mph headwind. NOT recommended. In fact, the airport authorities grounded the airplane and forced him to call someone to pick up him and his student and come back later for the airplane when the wind died down. So yeah, there’s a lot of stuff you can do, even if it’s not recommended or a good idea.

Wow you have one of those thingies that allow you to brag about being able to fly?

Yeah. I’ve landed light planes in wind that I couldn’t taxi in. Funny enough the worst such thing I ever did was at Barstow / Dagget, Johnny’s Dad’s old station.

Aah, the joys of Youthful Ignorance.
“Maximum demonstrated” is the crosswind standard used on pretty much all aircraft, large and small. We think of it as the biggest wind the best factory test pilots with the biggest cojones and best engineering back-up were willing to go out and actually try. If you think you’re better prepared than that, by all means try to beat their record.

IOW, it can be done, but it’s also a real good way to embarrass yourself on TV.

I heard with Cessna they deliberately set those lower than what the Big Ballsy Test Pilots felt they could do specifically because Cessna knew students would be flying those things, and less trained/experienced pilots. I have no idea if that’s actually true or not, but it sounds plausible.

And, despite youthful hijinks, I don’t recommend exceeding them either. I hadn’t intended to do so that day, but I had been delayed returning and the weather had changed. Once you’re off the ground you have to deal with what you get.

Truer words were never spoken.

One time I calculated a 14 kt. crosswind component. I don’t remember if I was alone, or if I was with the instructor. Anyway, I/we went up. Don’t remember the flight; just the number.

When a person is working with small planes to make a living, not going is a way to be out of a job real quick.

Bad judgement allowed me to
A) Fly bank checks at night in small single engine aircraft. Only 2 reasons we could refuse a flight and keep our jobs. 1) Tornado on the same airport as we were.
2) Moderate & above reported by landing airliners departing at the time from the same airport. ( I lived through 8 months of that. )

Fly Pipeline patrol. 1) Big difference in maneuvering at 10 feet to 150 feet all day long. Many hazards. Not all companies use nice new well equipped aircraft. Bawahahaha ( I flew for both kinds. )

Lots of different jobs would find one’s self in a position to need fuel THERE, the only reachable place that is not water or trees or a broken airplane.

As one would be ‘up there,’ dealing with getting down, alive, having a working airplane, having a job & last but by no means least, being alive, is what, “Once you’re off the ground you have to deal with what you get.” is all about.

It is about choices, experience, need, risk assessment, learning your aircraft, learning that when talked to nicely, most aircraft can & will do amazing things as long as you ask nicely and pet them now & again.

Very very seldom do airplanes fly into buildings by accident. Has happened but if winds was a factor, I would really wonder how much experience the pilot had.
With his female, whatever and whatever their status to each other is/was, IMO, it was not the aircraft or the weather. It was the choice of the pilot. The part that breaks and is most difficult to know about it or fix it once that part get’s itself up in the air.

In cases like this, we, not he, has to deal with what it causes.

What is one of the great things about being a pilot is that very very seldom can someone else control your destiny.

The buck stops at the tip of the arrow. :cool: