Peter Kust 05/08/95 Eklutna Lake Flying Crash
Bruce Stafford 05/08/95 Eklutna Lake Flying Crash

Super Cub Wreck Id'd: Bodies May Be 2 Men Missing Since May
By S.J. Komarnitsky, ADN 6/14/95

A wrecked plane spotted Monday night near Eklutna Lake has been identified as that belonging to two men who disappeared in early May on a round-trip flight from Anchorage.

Peter Kust, a commercial fisherman from Nelson Lagoon, and Bruce Stafford of Anchorage, a land appraiser for the state Department of Natural Resources' Division of Land, were the subject of a massive search in May after a PA-18 Super Cub they were flying in failed to return from a trip to the Sutton and Hatcher Pass area. The wreckage, spotted about 8 p.m. Monday by a private pilot, was found on a mountain about four miles southwest of the lake at the 5,500-foot level.

The Alaska State Troopers and an investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board were at the scene Tuesday and could not be reached for comment. Trooper spokesman Steve Wilhelmi said two bodies were found inside the plane, and that both the plane and bodies were severely burned. It appears the plane caught fire on impact, he said. He said an NTSB investigator planned to pull the plane's identification plates in order to identify the plane. Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Joette Storm said Tuesday evening that the plane had been positively identified as the Super Cub that Kust and Stafford were in.

TX: The two men disappeared May 8 while on a round-trip flight from Merrill Field to Sutton and the Hatcher Pass area. That was the flight plan Kust called in as the two flew over Arctic Valley.

Don Karabelnikoff, who has known both men since the 1970s, said he wouldn't be surprised if it turns out to be his friends. The crash site is in the flight path the two men planned to take, and the area is known for the turbulent drafts that come off nearby peaks. ''I figured a couple of weeks ago we were not looking for survivors,'' he said.

Karabelnikoff said he figures the plane probably got caught in one of the drafts and crashed.

The white Super Cub with thin red trim probably would have then been camouflaged by the snow. It also would make sense that the plane burned on impact, Karabelnikoff said, since an electronic locator beacon on board apparently never went off.

Karabelnikoff said Kust was an experienced flier unlikely to take risks, or be unaware of the drafts from the mountains. Both men were highly regarded in their professions, he said.

''I used to tease (Bruce) a lot about when he was going to get a steady job,'' he said. ''But he cared a lot about what he did.''

Wilhelmi said the bodies will be brought to Anchorage for positive identification.

NTSB Accident Database
A/C Type: Piper Pa-18

N-Number: N825PK

Preliminary Report
On May 8, 1995, about 0730 Alaska daylight time, a Piper PA-18, N825PK, crashed in the Chugach Mountains, about 13 miles east of Chugiak, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) local area personal flight when the accident occurred. The airplane, registered to and operated by the pilot, was destroyed by impact and postimpact fire. The certificated commercial pilot and the sole passenger, received fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. A VFR flight plan was filed. The flight originated at Merrill Field, Anchorage, Alaska, about 0702. After departure, the pilot air-filed a flight plan with the route of flight as Merrill Field to Alpenglow, Knik Glacier, Gunsight Mountain, Talkeetna, and return to Merrill Field. The flight failed to return to Merrill Field and was declared missing. Search personnel began numerous aerial searches for the aircraft. An active search for the airplane was suspended on May 18, 1995. The airplane wreckage was spotted by a passing aircraft on June 12, 1995.

Probable Cause Report
After departing on a round-robin, the pilot contacted the local automated flight service station (afss) and air-filed a vfr flight plan. The afss requested a pilot report about the weather conditions. The pilot reported a smooth ride. About eleven miles north of the last radio contact point, the airplane collided with mountainous terrain in a nose down attitude. The propeller received minor damage. The engine received extensive fire damage. No engine malfunction was noted during a post-accident engine examination. An airmet was in effect which stated "cook inlet and susitna valley...occasional moderate turbulence below 9,000 feet with isolated severe within 5,000 feet above the ground, especially through channeled terrain. Continuing beyond 1200." Search aircraft also encountered moderate to severe turbulence.

Probable Cause
The pilot's failure to maintain adequate airspeed resulting in an inadvertent stall. The pilot's failure to obtain a weather briefing and an encounter with turbulence were factors in the accident.