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Last updated: 6 December 2021
Date:Saturday 28 December 2002
Type:Silhouette image of generic DHC3 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter
Operator:Grasshopper Aviation
Registration: N3904
MSN: 54
First flight: 1954
Total airframe hrs:16437
Engines: 1 Pratt & Whitney R-1340-59
Crew:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 1
Passengers:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 1
Total:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 2
Aircraft damage: Substantial
Aircraft fate: Repaired
Location:56 km (35 mls) E of Nikolai, AK (   United States of America)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Departure airport:Nikolai Airport, AK (NIB/PAFS), United States of America
Destination airport:Wasilla Airport, AK (WWA/PAWS), United States of America
The airplane climbed to about 800 feet above the ground and the airspeed increased to about 55 knots, the pilot heard a very loud bang, followed by a loud rattling noise. He said that as he was attempting to turn the airplane around and return to the departure airstrip, he experienced considerable difficulty in maintaining longitudinal directional control using the airplane's rudder pedals. Using a combination of aileron control, and the remaining amount of rudder control, he was able to maneuver the airplane for an easterly landing on the airstrip. The pilot said that as the airplane passed over the approach end of the airstrip, the airplane drifted to the right, and he initiated a go-around. The airplane subsequently collided with a stand of trees on the south side of the airstrip, and sustained substantial damage to the wings, fuselage, and empennage.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "An improper and undocumented major repair of the elevator torque tube support assembly by an unknown person, which resulted in an in-flight disconnection of the airplane's right elevator, and a jammed rudder. A factor associated with the accident is the inadequate inspection of the airplane by company maintenance personnel."

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: NTSB
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 1 year and 2 months
Accident number: ANC03LA021
Download report: Summary report


Forced landing on runway



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This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not display the exact flight path.
Distance from Nikolai Airport, AK to Wasilla Airport, AK as the crow flies is 294 km (184 miles).

This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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