4 September 1971

Alaska Airlines Flight 1866 crashes near Juneau, Alaska, killing all 111 people on board.

Alaska Airlines Flight 1866

Alaska Airlines Flight 1866
Boeing 727-193, Pacific Air Lines JP6858513.jpg
N2969G, the aircraft involved in the accident, seen at San Francisco International Airport in 1967, while still operating with Pacific Air Lines
DateSeptember 4, 1971 (1971-09-04)
SummaryControlled flight into terrain
SiteHaines Borough, Alaska
58°21′42″N 135°10′12″W / 58.361666°N 135.170000°W / 58.361666; -135.170000Coordinates: 58°21′42″N 135°10′12″W / 58.361666°N 135.170000°W / 58.361666; -135.170000
Aircraft typeBoeing 727-193
OperatorAlaska Airlines
IATA flight No.AS1866
ICAO flight No.ASA1866
Call signALASKA 66
Flight originTed Stevens Anchorage International Airport, Anchorage, Alaska
1st stopoverMerle K. (Mudhole) Smith Airport, Cordova, Alaska
2nd stopoverYakutat Airport, Yakutat, Alaska
3rd stopoverJuneau International Airport, Juneau, Alaska
Last stopoverSitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport, Sitka, Alaska
DestinationSeattle-Tacoma International Airport, Seattle, Washington

Alaska Airlines Flight 1866 was a regularly scheduled flight from Anchorage, Alaska, to Seattle, Washington, with intermediate stops. On September 4, 1971, the aircraft serving the flight crashed into a mountain in Haines Borough, near Juneau, Alaska (JNU/PAJN) on approach for landing. All 111 people were killed.[1] It was the first fatal jet airliner crash of Alaska Airlines, and the deadliest single-plane crash in the history of the United States until June 24, 1975, when Eastern Air Lines Flight 66 crashed. To date it is the deadliest accident in Alaska Airlines history.[2]


The captain of the flight was Richard C. Adams, age 41 at the time of the crash. Adams had 13,870 flying hours, including 2,688 hours on the B-727. Piloting the aircraft at the time was First Officer Leonard D. Beach, age 32. Beach had 5,000 flying hours, including 2,100 hours on the B-727.[3]:46James J. Carson, 30, was the second officer and had 2,850 flying hours, including about 2,600 hours on the Boeing 727.[3]:46 Beach and Carson had been employed with Alaska Airlines since 1966. Adams had been with Alaska Airlines since 1955.[citation needed]


The aircraft was a Boeing 727-100 with U.S. registry N2969G[4] manufactured in 1966 as c/n 19304 and manufacturer's serial number 287. It was initially operated by Pacific Air Lines, which later became part of Airwest. On April 8, 1970, the aircraft was acquired by San Francisco-based Hughes Air Corporation. On September 25, 1970 the aircraft was leased to Alaska Airlines by sub-leasing company Air West. It had accumulated 11,344 flight hours before the incident.[3]:48[5] The aircraft was powered by three Pratt & Whitney JT8D-7B turbofan engines.[2]

Accident flight

Flight 1866 originated in Anchorage, Alaska, and had stopped at Cordova (CDV) and Yakutat (YAK/PAYA). It was scheduled to stop in Juneau and Sitka before ending in Seattle. The flight landed at Yakutat at 11:07 a.m and departed on the accident flight at 11:35 a.m. for Juneau. According to the plan, the flight was to be performed by IFR. At 09:13[* 1] Flight AS1866 departed from Anchorage and landed at 09:42 in Cordova. Because of the problem with loading the luggage compartment, The flight landed at Yakutat at 11:07 a.m and departed on the accident flight at 11:35 a.m. for Juneau.[3]:3

At 11:46, the crew made contact with the Anchorage Control Center, which reported on flight level 230 and a distance of 65 miles (104 km) east of Anchorage. The controller cleared Flight 1866 to descend and maintain 10 thousand feet (3 km) before crossing the Pleasant, and also allowed to descend after crossing the Howard. Captain Adams acknowledged the transmission, who then communicated with the controller, Juno, and then received data from the controller for setting pressure on the altimeters to 29.46, as well as instructions to report the passing FL 110. At 11:51 the aircraft was reported leaving flight level (FL) 230, for which permission was given to descend to the Pleasant intersection.[3]:3

At 11:54, the controller instructed Flight 1866 to occupy an altitude of 12 thousand feet (3.65 km), which the crew reported on in a minute. The controller warned the crew about a Piper PA-23 Apache, N799Y, flying in the Howard intersection. The height of the piper was unknown. It had departed from Juneau at 11:44 and, flying by instruments, was heading to Whitehorse, Canada, along the Eluf 79 corridor, while this corridor was already designated in many documents as Amber 15.[3]:3–4

At two to one from the board, they reported the passage of the Pleasant and the following of the waiting scheme, to which the dispatcher gave permission to proceed to the Howard intersection through the Juneau beacon. He also asked if the height of 12 thousand feet was maintained, to which the answer was yes. At 12:00, the dispatcher repeated the permit for passing the Howard point, and also estimated the approach time as 12:10. At 12:01 Flight 1866 reported passing 12 thousand feet. At 12:07, the plane was asked about its location relative to the landing course and the waiting pattern, and the controller reported that Flight 1866 had just entered the approach scheme and followed the Howard radio beacon, after which it gave permission to descend to pass the directional beacon at a height of no more than 9 thousand feet (2.7 km). The crew confirmed the permission to descend and reported on leaving a height of 12 thousand feet. At 12:08, the controller asked about the altitude, with the flight responding, "...leaving five thousand five... four thousand five hundred." Flight 1866 was then instructed to contact the Juneau ATC Tower. The crew acknowledged the transmission and then changed to the tower frequency. The tower controller said, "Alaska 66, understand, ah, I didn't, ah, copy the intergusts to 28, the altimeter now 29.47, time is 09 112. call section, landing Runway 8, the wind 0800 at 22 occasional us by Barlow". There were no more transmissions from Flight 1866.[3]:4

According to the testimonies of three eyewitnesses, at this time there was a little rain, and the sky was covered with clouds.[3]:4 According to the meteorological service of the airport, at 11:56, the sky was partly cloudy with a lower boundary of 1,500 feet and up to 3,500 feet, and up to 7,500 feet - full clouds, light rain, visibility 15 miles. Also at 1:10 pm a pilot flying from Juneau to Sitka reported weather at 11:15 - overcast, light rain, lower cloud limit 1000 feet, upper - 3000 feet, visibility 10 miles, mountain tops and passes closed.[3]:6 Two witnesses who were in the region of the Chilkat Mountains stated that they heard a low-flying aircraft, but could not see it because of low visibility, which they estimated at 55–65 meters. The sound of the engines was normal. Then after a minute there was an explosion. The third witness saw a plane that disappeared into the clouds, but then did not hear any sounds. At 12:15, aircraft struck the eastern slope of a canyon in the Chilkat Range of the Tongass National Forest at the 2500-foot level, 35 km (22 mi; 19 nmi) west of Juneau. The aircraft exploded on impact. When the crew stopped responding, at 12:23 the search for Flight 1866 began. A few hours later, the wreckage of the aircraft was found on the eastern slope of the Chilkat ridge at 18.5 nmi (21.3 mi; 34.3 km) west of Juneau airport at the coordinates 58°21′42″N 135°10′12″W / 58.36167°N 135.17000°W / 58.36167; -135.17000. There were no survivors.[3]:4–5[6]


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the accident and made the following conclusions:

  1. The aircraft was certificated, maintained, and loaded properly and there was no failure or control systems. malfunction of the aircraft, powerplants, or control systems.
  2. The crew was certificated and qualified for the operation.
  3. Air traffic control handling of AS66 was appropriate and in accordance with prescribed procedures and standards.
  4. The issuance of an incorrect clearance to N799Y caused this aircraft to stray into airspace where its presence caused an additional traffic control workload from a separation as well as communications standpoint.
  5. Involvement in the N799Y activities and awareness of the uncertainty about that aircraft's whereabouts and intentions might have created a distraction for the crew of AS66.
  6. The crew did not use audio identification procedures when tuning in the pertinent navigational facilities.
  7. It could not be established that effective crew coordination took place when the first officer changed his VHF navigational frequency from the VOR to the localizer and requested the captain to tune in the VOR.
  8. The crew was subjected to seemingly correct but erroneous navigational information which led to a premature descent into obstructing terrain.
  9. There was no altimetry system malfunction.
  10. The display of the intersections that delineate the Juneau localizer approach were displaced about 35°- 40° counterclockwise, based on the recorded callouts by the crew.
  11. The captain's VOR receiver was tuned to the Juneau localizer at impact, and the associated frequency selector had been manipulated just prior to impact.
  12. There was no evidence indicating that the crew used all available navigational facilities to check the flight's progress along the localizer.
  13. Flight tests and other research failed to which would have accounted for a large bearing disclose a Sisters Island VOR malfunction error on the day of the accident.
  14. Examinations and tests of the recovered aircraft's avionics equipment revealed no evidence of other than normal operation.
  15. Research into the compatibility of Doppler VOR transmitters and the existing aircraft that would indicate any discrepancy in this navigational receivers revealed no information area.
    — NTSB final report

The NTSB released their report on October 11, 1972. In it, they stated that the probable cause of the accident was the following:[3]:41

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was a display of misleading navigational information concerning the flight's progress along the localizer course which resulted in a premature descent below obstacle clearance altitude. The origin or nature of the misleading navigational information could not be determined. The Board further concludes that the crew did not use all available navigational aids to check the flight's progress along the localizer nor were these aids required to be used. The crew also did not perform the required audio identification of the pertinent navigational facilities.

— NTSB final report

Aviation writer Robert J. Serling's 2008 history of Alaska Airlines, Character and Characters, includes a description of the NTSB investigation and subsequent independent investigations.[3]:41[2][7][8]

Modern improvements relating to Juneau

In 1989, Alaska Airlines became the first airline to use for passenger flights. These are credited for reducing disruptions caused by fog.[9] Alaska Airlines is credited as being an airline pioneer in the use of head-up displays, which are seen as assisting air crews to fly to challenging airports.[10] Juneau has been reported to be a challenging airport.[11][12]

Takeoffs from Runway 8 sometimes require a 180-degree right turn inside a river valley between an island and the mainland, both of which have steep terrain; this departure is no longer allowed by the FAA for commercial or passenger jet aircraft use, as Alaska Airlines' Boeing 737s once used this style of departure, then known by both Alaska and the FAA as the "Lemon Creek Departure". In addition, there can be high winds in the vicinity.[13]


  1. ^ All times are expressed in Pacific Daylight Time (UTC−07:00)


  1. ^ "Alaska Airlines - HistoryLink.org". Retrieved January 14, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT REPORT ALASKA AIRLINES, INC. BOEIN6 727, N29696, NEAR JUNEAU, ALASKA SEPTEMBER 4, 1971" (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board. October 13, 1972. NTSB-AAR-72-28. Retrieved April 21, 2019.
  4. ^ DCA72AZ003
  5. ^ "Pacific Air Lines Boeing 727-169 N2969G (c/n 19304)". Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  6. ^ "Advanced Search Result". B3A Aircraft Accidents Archives. Archived from the original on September 23, 2015. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
  7. ^ Kiffer, Dave (September 7, 2011). "SitNews: 40 Years ago, 111 died in Alaska Airlines Crash Near Juneau By DAVE KIFFER". SitNews. Retrieved January 14, 2017.
  8. ^ Hosansky, David (March 20, 1997). "Aviation and Turbulence: FAA and NCAR Continue Investigations". University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. Archived from the original on May 4, 2017. Retrieved December 6, 2014.
  9. ^ splash.alaskasworld.com http://splash.alaskasworld.com/newsroom/ASNews/AS-Fact-Sheet_Innovation.asp. Retrieved April 22, 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ "HUDs and enhanced vision: more efficiency, reduced costs". Retrieved January 14, 2017.
  11. ^ "Innovation and Technology Leadership". Alaska Airlines. August 2014. Retrieved December 6, 2014.
  12. ^ Coordination Meeting #1, Delay Reduction Strategy Archived 2007-06-14 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Aviation and Turbulence: FAA and NCAR Continue Investigations". Archived from the original on May 4, 2017. Retrieved January 14, 2017.

External links