Two bear-viewing planes crash at Chinitna Bay

Two Cessna 206 airplanes operated by bear viewing tour companies crashed while taxiing on a Chinitna Bay beach the same afternoon on July 19. No one was hurt in the incidents.

Pilots reported the incidents at 4 p.m. last Tuesday. National Transportation Safety Board air crash investigator Shaun Williams said it was only a coincidence the events happened about the same time. The planes weren’t near each other while taxiing and there was no safety issue involved, Williams said.

In both cases, the planes were on wheels and pilots were taxiing to move the planes to a harder surface. A plane owned by K-Bay Air hit nose first while a plane owned by Cook Inlet Aviation tipped over onto its nose and right wing.

Williams called the crashes “events.” Because the Cook Inlet Aviation had no intent to start the flight, it is not a matter for the NTSB, Williams said.

K-Bay Air was transporting passengers. In an interview on July 20, Williams said the K-Bay Air event was being monitored, and he did not know if damages were severe enough for it to require an NTSB investigation.

The Cessnas are part of a fleet of planes and even a helicopter transporting visitors from Homer across Cook Inlet to popular bear viewing sites in Lake Clark and Katmai National Parks.

Some planes land on wheels on beaches or airstrips leased from private land owners. Others land on state land or waters near the parks. If permitted by the Park Service, companies also can offer guided tours into the parks.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at