A pilot has been sentenced to a year in prison for lying to federal investigators following the August 2014 crash of a Ryan Navion A during a Part 135 sightseeing flight near Coldfoot, Alaska. The instrument-rated commercial pilot, identified as Forest Kirst, and three passengers were seriously injured in the accident. One passenger died of his injuries 35 days after the crash.
According to the NTSB’s final report on the accident, Kirst initially told first responders that he had encountered a severe downdraft while approaching a mountain pass. The report states that two weeks later, he told interviewers that the accident was caused by a passenger becoming unresponsive and slumping onto the flight controls after taking a motion sickness pill. A written statement submitted about two months after the accident claimed that the crash was the result of a propeller blade separating in flight.
Kirst, the widow of the deceased passenger and the two surviving passengers filed a lawsuit in 2016 against the company that sold Kirst the propeller and propeller manufacturer Hartzell. The suit alleged that the propeller was not safe for flight and should not have been put into service. The NTSB report, which was published in March 2017, noted that evidence indicated the propeller blade separated on impact. The board found that the crash was caused by the pilot’s “improper inflight planning and improper decision to deliberately operate the airplane at low altitude in close proximity to obstructions and rising terrain.” Kirst’s lawsuit was dismissed in 2018.
The FAA revoked Kirst’s pilot certificate in March 2015. The NTSB listed the FAA’s decision to issue a Part 135 certificate to the operator in spite of “the pilot’s history of accidents, incidents, reexaminations, and checkride failures” as a contributing factor in the crash. In December 2017, Kirst was charged with of two counts of obstructing the accident investigation and one count of operating an aircraft without a valid certificate. He was convicted of both counts of obstruction and found not guilty of flying without a valid certificate in November 2019.