One Dead, Nine Missing In Washington State Floatplane Crash


One person has been confirmed dead and nine are missing after a turbine Otter floatplane crashed off Whidbey Island in Washington State on Sunday. The search for survivors was called off at noon on Monday. The charter aircraft took off from Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands for Renton about 2:50 p.m. and the flight ended 18 minutes later, according to Flight Aware. The Coast Guard found one body and called in local agencies to search for survivors. The Coast Guard initially reported nine adults and one child were onboard. Not details were immediately available on the nature of the crash or the identity of the person whose body was recovered.

The aircraft was operated by Northwest Seaplanes, which operates a single turbine-powered 10-seat Otter and four Beavers. The Otter was modified with the addition of a Walter turbine engine. The carrier offers charters to wilderness locations in Washington and British Columbia.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. According to news reports, witnesses say they saw the plane dive into the water. I hope someone was recording this accident with a camera. Should the wreckage be located, there may be some salvageable onboard video taken by the passengers or crew. It looks like weather was not a factor.

    • Agree. There not nearly enough information here. With what’s provided here, there isn’t enough information for even a guess.

      • Agreed. It is interesting that video or still images of this mishap haven’t surfaced. The weather was good: Day VMC, so that won’t be a factor. There’s an internet outfit (VASAviation) that somehow gets access to radio transmissions, and even a fair animation of a plan view flight profile to study. I haven’t seen this mishap featured on their channel yet.

    • And yesterday a SR22 crashed approaching Spring, Texas killing the pilot and injuring two passengers. The aircraft had refueled in Louisiana after departing Knoxville and was still quite full as news reports indicate 75 gallons spilled. It appears the BRS chute was deployed from the pictures I’ve seen. What’s going on??

      • Definitely a trend, here. I understand the SR22 is a hot little number, and not a bird for low timers. Those chutes have saved a lot of bacon. Apparently, the envelope for activating those assets must be respected.

    • Blancolirio chimed-in with a theory about these developments, and there’s some merit with his views: He hinted that the main demographic for active pilots/owners are folks with lots of money. Apparently, that financial acumen does not translate into the skills needed to safely operate complex machinery. My slant on this (And I might point out that the FAA agrees) is that automation has trickled down into GA aircraft, and those moneyed individuals who own these planes save their strength and cash by programming computers to do the flying and navigation chores. They also eschew keeping proficient in certain flight regimes, and consider their aircraft as travel assets. Once those gizmos are disconnected, those well-heeled aviators suddenly realize they’ve lost their stick-and-rudder skills, particularly when said disconnections occur in IMC.

  2. From reports it sounds like an airborne explosion. For whatever reason that would explain the sudden cessation of tracking data, nose dive in, and little debris on water.

    • Everything’s on the table, as far as causal factors. Until the wreckage is located, and/or visual images of this mishap surface, speculation will run the gamut. If the witnesses are correct, the sudden catastrophic event theory is reasonable.

  3. Russ Niles, it’s Walter engine, not Walther. One makes engines and is now owned by GE. The other is a manufacturer of firearms.

  4. Hmmmm….aluminum airframe and saltwater over many years, on floats and difficult to thoroughly preflight/inspect…..

    • Common sense clearly points in the direction of a catastrophic structural failure that resulted in a steep-high speed impact into the water. Corrosion will be found to have played a major role in this accident.