Pilot Gets Prison Time For Obstructing Accident Investigation


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.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. “Federal Judge Rolf Beistline said the sentence was needed to send a message to the aviation community and passengers about Alaska’s commitment to safety.” Well all he sent was a wrist slap that accelerates the decline of aviation traditions such as honesty in support of safety. GA’s ethical foundations and reputation are increasingly eroded by self-serving chiselers lying about everything from Parker Pen logbook time to drug use, touch and go night currency to amateur charters. Sentence should’ve been ten to twenty NOT a year and $5000 fine with this scumbag’s record of lying to FAA, false civil lawsuit against Hartzell, killing an innocent Canuck, and demeaning the USAF. Shows the extreme disparities in USA’s legal system. In the rural Florida 19th Circuit local courts, the PDs are, IMHO, so lazy and cozy with ASAs that a <$300 fraud gets you two years spent within the "hellhole of COVID cases" FL DOC plus thousands in court fees and incarceration "costs". http://projects.heraldtribune.com/influence/public-defenders

    • I don’t know about the length of time you’re suggesting but I think the sentence was just or perhaps a tad short. The pilot told three different stories. That alone blows my mind.

      Normally, I take issue with a criminal charge for lying to an investigator. But, the NTSB and FAA guys aren’t the FBI where they’re often out to trap you into the truth. Add in the fact someone died due to this guy’s negligence then he lied about it… I have no mercy for him.