A story that recently made the news in Alaska involved a tour plane that crashed, injuring the pilot and three passengers. Though fortunately in this case there don't appear to be fatalities, people in the group still needed to be taken to the hospital after their rescue from Prince of Wales Island by the Coast Guard. Engine trouble appears to have led to the crash.
Flightseeing, or viewing Alaska by tour plane, is a popular option, though there's always a risk for aviation accidents and related troubles. There might be an engine malfunction, or bad weather that brings the plane down. Once a plane goes down, surviving passengers might find themselves stranded with few supplies in remote locations, in the midst of harsh weather and other unsafe conditions.
Every time you go up on a plane, there's some risk of an accident; there's no such thing as conditions of a 100% safety. Tour companies know this as well, and some of them also prepare for different unpleasant possibilities, including being stranded. Recently, for instance, a small group of tourists spent a few days stuck on a glacier in Mount McKinley Park after the small air taxi they were using to sightsee had to make an emergency landing due to bad weather; knowing that such emergencies are possible, the flight company had prepared sleeping bags and a week's supply of food just in case.
When might a tour company be considered negligent, then? It isn't always clear cut. Some issues to consider include the following:
- Inadequate preparation for emergencies (e.g. no food or fuel supplies, no means of contacting the Coast Guard or other authorities in the event of an accident).
- Improper disclosure of risks beforehand.
- Negligent behavior on the part of the pilot or other tour operators (e.g. flying the plane while inebriated or fatigued, filling the plane with more passengers than is safe, hiring pilots who aren't properly licensed, exercising bad judgment in other ways).
- Improper maintenance of the airplane or failure to conduct a safety check before each flight.
Any aviation accident could result in death, serious injuries, or emotional trauma. If you have questions about the conduct of the tour company, be sure to contact us. We'll carefully review what happened and help you determine if there was any negligence on the part of the people to whom you entrusted your safety.