Preliminary reports from the National Transportation Safety Board regarding two fatal crashes of flightseeing planes this summer near Ketchikan, Alaska, indicate that there were adverse weather conditions at the time of both of the accidents.

On July 24, four Princess Cruises passengers and a pilot were killed when a single-engine plane operated by Taquan Air crashed during a sightseeing tour of the Misty Fjords National Monument.

On Aug. 16, five passengers on a Holland America Line cruise were killed when a single-engine plane operated by Seawind Aviation collided with tree-covered terrain while on a bear-viewing excursion in Traitor's Cove.

The pilot and three passengers survived that accident with serious injuries.

In the preliminary NTSB report on the Taquan Air accident, a pilot on the same route but about five minutes behind the plane that crashed said he encountered "a wall of weather" that blocked his intended flight route.

There were low clouds, rain and fog, according to the report.

The pilot said he turned around and took an alternate route to complete his tour and return to Ketchikan.

At least one survivor from the Seawind Aviation accident was able to give the NTSB clues about the events leading up to the crash.

A survivor told an Alaska state trooper during a hospital emergency room interview after the accident that there were "strong and gusty winds prior to beginning the takeoff run" and that the airplane began its takeoff directly into the strong winds.

Shortly after the plane was airborne, it made a steep turn to the left before abruptly descending, said the passenger.

The report also said that other pilots flying in the area at the time of the accident reported strong southeasterly winds and significant downdrafts.

To contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].

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