Fort Wainwright aviators rescue plane crash survivors on New Year’s Eve

FAIRBANKS, Alaska. (KTVF) A Fort Wainwright crew responded to a small plane crash around 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

Downed aircraft 10 nautical miles southwest of Fairbanks near the Tanana Flats. (U.S. Army)

The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center in Anchorage forwarded a request for assistance to Fort Wainwright. According to a press release from U.S. Army Alaska, there were reports of a downed aircraft 10 nautical miles southwest of Fairbanks near the Tanana Flats.

Major William Keller, commander with the C Company 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment said their unique capabilities allow them to assist those in need in Interior Alaska. “The unique capabilities involve both our rescue hoist which enables us to rescue stranded personnel out in some pretty isolated areas, as well as our extended range fuel system which of course [given] the austere nature of the Alaskan Interior, we’re able to get out and rescue people quite a ways away,” said Keller.

Keller says they have crews identified 24/7 to respond to accidents in their military training lands, but they are also able to assist civilians in need when they get the call.

One pilot and passenger were rescued from the downed aircraft. They both appeared to be uninjured and were transported to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

There were blowing snow conditions, which made this rescue unique according to Keller. “Having to really monitor the landing zone until it was clear of snow, and being able to articulate to the crew of the downed airplane, how to ingress the [rescue] aircraft and able to land safely,” said Keller.

Because it was New Year’s Eve, the rescue crew was greeted by the fireworks show from a unique vantage point.

Keller wants the community to know that they while they're primarily there for the military training lands mission, they are also a resource in the interior for the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center. “This is a mission set that we find extremely rewarding. It not only helps build our readiness but it also helps really to endear us to the local community and really give back to people who give so much to us,” said Keller.

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