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ANCHORAGE (AP) — A deadly helicopter crash in southeast Alaska was caused by the pilot's choice to fly in poor weather and "self-induced pressure to complete the flight," according to a federal investigative report.
The National Transportation Safety Board has released its final report on the June 2016 crash near Skagway that killed 66-year-old Christopher Maggio, a longtime pilot for Temsco Helicopter Inc.
Maggio had left a dog-sledding camp on Denver Glacier before he crashed into a mountainside about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) northeast of the camp. The crash happened on the sixth of seven planned flights.
Windy, foggy and snowy conditions canceled flights that morning, but weathered cleared enough that evening for Maggio to determined it was safe to fly, according to the report. The pilot experienced "a little bit" of icing on the third flight after two rounds of dropping off mushers and dogs at the Alaska Icefield Expeditions camp.
The report by investigator Mike Hodges notes the base manager did not cancel flights when the pilot reported icing conditions.
"However, flight operations in icing conditions are prohibited by the helicopter's rotorcraft flight manual and the operator's operations manual, and the pilot's statement should have prompted the base manager to suspend the flights," according to the report.
The base manager told the pilot "to do what's best," the report states. The manager's "failure to appropriately exercise operational control" might have been due to Maggio's greater level of experience, Hodges wrote.
The crash would not have occurred if the manager had shut down operations for the day, Hodges wrote.
On the return to Skagway during the sixth flight, the pilot likely encountered low-visibility conditions, leading him to attempt several departure routes north of the camp. He likely lost visual reference and flew into a mountain, according to the report.
A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter accessed the crash site hours later, confirming Maggio died in the wreckage.