Lawmaker in Deadly Crash Flew Despite Vision Problems

Gary Knopp was denied certification in 2012
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 25, 2020 5:51 PM CDT
Lawmaker in Deadly Crash Flew Despite Vision Problems
A plane rests in brush and trees after a midair collision outside of Soldotna, Alaska, on Friday, July 31, 2020.   (Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion via AP)

An Alaska state lawmaker who was involved in a July midair collision that killed seven people was piloting his plane even though his medical flight certification was denied eight years ago because of vision problems, a federal agency reported Tuesday. Alaska State Troopers identified the pilot as state Rep. Gary Knopp, 67, of Kenai, who was flying a Piper PA-12 when it collided with a de Havilland DHC2 shortly after both planes had taken off in the area of Soldotna, Alaska, on the evening of July 31. Both airplanes crashed, killing Knopp, the other pilot, and five passengers who were being flown to a remote lake for a fishing trip. The de Havilland was flown by a local pilot and carried a guide from Kansas and four people from South Carolina.

The National Transportation Safety Board, in a preliminary report on the crash issued Tuesday, wrote that a witness to the crash told investigators the northbound Piper hit the westbound de Havilland on the left side of the fuselage toward the back of the aircraft, the AP reports. The NTSB wrote that information on file with the Federal Aviation Administration's Civil Aeromedical Institute showed that Knopp was denied medical certification in June of 2012 by the Alaska Regional Flight Surgeon because of vision problems. The denial was appealed and upheld a month later. Without the certification, he Knopp would not have been legal to fly, the Anchorage Daily News reports. Knopp's plane also had an invalid registration number, the NTSB said.

(More Alaska stories.)

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