Pilot Walks Away from Alaskan Plane Crash with inReach SE


Will Johnson of Fairbanks, Alaska is a 66-year-old experienced commercial pilot operating Yute Air Taxi and a certified flight instructor with more than 20,000 hours of flight time, but in early August 2013 he experienced engine failure for the first time. 

As his float-equipped Cessna 206 began to lose altitude, Johnson looked for a safe place to land amongst the rough Alaskan landscape near McGrath. When he spotted a clearing he readied himself for a difficult landing, maneuvering as best he could until the Cessna came to a slow and bumpy stop. The plane sustained minimal wing damage and remarkably, Johnson didn’t sustain any injuries. But once he made ground contact and began checking out the damage, he realized that his motion-censored ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) never went off, so search and rescue officials had no idea yet that he had crash landed. However, Johnson did have an inReach SE device, which had been transmitting GPS tracking information during the entire ordeal. 

Knowing his wife was following his tracks, the first thing he did was send a message from his inReach SE, “ENGINE FAILURE: ALL OK.” Then, using data from his inReach, he radioed his GPS coordinates to search and rescue officials and with help from an Alaskan Wildlife Trooper flying overhead he was able to pick a route to the nearest road three miles away. Since Johnson’s inReach could send and receive messages, he and his wife were able to communicate back and forth, giving her peace of mind knowing that he was getting the help he needed. 

According to Johnson, the crash was nothing compared to the walk across the rough Alaskan tundra.

Thankfully, Johnson’s wife and officials were able to follow his progress with inReach, which provided them with real-time tracking showing exactly where he was and piece of mind that he was all right. And without an inReach, he would not have been able to relay his exact coordinates to the trooper who assisted in his rescue. 

Johnson considers himself a ‘crusader’ when it comes to new technology, always trying out the latest and greatest. When the new inReach SE was released he had to have it, and he’s glad he did.

“I am a great believer in this kind of technology, and now DeLorme has the best and has certainly taken it to the next level. I would like to see everyone who is out in the wilderness, in whatever conveyance, carry one of these as a matter of personal responsibility.”

One Comment on “Pilot Walks Away from Alaskan Plane Crash with inReach SE

  1. I used my InReach (for PN-60w) all summer when I was working in remote locations in Alaska – it was great knowing that I could send “I’m OK” text messages as well as using it in an emergency if needed, and I sent tracking signals all day so the base camp could follow me.

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