Pilot lied to NTSB

View of Left Side of Main Wreckage. Pilot Forest Kirst was likely to blame for the airplane crash at Atigun Pass in August of 2014, according to the NTSB report. Photo Courtesy of FAA

A Fairbanks pilot has been convicted of two counts of obstruction of proceedings before federal agencies in connection with a 2014 fatal aircraft crash near Atigun Pass in the Brooks Range mountains, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced today.

Three Canadian tourists were aboard the aircraft, which crashed on the side of a mountain below the Dalton Highway and above a pipeline maintenance road. Kirst and his three passengers sustained serious injuries. One of the passengers died 35 days later as a result of his injuries.

A federal jury in Anchorage on Monday convicted Forest M. Kirst, 62, who was the pilot on the Aug. 24, 2014 crash and was flying a Ryan Navion for his company Kirst Aviation.

“Kirst left Bettles, Alaska, and began flying too low over infrastructure,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Anchorage. “After circling over a moose in a pond, the airplane lacked the power and altitude to clear Atigun Pass in the Brooks Range. The airplane crashed on the side of the mountain below the Dalton Highway and above a pipeline maintenance road.”

Kirst was convicted of lying to the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration during the investigation of the crash, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Kirst “stated during an interview with NTSB officials that he was at a higher altitude than GPS evidence showed, and lying during the FAA administrative hearings when he testified that his airplane dropped in altitude approximately 1,500 feet just prior to the crash.

Sentencing is scheduled Feb. 20. Kirst faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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