Unidentified Aircraft Wreckage Investigated on Alaska Glacier
The wreckage was discovered on June 10 by the crew of an Alaska Army National Guard helicopter when it was flying low over an area near Knik, a glacier on the northern end of the Chugach Mountains and about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northeast of Anchorage and 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of Wasilla. The helicopter was on a routine training mission when it discovered the wreckage.
After an additional search-and-rescue mission by Joint Task Force-Alaska and the Alaska National Guard, military officials determined the aircraft is a vintage military plane. But officials were unable to identify the plane, resulting in the deployment of a specialized investigative team from the U.S. Joint Prisoners Of War/Missing In Action Accounting Command (JPAC).
The eight-man team touched down on the glacier on June 18 and initially planned to examine the site to provide an assessment for the follow-on recovery team, but they determined they could begin the recovery operation immediately. “The size of the site and deteriorating environmental conditions factored into the decision,” JPAC said in a statement on Tuesday.
The military team recovered material evidence, such as life support equipment from the wreckage, and also possible osseous remains from the glacier. The evidence will be transported to JPAC’s Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii in the hopes of identifying the remains and the aircraft.
Over the last decades, dozens of military planes have gone missing in the area of Knik Glacier. “The whole history is riddled with searches for planes that never came home,” Alaska aviation historian Ted Spencer told the Anchorage Daily News earlier this month. “Planes of all types, and they started disappearing when Alaska became an aviation-oriented place. It’s so vast.”