Six passengers and their pilot arrived safely in Talkeetna on Friday after three nights weathered in at the foot of Denali. John Nealon was flying a DeHavilland Beaver belonging to Talkeetna Air Taxi on a flightseeing tour Tuesday afternoon, when the weather forced him to make an unscheduled landing on the Ruth Glacier.
The weather kept Nealon and his passengers there until Friday morning, when Talkeetna Air Taxi pilot Paul Roderick was able to find a brief weather window and reached Nealon’s landing site. He was able to retrieve the passengers and Nealon and take to an airstrip inside Denali National Park.
While on the glacier, the passengers were able to sleep inside the plane, which is equipped with sleeping bags, food, and other survival gear. Yesterday, the National Park Service sent four mountaineering rangers with additional supplies via helicopter. Since the area where the passengers and pilot were was still under significant cloud cover, the rangers were dropped off further down the glacier and hiked in with the extra gear.
John Leonard, South District Ranger for Denali National Park, praised John Nealon’s decision to land on the glacier in a Park Service press release, saying that Nealon’s decisions meant that Park Service was “conducting a re-supply mission instead of responding to an accident.” The four rangers will have to wait for the next weather window to be picked up. The passengers who were on board did not wish to be interviewed, but one stated that she is grateful for Nealon’s decision to land and for the professionalism of Talkeetna Air Taxi and the National Park Service.