Alaskan Command Director of Operations killed in plane crash

An Air Force officer who served as operations director for Alaskan Command was one of two people killed when their small two-person plane crashed into a lake in the state this week. The plane was recovered on Thursday, June 20 and authorities confirmed the identities of the deceased on June 21.

Col. Mark “Tyson” Sletten was killed along with Paul Kondrat after their civilian aircraft went down during an instructional flight. The small plane crashed into the waters at Crescent Lake, part of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Sletten, who had served in the Air Force for more than two decades as a fighter pilot and later director of operations for Alaskan Command, was 46. 

“The news has been devastating for all of us here at Alaskan Command and the loss of Tyson is being felt throughout our community,” Lt. Gen. David Nahom, head of Alaskan Command and the 11th Air Force, said in a statement. “Right now, our priority is taking care of his family and our teammates that were close to Tyson.”

The civilian plane was operated by Alaska Float Ratings and Kondrat, 41, was a certified flight instructor for Alaska Float Ratings.

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The plane, a Piper PA-18 two-seater, crashed the afternoon of June 18 near Moose Pass at Crescent Lake. Hikers spotted the plane going down and alerted state troopers, law enforcement said. Debris from the plane was visible in the area. Authorities sent an Alaska Air National Guard rescue team to the area shortly after the crash, but no bodies were found. The two men were only located on June 20. Air National Guardsmen as well as members from the Alaska Dive Search, Rescue and Recovery Team were able to find the crashed plane nearly 200 feet under the surface of the lake. They recovered the plane and moved it back to land. Both occupants were found deceased inside. The bodies have been removed from the plane and transported to the State Medical Examiner’s Office to undergo autopsies, the Alaska Department of Public Safety said in a statement.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. There is no immediate indication of what caused the PA-18 to go down. 

Sletten served in the U.S. Air Force as a fighter pilot and instructor, training others on the F-16, before he was assigned to Alaska. As director of operations for Alaskan Command (itself part of Northern Command), Sletten oversaw daily activities and major training exercises for the thousands of U.S. troops in the state, among other duties. He had served in the role since May 2021.

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Nicholas Slayton

Contributing Editor

Nicholas Slayton is a Contributing Editor for Task & Purpose. In addition to covering breaking news, he writes about history, shipwrecks, and the military’s hunt for unidentified anomalous phenomenon (formerly known as UFOs). He currently runs the Task & Purpose West Coast Bureau from Los Angeles.