Vintage Douglas C-54 plane with 2 people on board crashes into Alaska riverbank

File: An Alaska Air Fuel DC-4 flies near Anchorage in 2014. (Photo by Sylvain CORDIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

An historic aircraft carrying two people crashed along a river in central Alaska on Tuesday.

According to the Alaska Department of Public Safety, a military version of the Douglas DC-4 called a C-54 crashed into the Tanana River south of Fairbanks late Tuesday morning, local time. 

The National Transportation Safety Board was sending investigators to the site, said Clint Johnson, chief of the NTSB’s Alaska regional office.

Johnson said it remained unclear what happened in the time between the takeoff and the crash but the tower operator "saw a large plume of smoke."

Further information such as the flight's purpose and destination was not immediately available.

The DC-4 is a four-engine propeller-driven aircraft that dates back to the early 1940s. Over 1,000 C-54 Skymasters – as they were called in the Army Air Corps – were produced for World War II, and the aircraft went on to be a popular passenger airliner in the post-war years.

Only a handful of the aircraft remain in service today, mostly flying cargo missions. 

The owner of the crashed plane was not immediately clear but Alaska Air Fuel is one of the few companies still operating DC-4s anywhere in the world. Their DC-4 suffered moderate damage when it overran a runway in 2020, according to a report at the time.

According to tracking, the last known position of the Alaska Air Fuel DC-4 matches the location described by troopers as the crash scene.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.