Monday, October 07, 2013

PIA Pakistan International Airlines launches investigation into Airbus A310-300, PK-213 engine fire

KARACHI: Pakistan International Airline (PIA) announced on Monday that it is conducting a thorough investigation into the incidents that led to flight PK-213 catching fire mid-flight, just after take-off from Karachi airport on Sunday.

The plane, an Airbus A-310, was carrying 54 passengers and eight crew members and had departed for Dubai at 10:10pm from Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport. But just 15 minutes later, the pilot informed the control tower about an engine fire and requested permission for emergency landing.

However, the plane’s internal fire fighting mechanisms had managed to subdue the flames, which had erupted in the right engine of the A-310, before the plane landed back in Karachi.

PIA is conducting a thorough investigation of the incident of flight PK 213 Karachi – Dubai of Sunday night, a PIA spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.

PIA added that a team of dedicated PIA engineers is in the process of minutely checking the aircraft engine which developed a fault during flight.

The engine of the aircraft is also being assessed by CAA authorities and the findings will be shared with manufacturer General Electric for their input as well.

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Asiana Pilots Raise Throttle Malfunction: Crash Investigators Haven't Found Electrical or Mechanical Problems in Preliminary Probe

October 7, 2013, 5:47 p.m. ET


The Wall Street Journal

Pilots of an Asiana Airlines Inc. jet that crashed while trying to land in San Francisco are offering an account that differs from the preliminary findings of U.S. investigators, people familiar with the investigation said.

The pilots have told the National Transportation Safety Board that an in-flight malfunction of an automated speed-control system was a major factor in the fatal accident on July 6, these people said.

So far safety-board investigators haven't uncovered any mechanical or electrical problems with the twin-engine jet prior to impact, these people said. Instead, the NTSB is focused on why the three pilots in the cockpit didn't adequately monitor the approach and failed to check airspeed until it was too late.

The pilots, according to these people, have told U.S. investigators they believe an automated speed-control system, called auto-throttles, disconnected on its own, allegedly without any warning to the crew, shortly before the Boeing 777 slowed dangerously then slammed into a sea wall in front of a runway at San Francisco International Airport and broke apart.

NTSB officials previously said the cockpit crew "assumed the auto-throttle was maintaining speed," but investigators also suggested the pilots may have failed to activate it correctly.

"'Armed' does not mean 'active,'" acting safety board Chairman Deborah Hersman said during an on-site news conference in July. When pilots rely on such automation to adjust engine thrust during landings, she said at the time, "a big key is to monitor" the system and keep close track of aircraft speed.

The pilots' statements—along with details of Asiana 777 maintenance logs showing a number of "uncommanded auto-throttle disconnects"—are part of the arguments Asiana officials intend to make during a planned visit to the NTSB later this year, according to people familiar with the details. The carrier may raise the same issue at a public hearing on the crash the board plans to hold early next year. The NTSB is in charge of the accident probe.

Officials at Asiana and a special South Korean government committee investigating the crash declined to comment. An NTSB spokeswoman couldn't be reached.

But according to people familiar with the status of the probe, the pilots' comments are the most detailed effort by the airline so far to explain why an experienced crew may have been lulled into a false sense of confidence.

Three people were killed and dozens were injured in the high-profile accident, which prompted debate over Asiana's training practices and operations. In the wake of the crash, which destroyed the aircraft, Asiana promised the South Korean government it would enhance training for aviators, update its data on airports with difficult approaches and move to ensure better communication in the cockpit.

At the public hearing, safety board officials are likely to focus on those issues in addition to operation of the auto-throttle system.

The pilots of Asiana Flight 214 have repeatedly told investigators they recall properly arming and engaging the plane's auto-throttle to maintain safe speed during the visual approach in good weather to the San Francisco runway. At an altitude of 500 feet, the approach was on track with the engines idle.

Within the next few seconds, the speed dropped, the plane's nose rose and by time pilots realized the danger, it was too late to rev the engines and try to climb away from the field.

Data from the jet's flight-data recorder doesn't show the auto-throttle engaged at all during the final part of the descent, according to people familiar with the probe. Asiana, however, is expected to bring up at least one other example of Boeing 777 auto-throttles disconnecting, on their own, at another airline.


NTSB Identification: DCA13MA120
Scheduled 14 CFR Part 129: Foreign operation of Asiana Airlines
Accident occurred Saturday, July 06, 2013 in San Francisco, CA
Aircraft: BOEING 777-200ER, registration: HL7742
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On July 6, 2013, about 1128 pacific daylight time, Asiana Airlines flight 214, a Boeing 777-200ER, registration HL7742, impacted the sea wall and subsequently the runway during landing on runway 28L at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), San Francisco, California. Of the 4 flight crewmembers, 12 flight attendants, and 291 passengers, about 182 were transported to the hospital with injuries and 3 passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and postcrash fire. The regularly scheduled passenger flight was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 129 between Incheon International Airport, Seoul, South Korea, and SFO. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.

St Albans private jet service, PrivateFly, to appear on ITV's X Factor this weekend

A St Albans based private jet service will appear this weekend on ITV’s talent show The X Factor. 

PrivateFly, whose head office is based in St Peter’s Street, has a starring role in a film, featuring members of pop band JLS, to promote one of the TV network’s viewer competitions.

JLS, who found fame after appearing on The X Factor in 2008, are seen boarding the jet in the film, after arriving on the PrivateFly red carpet.

PrivateFly will also fly the winner to Paris by private jet next year, as part of the overall competition prize package. The film, which will first air on Saturday, will be shown several times over this series of The X Factor, after the shoot took place in September at Luton Airport.

Air India's Chennai-Delhi Dreamliner was missing navigation coordinates, Directorate General of Civil Aviation seeks report

The DGCA has asked the national carrier Air India for a detailed report on the technical problem that occurred at the Chennai airport in its famed Dreamliner aircraft. The Chennai-Delhi Dreamliner was supposed to talk off at around 10:45 am when the pilot detected some technical problem in the aircraft as it was readying to take off and asked the engineering department for a re-check before take off.

Though the airline officials termed it as a mere technical glitch, a crew on board the aircraft on condition of anonymity told Headlines Today that the navigation coordinates were not appearing on the cockpit and that things were not fine with the engine as well. He added that the same problem was faced a couple of days back in London and Paris, raising the issue yet again if the Dreamliners were a safe bet to fly. Air India refused to comment on this aspect.

Speaking exclusively to Headlines Today, the DGCA office maintained that the matter was very serious and from air safety point of view, a detailed report had been sought. DGCA added that it would be too premature to draw any conclusion on the matter but stressed that a careful view would be taken on it, adding that the passenger safety was paramount for the airline and the regulator as such.

Air India on its part maintained that they were prompt in providing in food and water to the passengers and had regretted the inconvenience caused. The passengers however complained that they were made to wait for several hours and informed of the problem only by noon time. It was only by the late evening time that another flight could take off.

The Boeing Dreamliner 787 requires specially trained engineers and their absence on Monday at the Chennai airport was yet another reason why the aircraft got delayed much to the irritation of the passengers.


Emergency Landing at Lynden Pindling International Airport, Nassau, Bahamas

A WestJet plane made an emergency landing at the Lynden Pindling International Airport yesterday afternoon after an emergency light indicating a problem with landing gear came on.

Assistant Superintendent Dennis Dames, officer in charge of the airport police station, said the airplane landed safely at the gate without incident.

“Our information is that a WestJet Boeing 737-800 series plane, was coming from Toronto, Canada, on its way to the Dominican Republic, when they had to make a detour here in the Bahamas. A light came on indicating something was wrong with the landing gear so the plane was diverted to the Lynden Pindling International Airport here in the capital around 1pm and landed safely,” he said.

“Fire services were in place and officers from the police station were in place, our people were on the ground ready in the event of an incident. The passengers were taken off the aircraft until it was determined what the problem was. So far everything seems to be in order, no one was hurt. We spoke to the pilot and he said initially there was a report that smoke was in the cockpit, but what really happened was that around 12:55pm, a wheel well light came on, indicating something was wrong with the landing gear. They came here because it was the nearest airport and they will remain here until they are satisfied that everything is taken care of.”

This incident comes two days after a Flamingo Air plane made an emergency landing after it experienced an issue while landing at the Mayaguana airport.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, there were no passengers on the Cessna 402 aircraft at the time of the incident and the two pilots on board were not injured.

The ministry said the Flight Standards Inspectorate is investigating that incident.


Pilot Held Over Cocaine: Grand Bahama Island - Bahamas

A pilot is in police custody after attempting to smuggle cocaine into Grand Bahama, Saturday morning.

According to reports, the 25-year-old pilot, left New Providence in a commercial aircraft and arrived in Grand Bahama around 7:30am.

Officers of the Drug Enforcement Unit in Nassau, working with DEU officers in Grand Bahama, searched a box in the pilot’s possession and discovered three kilos of cocaine. The drugs have a street value of $75,000.

The man was taken into custody and is expected to be charged in Freeport, later this week.

Investigations are continuing.


Airbus deal shows loyalty is fading fast in aviation

Japan Airlines' maiden order from Airbus, eschewing its traditional supplier Boeing, highlights carriers' drive to diversify their plane suppliers, making for tougher competition for orders. 

In a significant victory for Airbus, the European aircraft maker has broken into Japan, announcing on Monday a deal to sell 31 A350 aircraft valued at $9.5 billion based on list prices to Japan Airlines.
Japan is a strategic Boeing market where the U.S.-based plane maker has an around 80 percent market share. 

At the same time, Boeing will "probably make inroads into European-based carriers, which have been historically Airbus-focused. They're looking into each other's markets to gain share," said Timothy Ross, an analyst at Credit Suisse.

Last month, Lufthansa, which traditionally leans toward Airbus, decided to split an order for 59 wide-body jets between Boeing and Airbus. Air France last year also split a 50-plane order between the two. 

Both Airbus and Boeing have been jockeying for orders from Japan as JAL and Nippon Airways are preparing to update their fleets. 

ANA is expected to purchase around 25 aircraft. JAL currently flies around 214 planes in total. All Nippon Airways, Japan's largest airline, flying around 230 aircraft, is also considering whether to order Airbus jets and it is expected to announce its decision soon. 

Competition for these orders is only likely to become keener as carriers look beyond the initial price discounts they might receive for large orders from a single manufacturer. 

When it comes to having more than one make of plane, "there are definitely some costs involved," including pilot and maintenance qualifications, said Andrew Orchard, an analyst at CIMB.

While carriers may get better discounts from ordering only one type of plane, "if you have another one, then you can go back and forth on negotiations," he said. "Otherwise, they can charge you whatever they want."

"You might get a discount on the aircraft, but in the after-sales market, you might pay significantly more. Not getting a good deal on those upfront might be more costly than not getting a good deal on the aircraft itself," Ross said. "There's certainly competitive tension between the two airframers when you do operate both." 

Airlines globally are looking to retire aging, less fuel-efficient planes as jet fuel prices, responsible for at least 50 percent of operating costs, rise; the savings can be significant, with Reuters reporting Lufthansa's new jet purchases should cut the carriers fuel consumption by 25 percent and lower unit costs by around 20 percent compared with older models. 

"The higher the jet fuel price goes, the more impetus is added for older aircraft retirement," Ross said. JAL has a large number of aircraft due for retirement, he noted. 

There's another reason carriers, such as JAL, are looking to diversify their planes.

"They've learned their lessons from the 787," said Shashank Nigam, CEO at SimpliFlying, a Singapore-based aviation marketing strategy firm. Boeing's 787 Dreamliner model faced a rocky launch, with a number of production delays followed by in-service incidents; early this year, regulators globally grounded all 787s for four months. ANA and JAL are two of the biggest Dreamliner operators. 

"It's critical for the brand. They can tap on both suppliers," Nigam noted. "It's almost like an insurance policy."

Despite suspension, Dana Air still announcing ‘cheaper fares’ on website


 Dana is yet to officially react to the suspension.

Despite its suspension by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Dana Air has continued to announce “cheaper fares” on the Abuja to Uyo and Calabar routes on its website.

“Abuja to Uyo & Calabar on sale now!!! Book now for cheapest fares!” the airline announces on its website.

Phone calls and text messages to Tony Usidamen, the airline’s spokesperson, were unanswered.

The airline’s suspension, on Sunday, came less than two weeks after Jacky Hathiramani had told its Board of Directors about the massive progress the Dana Air had made nine months after re-launching its flight operations.

The Dana Air’s Chief Executive Officer had also announced the re-launching of flight services to five major Nigerian cities after it resumed operations on January 4, 2013.

“We relish the opportunity to provide our world class air transport services to the traveling public and pledge our commitments to safety and service excellence,” Mr. Hathiramani had said during a quarterly review of the company’s operations last month.

“Our staff are more passionate than ever and our vision of becoming Nigeria’s most reliable and customer-friendly airline is stronger.”

Yakubu Dati, Spokesperson of the Federal Airports Authority, FAAN, told PREMIUM TIMES that the reason for the suspension was to conduct “an operational auditing” of the airline.


Dana Air’s suspension came two days after an Associated Airline, conveying the remains of Olusegun Agagu, former Governor of Ondo State, crashed a few minutes after take-off at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos.

Thirteen people – out of the 20 on board – lost their lives.

The announcement would also be the third time Dana Air’s operations would be suspended following the crash of its MD-83 aircraft in Lagos.

Two days after the June 3, 2012, Dana Air accident in which all the 153 passengers on board, as well as about 10 ground victims, lost their lives, the federal government revoked the airline’s operational license.

On March 17, 2013 – three months after the airline opened shop again, after resuming operations in January 2013 – the NCAA announced the suspension of its operations.

The suspension was, however, lifted two days later with NCAA stating that the move was to “resolve certain safety issues.”

Before its latest suspension, Dana Air operated 12 daily flights on its Lagos-Abuja-Lagos route; two daily flights on Lagos-Port Harcourt-Lagos route; two daily flights on the Abuja-Port Harcourt-Abuja route; and one daily flight to Uyo and Calabar, from Abuja.

Qantas to sign with Victoria a year after axeing Tourism Australia partnership

Nearly a year after Qantas chief Alan Joyce dramatically axed the airline's partnership with Tourism Australia, the airline has added Victoria to its stable of replacement deals.

The airline will today sign a $12 million three-year deal with Tourism Victoria and the State Government to promote Victoria to domestic and international visitors.

It brings the total value of partnerships struck between Qantas and various states to $72 million.

The flag carrier has now signed an individual promotional deal with every state but South Australia.

It tore up a three-year, $44 million deal with Tourism Australia last November following a high-profile spat between Mr Joyce and the tourism group's chairman Geoff Dixon.

The longstanding partnership between the two groups stalled when Mr Dixon - a former Qantas chief and mentor of Mr Joyce - emerged as part of a group of shareholders lobbying for strategic change at the airline.

While Mr Dixon and other key investors involved in the spat eventually sold their stakes, Mr Joyce has forged ahead with his pledge to work with individual states rather than Tourism Australia.

Qantas International chief Simon Hickey said the latest partnership would increase visitor numbers and tourism spending across Victoria.

"This three-year marketing agreement will encourage more people to visit Victoria and will be a valuable injection for the Victorian tourism industry, creating jobs and promoting investment and development," Mr Hickey said.

He said Qantas's alliance with Emirates meant the state would also be marketed to a wider audience.

Victorian tourism minister Louise Asher said the deal offered new international and domestic opportunities to grow the number of inbound visitors to Melbourne and regional Victoria.

Qantas and the government will each tip $6 million into a joint promotional campaign.

It will target visitors from the UK, USA, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China, New Zealand and within Australia.

Caribbean Airlines looks to Jamaica to fill keys posts


 Caribbean Airlines (CAL) has turned its search to Jamaica as it tries to find a new chief executive officer (CEO).

The Trinidadian air carrier has advertised the post locally with less than three weeks to go before the October 25 deadline for persons to submit their resumes. According to an advertisement in the two daily newspapers Sunday the new Caribbean Airlines boss will, among other things, be required to turn around the entity's performance. Acting CEO of  Caribbean Airlines, Robert Corbie, resigned suddenly in July. Vice president, Captain Jagmohan Singh, was appointed to oversee day-to-day operations.

In the newspaper advertisement CAL also sought applications for the posts of  chief financial officer and vice president of commercial and customer experience.

Petition: Garuda Airlines, LionAir, and Indonesia carriers -- Please stop the transportation of shark fins

Petitioning Garuda Indonesia Airlines

by  Bali Sharks / MRRM.ORG

Indonesia is the World's leader in shark fin exports.  Some areas have completely depleted shark existence which has lead and caused the destruction of marine habitats.  Other areas are now suffering from an imbalance of marine ecosystems.  The Oceans are now dying.

Read more:

Former deputy mayor Ben Dumbrell dies in Rand Robinson KR-2 aircraft crash, near Tumut -- Australia

Former Tumut deputy mayor and passionate aviator, Ben Dumbrell, has died after his light aircraft crashed near Adelong at the weekend. 

Mr Dumbrell, a well-known member of the community, was found dead inside the wreckage of his Rand Robinson KR-2 plane about 6.15am yesterday in a paddock off Califat Road, Adelong.

The crashed plane - which is believed to have come down not far from a private landing strip - was reported to police by the property manager.

It is understood officers used mobile phone tracking technology to locate Mr Dumbrell's phone. The 65-year-old's family had reported him missing on Sunday night after he hadn't been heard from since leaving home for a flight to Holbrook about 9am Saturday.

Although the cause of the crash is not yet known, it is believed to have occurred shortly after take-off.

An experienced pilot, Mr Dumbrell had flown since he was 24 and was a flying instructor with Holbrook Flight Training.

President of the Holbrook Ultralight Club, Bryan Gabriel, said there was a real sense of loss among its members.

"He was just one of the most loyal and willing members the club's ever had," Mr Gabriel said. "He was one of those men who took great pride in passing on knowledge to others."

He said Mr Dumbrell, who had been with the club for at least four years, was in the process of regaining his chief flying instructor status and it is understood he was on his way to one of its monthly meetings.

"He always liked to get here early and catch up with everyone, it'll be a big loss in many ways," Mr Gabriel said.

Mr Dumbrell spent more than a decade on Tumut Shire Council and was elected deputy mayor in 2011.

Former mayor, John Larter, said Mr Dumbrell was a wonderful ambassador for Tumut but one who was never really recognised for his contributions to the community.

"Just a remarkable person who will be sorely missed, he's going to leave a terrible void," Mr Larter said.

"What you saw was what you got with Ben Dumbrell, he was a straight shooter and as honest as they come.

"He was visionary too, he could see things for the betterment of Tumut.

"He wasn't just a token councillor, he was always pushing the boundaries to improve things."

Mr Larter said it was also a sad day for aviation, given there would be people who are critical of light aircraft.

"I'm sure if he was going to go, that would have been how he'd want to go, he loved flying," he said.

"It's just an unfortunate accident ... the last thing he would want is anything negative (to be said) of the aviation industry."

Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigators have been called in to examine the wreckage and are expected to remain at the crash site for up to three days.

A report is also being prepared for the coroner.

Read more:

‘Changes to 5/20 rule will boost air traffic from India'

 Mumbai, Oct 7: 

International air traffic from India could cross the 100 million mark by 2021 if changes are made to the current rule that debars airlines from flying abroad unless they complete five years of service, according to a report by Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA).

5/20 rule

Terming the rule, known as 5/20 in aviation parlance, as one of the “most damaging and discriminatory regulations’’, the aviation advisory and research firm argues that the financials of several Indian carriers would have been stronger if they were allowed to launch international routes earlier.

The 5/20 rule, which also requires airlines to have a fleet of at least 20 aircraft, does not apply to foreign carriers owing to which they have captured a larger share of the international market at the expense of home carriers.

“It could also be argued that Kingfisher’s demise can be traced back to the challenges associated with the integration of Air Deccan, an acquisition that was motivated by the desire to circumvent the 5/20 rule,” the report said.

India’s global traffic

India’s international traffic is expected to approach 50 million passengers by the end of fiscal 2014. If the current regulatory framework were to continue unchanged, India’s international traffic is expected to reach 96 million by fiscal 2023.

“Low-cost carriers are expected to be the key drivers of international growth, especially if the 5/20 rule is lifted. This will result in particularly strong capacity expansion on routes to the Gulf, and South and Southeast Asia,” CAPA said.

Recent news reports have suggested that the Indian Government is contemplating a change in the 5/20 rule.

(This article was published on October 7, 2013)

Piper PA-32-300 Cherokee Six, Star Marianas, N4089W: Fatal accident occurred October 06, 2013 East of the Voices of America Tower, Tinian Island - Northern Mariana Islands

National Transportation Safety Board - Aviation Accident Final Report:

National Transportation Safety Board  -  Docket And Docket Items:

National Transportation Safety Board  - Aviation Accident Data Summary:

NTSB Identification: WPR14LA007 
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Sunday, October 06, 2013 in Tinian Island, MP
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/27/2014
Aircraft: PIPER PA32 - 300, registration: N4089W
Injuries: 3 Fatal, 4 Serious.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

During a night visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country flight, the pilot encountered a rain shower that reduced the cloud ceiling and visibility, so he then attempted to return to the departure airport. While maneuvering, the airplane descended and impacted terrain. A witness estimated that the airplane’s altitude was less than 500 feet. He saw the airplane make a sharp left turn and then fly out of his view and then he heard the sound of a crash. Physical evidence observed at the accident site was consistent with controlled flight into terrain. No evidence was found of any preimpact mechanical discrepancies that would have precluded normal operation of the airplane. Damage to the propeller blades was consistent with the engine developing power at impact. It is likely that the pilot attempted to maintain VFR flight by descending to remain below the clouds and was unable to see and avoid the terrain due to dark night conditions.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s failure to maintain terrain clearance while maneuvering at low altitude in dark night conditions.

On October 6, 2013, about 0251 local time, a Piper PA-32-300, N4089W, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering about 3 miles north of the Tinian International Airport on Tinian Island, United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The airline transport pilot and two passengers were fatally injured; four passengers were seriously injured. The airplane was being operated by Star Marianas Air, Inc., under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135. A company visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan was filed for the planned 10-nautical mile, night, cross-country flight from Tinian Airport to Saipan International Airport on Saipan Island. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at Tinian Airport for the flight's departure about 0241.

The operator reported that the airplane was 1 of 6 airplanes being used to transport a group of 127 Chinese tourists and travel guides from Tinian to Saipan to connect with a flight from Saipan to Shanghai, China. The weather conditions at both Tinian and Saipan Airports were reported to be VFR but other company pilots flying at the same time as the accident pilot indicated that there were rain showers occasionally passing between the two islands throughout the early morning hours. 

One company pilot reported that he departed Tinian immediately after the accident airplane. After takeoff on runway 08, the accident pilot turned left to a crosswind leg. The company pilot said that he then took off on runway 08 and turned left to a crosswind leg; he recalled seeing the accident airplane to his left, and it appeared to him that it was flying northwest toward the Voice of America (VOA) antennas (a group of strobe-lighted antennas up to 400 feet tall located on the northwest side of Tinian). The company pilot reported that there was a rain shower in the channel between Tinian and Saipan, and he could not see Saipan Airport when he took off. He further reported that there was a rain shower over the north end of Tinian. He asked the accident pilot where he was going, and he thought the reply was "heading toward VOA." The company pilot switched to the Saipan air traffic control tower (ATCT) frequency, and he heard the controller giving the accident pilot weather information. He contacted the controller and continued his flight to Saipan.

The Saipan air traffic controller who spoke to the pilot stated that the pilot asked him for weather information, and he responded that he did not have Tinian or the VOA antenna lights in sight. The pilot acknowledged receiving the information, and there was no further communication between the controller and the pilot. The controller said that it was mostly clear over Saipan that night, and all of the weather seemed to be over Tinian. 

The company's chief pilot reported that he was landing at Tinian Airport as the accident airplane was taking off. He said that at that time, the weather in the channel between the islands was "not good with about 4 miles visibility and rain." After picking up his passengers, he departed for Saipan about 5 to 10 minutes after the accident airplane. When he took off, the weather was good over Tinian but the channel was blocked by a rain shower. He held for about 5 minutes over the airport until the weather cleared over the channel and then he continued to Saipan.

A witness, who was a security guard at the VOA antenna site, reported that he saw the airplane fly by and noticed that it was flying lower than other airplanes he had seen before. He estimated the airplane's altitude was less than 500 feet. He saw the airplane make a sharp left turn, and he assumed it was heading back to Tinian Airport. The airplane flew out of his view to the southeast, and he then heard the sound of a crash. The witness reported that there was light rain at the time, and the airplane was below the clouds.

The operator reported that between 0305 and 0315, the chief pilot determined that the airplane was overdue and notified Saipan ATCT, and a search was started. About 1035, the accident site was located about 3 miles north of Tinian Airport and 1.5 miles east/southeast of the VOA antennas. The wreckage was located on a hill in a densely wooded jungle area at an elevation of about 450 feet.


The pilot, age 59, held an airline transport pilot certificate with an airplane multi-engine land rating. He had commercial privileges in single engine land airplanes. He also held a flight instructor certificate with airplane single engine, airplane multi-engine, and instrument airplane ratings that expired on July 31, 2014. His most recent first-class medical certificate was issued on October 16, 2012, with the limitation, "holder shall possess glasses for near/intermediate vision."

According to the operator, the pilot had a total flight time of 5,573 hours of which 499 hours were in the accident make and model airplane. His total night flight experience was 1,111 hours, and he had 430 hours of instrument flight experience of which 350 hours were in actual instrument meteorological conditions. In the past 90 days, 30 days, and 24 hours, the pilot flew 240, 50, and 3 hours, respectively, in the accident make and model airplane. His night experience in the past 90 days, 30 days, and 24 hours, was 61, 50, and 3 hours, respectively.

The pilot's most recent Part 135 airman competency/proficiency check was satisfactorily accomplished on March 7, 2013, in a Piper PA-32-300.

The operator's director of operations (DO) reported that about 0500 on the morning of October 5, 2013, the pilot was involved in an incident at Tinian Airport where "he inadvertently taxied an aircraft off the taxiway and into a ditch." The pilot, the sole occupant of the airplane, was not injured, and the airplane, a Piper PA-32-300, N8639N, sustained a propeller strike. The DO stated that it was dark when the incident occurred, and a taxiway light was out along a corner of the taxiway. He further stated that two other company pilots had similar trouble at the same location on the same night although there was no damage to their airplanes. The DO discussed the incident with the pilot about 0800. He saw the pilot again that evening, and he noted that the pilot "appeared fine." He asked the pilot if he "felt ok to fly that night," and the pilot replied that he was ok.


According to the operator, the airplane was maintained in accordance with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved aircraft inspection program, and the most recent inspection was completed on October 5, 2013. At the time of the accident, the airplane had accumulated 17,003 hours, and the engine, a Lycoming IO-540-K1A5, had accumulated 1,380 hours since major overhaul. The airplane was equipped with a Garmin Aera 500 portable global positioning system (GPS) navigation device that incorporated a moving map display.


At 0254, an automated weather reporting station at Saipan Airport, located about 7 nautical miles north of the accident site, reported wind from 070 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 10 miles, scattered clouds at 1,600 feet, broken clouds at 2,300 feet, temperature 26 degrees Celsius (C), dew point temperature 24 degrees C, and altimeter 29.71 inches of mercury. The remarks section of the report stated that rain began at 0159 and ended at 0230.

Review of images from the Weather Surveillance Radar (WSR)-88D installation at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, located about 100 nautical miles south of the accident site, indicated that between 0245 and 0251, an area of precipitation moved westward from offshore and covered the northern end of Tinian Island.


A FAA inspector conducted an on scene examination of the wreckage and reported that the airplane impacted trees; both wings and the empennage separated from the fuselage; and the main wreckage, consisting of the fuselage and engine, came to rest about 200 feet from the first point of impact with the trees. The debris path from the initial impact point to the fuselage was oriented on a heading of about 130 degrees (southeast). The fuselage came to rest on its right side, and the cabin roof separated from the fuselage and was laying beneath the aft section of the fuselage. The propeller remained attached to the engine crankshaft, and all three propeller blades were bent and twisted in a manner consistent with the engine developing power at impact. The examination revealed no evidence of any pre-impact mechanical anomalies or malfunctions that would have precluded normal operation of the airplane.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot on October 9, 2013, by the Department of Public Health of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. A request was made by the FAA inspector for specimens to be sent to the FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for forensic toxicology but no specimens were received.


A Garmin Aera 500 portable GPS navigation device was recovered from the wreckage. Track data was downloaded from the unit and plotted. The data indicated that the airplane departed Tinian Airport and turned left to a north/northeast heading that was maintained until it reached the eastern shore of Tinian Island. The airplane then made a right 270-degree turn to a northwesterly heading that was maintained until about 1650. At 1649:40, the airplane was at a GPS altitude of 1,135 feet, and it began to turn left and descend. The last data point recorded was at 1651:14 at a GPS altitude of 302 feet; by this time, the airplane had turned about 180 degrees and was heading roughly southeast.

NTSB Identification: WPR14LA007
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Sunday, October 06, 2013 in Tinian Island, MP
Aircraft: PIPER PA 32-300, registration: N4089W
Injuries: 3 Fatal,4 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On October 6, 2013, at 1624 coordinated universal time, a Piper PA-32-300, N4089W, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain at the northern end of Tinian Island. The commercial pilot and two passengers were fatally injured; four passengers were seriously injured. The airplane was being operated by Star Marianas Air, Inc., under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135. A company visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan was filed for the 15-minute cross-country flight from Tinian Island to Saipan Island; both islands are part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marian Islands. The weather conditions were a very dark night with scattered rain.

The pilot had made radio contact with the tower controller at Saipan International Airport and made it known that he was returning to the Tinian Airport due to bad weather conditions. A witness said the airplane passed over him at approximately 500 feet and moments later he heard the crash. There was no postimpact fire. 


 An autopsy will be conducted today, Wednesday, on the pilot and two passengers of the ill-fated Star Marianas Piper Cherokee Six aircraft. 

 Chief prosecutor Shelli Neal confirmed with the Saipan Tribune yesterday that Guam chief medical examiner Dr. Aurelio Espinola will perform the autopsy at the Commonwealth Health Center.

The bodies of the three fatalities are at CHC’s morgue.

As of yesterday, authorities have yet to release the identities of the deceased as well as the four survivors.

Sources, however, identified the pilot as Luis Silva, a native of Mexico. CHC officials described the two other fatalities as Chinese tourists—a 26-year-old male and a 29-year-old female.

CNMI authorities, including the Office of the Attorney General, have been assisting the Federal Bureau of Investigation in securing evidence at the crash site while awaiting the arrival of crash investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.

One of the survivors, the 3-year-old girl, was released from the hospital yesterday. The three others —two females and one male—remain in critical but stable condition.

Unsafe plane

A tour company executive told a Chinese online news website that aircraft generally used for interisland travel in the CNMI have “poor safety features.”

Shanghai China CYTS Outbound Travel Service deputy general manager Liu Xin told China Daily Web ( that certain travel agencies in China arrange a combined travel package to Saipan and Tinian to attract more tourists.

“But we have never arranged this type of trip, as the plane flying between the islands is quite small, with poor safety features,” Liu was quoted by China Daily Web as saying.

Shanghai China CYTS Outbound Travel Service, Liu said, only offers individual trips to Tinian and Saipan instead of one package.

Liu said that all services, including hotel reservations and overseas flights, are arranged by travel agencies abroad, and Chinese travel agencies cannot make any changes to the schedule.


Press secretary Angel Demapan said it is still premature to point fingers on what really caused the tragic accident Sunday morning. He urged everyone to wait for the investigation of the Federal Aviation Administration before passing any hasty judgment.

“The administration, along with all local and federal stakeholders, continue to exert every effort to ensure that this matter is thoroughly investigated. At this time, the FAA has taken over the investigation of this very unfortunate incident. Still, it is premature to categorically state that interisland travel is unsafe. While all are eager for this investigation to be completed, it should not be a cause to overlook the many other successful flights that have been flown interisland over the past several years,” Demapan said.

The ill-fated Star Marianas Piper Cherokee Six aircraft left the West Tinian Airport at 2:41am last Sunday but never reached its destination at the Saipan International Airport.

At 10:32am the same day, its wreckage was found in the middle of Tinian in jungle terrain inaccessible by land. Of the seven on board, four survived and are now being treated at the Commonwealth Health Center on Saipan.

China Daily Web also reported that the Star Marianas plane crash was the second plane crash to claim the lives of Chinese tourists during the weeklong National Day holiday.

Last Thursday, Oct. 3, a Chinese tourist and a pilot were confirmed dead after an ultra-light plane crashed in Pokhara, Nepal.

Police in Nepal said the two-seater aircraft, belonging to Avia Club Pokhara, crashed near Shanti Stupa, a well-known tourist attraction in the city, at 9:30am, according to the China Daily Web.

Two Chinese tourists and a local pilot were killed when a light aircraft crashed after taking off from West Tinian Airport in the Pacific for Saipan Island early on Sunday morning. 

 Another four Chinese people aboard the aircraft were injured in the crash. All six passengers in the plane, operated by Star Marianas Air, were tourists from Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, according to a statement on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website on Sunday.

The four injured were sent to hospitals in Saipan, but are not in a critical condition, the statement said.

The seven-seater plane crashed at about 2 am local time on Sunday as it was flying from Tinian to Saipan, two of the biggest islands in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

News of the crash spread online after an Internet user with the name Tianshichengyaoyao wrote a post on the Weibo micro blog service saying that contact had been lost with a small plane flying between Tinian and Saipan on Sunday morning.

According to comments made by other netizens following the post, one of the dead was a woman from Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, who was on honeymoon. Her husband was still being treated late on Sunday.

Another Internet user, Yokiyu Xiongmaomama, who said she was a passenger in another small plane that took off after the crash, said on Weibo later that the weather had not been very good and the airport had stopped operating from midnight on Saturday to early on Sunday morning.

The cause of the crash is not yet known. China Daily was unable to reach the victims' family members for comment on Monday.

It was the second Star Marianas plane to crash in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in less than a year.

A female tourist from Jiaxing in Zhejiang province was killed and six others injured when a Star Marianas plane crashed on Saipan on Nov 19, 2012. The plane was heading for Tinian when it crashed shortly after taking off.

Tinian, known for its casino, is only a 15-minute flight from Saipan, the largest holiday resort island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Tourists usually travel between the two islands in small planes.

With more Chinese looking to spend their holidays overseas, some travel agencies have introduced six-day package tours to Tinian and Saipan, including a free return-flight between the two islands.

Liu Xin, deputy general manager of Shanghai China CYTS Outbound Travel Service, which offers individual trips to Tinian and Saipan instead of one package, said: "Certain travel agencies scheduled a combined travel package to Saipan and Tinian islands to attract more tourists.

"But we have never arranged this type of trip, as the plane flying between the islands is quite small, with poor safety features."

Liu said that all services, including hotel reservations and overseas flights, are arranged by travel agencies abroad, and Chinese travel agencies cannot make any changes to the schedule.

It was the second plane crash to claim the lives of Chinese tourists during the week-long National Day holiday.

On Thursday, a Chinese tourist and a pilot were confirmed dead after an ultra-light plane crashed in Pokhara, Nepal.

Police in Nepal said the two-seater aircraft, belonging to Avia Club Pokhara, crashed near Shanti Stupa, a well-known tourist attraction in the city, at 9:30 am.


Guam - The Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] received 2 reports of serious incidents involving "Star Marianas" planes in the days leading up to Sunday's fatal crash.

 And this most recent tragedy comes less than a year after the last fatal accident involving a "Star Marianas" plane.

On November 19th 2012, a Chinese tourist died in a "Star Marianas" plane during an aborted daylight take-off from Saipan, in clear weather.

This time 2 Chinese tourists died on Tinian, along with the pilot of the plane. 4 other Chinese visitors suffered serious injury.

It was raining Sunday, and visibility was poor in the early morning darkness when the "Star Marianas" Piper Cherokee Six went down shortly after 3am.

Tim Cornelison, the FAA's Air Traffic Manager for Guam and the CNMI, told PNC News that when the accident occurred "there was significant weather reported in the channel between Saipan and Tinian."

Just before the crash, Saipan Tower reported that the weather had obscured the powerful strobe lights on Tinian's Voice of America antenna array, lights which are normally easy to see across the narrow channel between the two islands.

Cornelison said that an FAA employee, for the time being, has been designated to investigate the crash. However a statement on the NTSB website says that "after careful consideration it was determined that this accident did meet the criteria for excepting an employee from furlough. One air safety investigator has been excepted from furlough status for the purpose of gathering safety critical information."

 READ the statement on the FAA website HERE

Cornelison would not speculate on the cause of the accident, nor could he say when it would be completed. But he did acknowledge that he had received reports of serious incidents involving "Star Marianas" planes leading up to the Sunday's tragedy.

Friday Incident

The first occurred this past Friday afternoon when, Cornelison says, a Cessna 172,  "owned an operated by 'Star Marianas'" lost power after taking off from Tinian and it had to land on a surface road.

"It was reported to me that it landed on a roadway, Broadway," said Cornelison,. There were no injuries and the plane was not damaged in the incident.

Saturday Incident

The second incident occurred on Saturday morning, about 5am, Cornelison says he got a report of a Star Marianas plane that somehow ended up in a ditch, as it was taxing out for departure to Saipan.

"It was taxing out for departure on its way to Saipan and missed a turn on the taxiway and ran across a grass area," said Cornelison. "The aircraft ended up in a concrete enforced drainage ditch. And there was damage to the aircraft on that incident." Cornelison said  that  it was reported to him that the pilot had been sent for drug and alcohol testing.

The Commonwealth Ports Authority also reported to Cornelison that the pilot of the plane in this Saturday morning incident, was the same pilot who, less than 24 hours later, died in Sunday's fatal crash. Saipan media have identified him as, Louis Silva.

"Our Number One Job Is Safety"

Every since the ferry service from Saipan to Tinian stopped more than 2 years ago,  flights between the 2 islands have increased, dramatically.  From roughly 10 or 15 a day a few years ago, to as many as 70 to 80 daily flights a day now.

Most of the passengers are Chinese tourists headed for the Tinian Dynasty Casino.

The air shuttle service is important to the CNMI's ailing tourism industry. But at least one of the 2 carriers that plies the route between Saipan and Tinian is failing. Freedom Air just filed for bankruptcy.  It has been charging $35 dollars for the flight to Tinian.  Star Marianas has so far avoided bankruptcy charging just $24.50.

When we asked Cornelison whether he was concerned about the safety record of Star Marianas,  he said:

"Our  number one job is safety. And for a commercial operation such as this the FAA certifies that its a safe operation, certifies that the company has sound management principals. That they operate and maintain their aircraft in accordance with the guidelines and that the pilots that fly their airplanes meet all the proper certifications and have the qualifications to do that. Of course we're concerned."

FBI preserves evidence at crash site while awaiting NTSB, FAA investigators

 The Federal Bureau of Investigation said yesterday that there is no indication at this point that Sunday’s crash of a Star Marianas Piper Cherokee Six aircraft was due to a deliberate act.

FBI special agent Tom Simon said the FBI’s only jurisdiction thus far is to determine if the crash occurred because of a deliberate act.

“At this point, there is no indication that this is the case,” Simon said in an email in response to Saipan Tribune’s inquiries.

Simon said the FBI’s role right now, along with the U.S. Coast Guard and CNMI authorities, is to preserve the evidence at the impact scene while they await the arrival of crash investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.

He did not say when the crash investigators would arrive on Tinian.

The FBI spokesman said that any statement regarding the cause of the crash need to come from the NTSB or the FAA.

Statements regarding the passengers, he said, will come from CNMI authorities.

“Beyond that, the FBI would just be serving as evidence response and collection consultants to the NTSB and FAA,” Simon said.

The plane left the Tinian airport at 2:41am for Saipan but crashed in a jungle on Tinian, killing its pilot and two passengers and seriously injuring four other passengers.

  Guam - The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a statement on Sunday's crash of a Star Marianas Piper Cherokee Six in which 3 people died.

Although the FAA has been affected by the partial federal government shutdown, the Tinian crash has prompted the agency to call investigators off from furlough to investigate the accident.

READ the statement on the FAA website HERE

"After careful consideration it was determined that this accident did meet the criteria for excepting an employee from furlough. One air safety investigator has been excepted from furlough status for the purpose of gathering safety critical information."

READ the FAA statement below:

October 5, 2013 The NTSB was notified at 1:30 PDT of a missing US registered Piper PA 32 ‐ 300 operated by Star Marianas Air. The aircraft had departed Tinian with 7 on board and was enroute to Saipan when it went missing.

Due to the lapse in funding, NTSB staff are currently furloughed. The agency can engage in those activities necessary to address imminent threats to the safety of human life or for the protection of property. 

After careful consideration it was determined that this accident did meet the criteria for excepting an employee from furlough. One air safety investigator has been excepted from furlough status for the purpose of gathering safety critical information. In addition, the investigator will make a determination based upon available information regarding any further actions needed to include possible travel to the accident location.

The NTSB public affairs staff has been furloughed therefore the NTSB will not be conducting press conferences, issuing press releases or responding to reporters’ questions. In addition, the staff of the Transportation Disaster Assistance office are furloughed and will not be providing support or assistance during this investigation.


Local responders were the ones who extricated the four survivors of the ill-fated Star Marianas Piper Cherokee Six aircraft that crashed early Sunday morning in a remote jungle of Tinian. 
According to a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Guam, “responders from Tinian hiked to the aircraft’s location to assist in the extraction of the survivors, vice previous reports that survivors hiked out on their own.”

Commonwealth Ports Authority executive director Maryann Lizama separately confirmed with Saipan Tribune that local elements of the CPA and Department of Public Safety helped rescue the four survivors, who are all Chinese tourists.

She said that CPA and DPS Tinian personnel should be commended for their hard work and determination in reaching the survivors and helping transport them to safety and for further medical attention.

The Coast Guard said that agencies from CNMI and Guam responded to the report of an overdue aircraft between Tinian and Saipan during the early morning of Oct. 6.

“U.S. Coast Guard received a report of a small commuter aircraft that was overdue. The aircraft departed Tinian with six passengers and one pilot, but did not arrive in Saipan as scheduled. Vessels from CNMI Port Authority Harbor Patrol, CNMI Department of Public Safety’s Fire and Rescue, CNMI DPS Boating Safety, and Coast Guard cutter Assateague searched by water and a helicopter from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 searched by air. A command post was established [on] Saipan at Puntan Agingan,” the statement reads.

Extensive search efforts throughout the day by USCG, CNMI local responders, and HSC-25 uncovered the crash site for the downed Piper single-engine aircraft on Tinian in the central part of the island, 4 nautical miles off the West Tinian Airport and east of the Voices of America Tower.

“Tinian response crews and HSC-25 were on scene immediately to assess the victims. Four survivors out of the seven total passengers on board were then transported to Saipan’s Commonwealth Health Center.”

It was earlier reported that two of the four survivors are adult females, one adult male, and a 3-year-old girl.

The dead are a 29-year-old male, a 26-year-old female, and the pilot, who sources identified as Luis Silva, a native of Mexico.

Lizama said that Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board officials are coming to Saipan to investigate the crash and take over from the FBI.

Business as usual

Star Marianas continues to operate and a check on the interisland carrier’s dispatcher said their planes are ready to fly as early as 9am today.

According to its website, Star Marianas provides air services between Saipan and Tinian 24 hours each day and the company can provide four aircraft at any given time.

“Additionally, since the flight time between each island is only 10 minutes, larger groups can be reasonably accommodated in relatively short periods of actual time,” according to its website.

NTSB affected by shutdown

Meanwhile, a PDF file from the NTSB website ( seem to indicate that the agency continues to be affected by the U.S. government shutdown.

“Due to the lapse in funding, NTSB staff are currently furloughed. The agency can engage in those activities necessary to address imminent threats to the safety of human life or for the protection of property,” it reads.

However, after careful consideration, NTSB determined that Sunday’s crash of the Star Marianas plane on Tinian “did meet the criteria for excepting an employee from furlough.”

One air safety investigator has been excepted from furlough status for the purpose of gathering safety critical information.

“In addition, the investigator will make a determination based upon available information regarding any further actions needed to include possible travel to the accident location.”

While an investigator has been excepted, the agency’s public affairs department continues to be affected by the shutdown.

“The NTSB public affairs staff has been furloughed, therefore the NTSB will not be conducting press conferences, issuing press releases or responding to reporters’ questions. In addition, the staff of the Transportation Disaster Assistance office are furloughed and will not be providing support or assistance during this investigation.”

  The CNMI government can only hope that all airlines flying in and out of the Commonwealth strictly adhere to safety standards following Sunday’s Star Marianas plane crash on Tinian that killed three people and injured four others. 
 All four survivors were still at the hospital as of yesterday.

Only the 3-year-old survivor, a girl, has been upgraded to “fair” condition as of yesterday, Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. interim chief executive officer Esther Muña said.

The three adult survivors—two females and one male—remain in critical but stable condition at CHC.

“We’re closely monitoring the patients,” Muña said.

All four survivors are Chinese tourists.

Of the three who perished, two are Chinese tourists—a 26-year-old female and a 29-year-old male. The third fatality is the pilot.

Muña said the bodies of the deceased are at CHC.

An autopsy has yet to be conducted.

Muña said CHC cannot confirm the conditions of the bodies without a written report.

Sunday’s plane crash was the third and worst mishap in three days on Tinian, and happened some 11 months since the Nov. 19, 2012, crash involving the same airline that killed a Chinese tourist and injured six others.

“You can’t blame people if they choose to not use Star Marianas even though it charges $10 less compared to what Freedom Air charges on a one-way fare between Saipan and Tinian. Star Marianas charges only $24.50 and Freedom Air, $35, and paying the more expensive one is so worth it,” a Tinian resident working on Saipan said.

But Tinian Mayor Ramon Dela Cruz said people should not judge too fast, reiterating that each Star Marianas aircraft flying the Saipan-Tinian route has some 4,000 takeoffs and landings a month without major incidents.

“Maybe if you have major incidents every week then you can say it’s not safe, but if you have some 4,000 landings and takeoffs in a month and you have a major incident once in 11 months, that does not speak of the airline not being safe,” he said.

Press secretary Angel Demapan reiterated that the plane crash “is a very unfortunate situation and it is important that the investigation be conducted to determine the cause of the incident.”

“The government is hopeful that all airlines flying in and out of the Commonwealth exercise due diligence in ensuring that all applicable safety standards are strictly adhered to,” he said.

Communications with China

The six tourists aboard the ill-fated plane were from China’s Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, China’s state-run news agency Xinhua quoted the Consulate-General of China in Los Angeles as saying.

Demapan said the Office of the Governor is actively updating the Chinese embassy in Los Angeles whenever new information is available.

One of the adult surviving females is the mother of the 3-year-old girl who also survived.

The girl’s father, however, was among those who died in the crash, sources said.

Demapan said no further information can be made available pending notification of the next of kin. These include the identities of the deceased and the survivors.

The Federal Aviation Administration has taken over and will be the main point of contact for the investigation, he added.

The governor was at the Tinian crash site on Sunday along with other top officials.

Demapan said that due to ongoing investigation, visitors are not being allowed at this time, when asked whether the governor has visited the survivors at the Commonwealth Health Center.

“Nonetheless, the government stands ready to assist should the need arise. Right now, the patients and the medical team need to be given the opportunity to focus on recovery. Additionally, the government is grateful for the constant assistance from the American Red Cross who has been assisting the families that are on island,” he added.

 The crash of a Star Marianas Piper PA-32-300 Cherokee Six aircraft early yesterday morning claimed the lives of three people—the plane’s pilot and two of his passengers.

A friend of the pilot confirmed that the deceased Star Marianas employee was Luis Silva, a 50-something native of Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico, who had only been working for the inter-island carrier the past couple of months. Prior to his employment at Star Marianas, Silva worked for Freedom Air.

Press secretary Angel Demapan separately confirmed that the two other fatalities of the crash are Chinese nationals, a 29-year-old man and a 26-year-old woman.

Four other passengers of the ill-fated plane survived the crash and were airlifted from the crash site, located about 4 nautical miles from the airport. They are listed in critical but stable condition at the Commonwealth Health Center. 

U.S. Coast Guard petty officer Raymond Sablan told Saipan Tribune that a U.S. Navy helicopter discovered the crash site at 10:32am yesterday. The crash site is east of the Voices of America Tower on Tinian and is inaccessible by land.

Shortly after the discovery of the downed plane, Navy personnel airlifted the four survivors from the crash site and transported them to the airport where they were eventually flown to the Saipan hospital.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Commander Morgan Roper earlier confirmed that four of the seven people aboard the plane survived the crash.

USCG Search and Rescue Specialist Lee Putnam told the Guam-based Pacific News Center that two of the bodies were still in the fuselage and one was outside the plane on the ground.

Putnam said the area has been roped off and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, acting on behalf of the National Transportation and Safety Board, has joined CNMI investigators at the scene.

Demapan said the FBI has taken over the investigation until such time that NTSB officials are on the ground.

The bodies of the three fatalities were reportedly en route to Saipan and were set to arrive around 7:30pm last night aboard a DPS Fire boat at Sugar Dock.

Star Marianas statement

Star Marianas’ Shaun Christian told Saipan Tribune in an email that his company is very sorry about the tragic loss and added that Star Marianas is fully cooperating with authorities to ascertain the cause of the crash.

“We are doing everything possible to assist the victims and their families. We are also cooperating with the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] and NTSB in investigating the cause of the accident and we are not at liberty to discuss the specifics of the accident at this time. We want to thank DPS, CPA, U.S. Coast Guard, CHC, THC, Red Cross, and other rescue and response personnel.”

Christian also corrected a prior media release that stated that Star Marianas has already notified the victims’ next of kin.

“Apparently, the notifications to the families in China have not been made at this time. Therefore, we are unable to provide the name list of the passengers.”

Search and rescue effort

Before the plane’s discovery on Tinian, three boats and a U.S. Navy helicopter conducted a search and rescue effort for the Star Marianas plane, which authorities initially presumed crashed in the ocean.

In a news briefing shortly before noon yesterday at the Agingan Point, which is one of the closest strips of land to Tinian, Special Assistant for Homeland Security and Emergency Management Marvin Seman said a U.S. Navy helicopter as well as the Department of Public Safety’s Zodiac boat, a boat from the Commonwealth Ports Authority, and another boat from the Division of Environmental Quality combed the waters between Saipan and Tinian for the missing airplane.

He said 57 personnel in all from various government and federal agencies on both Saipan and Tinian were involved in the search and rescue effort.

Gov. Eloy S. Inos was also present at the command center yesterday morning, along with Lt. Gov. Jude U. Hofschneider, DPS Commissioner James C. Deleon Guerrero, CPA executive director Maryann Lizama, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Ken McCain, and other officials.

Inos was supposed to speak during the impromptu briefing but, according to press secretary Angel Demapan, he begged off from making comments because of the sketchy information about the lost plane.

Christian said the company reported their missing Piper PA-32-300 Cherokee Six aircraft to the Commonwealth Ports Authority at 3:15am yesterday. He said the plane left the West Tinian Airport at 2:41am enroute to Saipan International Airport.

Tinian residents admit fear of flying: Others urge not to rush to judgment vs Star Marianas 
Given a choice, Tinian Junior and Senior High School teacher Liz Hofschneider would rather not fly by plane this coming Monday to attend a CNMI-wide event the Public School System has set for that day on Saipan.

Hofschneider is not alone as 30 or so teachers from the island have the same misgivings boarding a flight from Tinian to Saipan to attend a twice-a-year professional development event on Tuesday, Oct. 15.

This comes after Sunday morning’s crash of a Star Marianas plane in the island’s interior, which killed three people, including its pilot, Luis Silva.

Hofschneider said she is genuinely worried about taking the 10- to 15-minute flight to Saipan and would gladly forego the one-day conference if not for her fear of being labeled AWOL (absence without leave).

Telesource accountant Paul Madriaga acknowledged that a lot of Tinian residents are now scared of flying in general and not only boarding a Star Marianas flight.

“The truth is, it scares people to travel from Tinian to Saipan and a number of them have already thought about postponing their trips for a while. Honestly, it really scares me a lot, too.”

What tides him over whenever he flies is prayer and the thought that if it’s your time, then it’s your time.

“What I usually do whenever I travel is say a short prayer each time I fly. So I am encouraging everyone to do the same and turn your fear to prayer. Prayer won’t hurt; rather it will save you. If you will ask me again if I will still ride that plane, yes I will.”

Community Guidance Center Tinian coordinator Keith Nabors, for his part, will continue to fly to and from Saipan and will patronize Star Marianas because the interisland carrier has “been good to the island community.”

Nabors, who is flying back to Saipan today because of work, said Star Marianas has been a big help on Tinian, sponsoring many events including sports programs and the likes.

He feels very sad, though, because the pilot of the ill-fated plane was a neighbor and a very close friend.

Tinian Health Clinic nurse supervisor Rodney Cabarles urged everyone not to immediately judge Star Marianas, pending the results of the National Transportation and Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration investigation.

He pointed out that all modes of transportation inherently have their own risks. Despite last Sunday’s tragic crash, he said that flying still has a safer track record than cars and boats.

Consul Maria Paz G. Cortez, of the Philippine Consulate General in Guam, said the tragedy worries her staff who are set to fly to Rota at the end of the week to conduct consular mobile services there.

She said she is crossing her fingers that they would be riding a bigger and safer aircraft.

Wanted: Ferry

Many of those interviewed yesterday said they wouldn’t mind taking the longer trip to Saipan via a ferry.

Hofschneider said she wouldn’t have second thoughts about taking a ferry to the PSS event this Monday if only that alternative is still available.

Tinian Shipping and Transportation Inc. suspended its ferry service between Saipan and Tinian in March 2010. The decision was initially announced as temporary as the ferry needed repairs. More than three years since, no commercial ferry has plied the route.

“People actually finds it safer to travel by boat and I believe this is the alternative transportation that people of Tinian are waiting for. It’s been three years since they stopped the ferry operation,” said Madriaga.

He said the crash was not only heartbreaking but will also make a dent on the island’s burgeoning tourism industry.

“It is somehow will have a negative impact and it’s another blow to the tourism industry in the island of Tinian. I just hope that it is short-lived.”

For Cabarles, flying by air is still safer than traveling by boat. He said that, unlike commuter planes on Tinian that only have six passengers, a ferry that sinks has the potential of up to 150 casualties.

It is his hope that after the NTSB and FAA investigation, Star Marianas, other airlines, and local and federal regulatory agencies would learn from the tragedy and improve interisland transportation in the Commonwealth. 

Link: Pacific Islands Report 
 Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Small Plane Crashes In Tinian Jungle, Three Killed

Star Marianas crash kills pilot, 2 Chinese tourists injures 4

By Alexie Villegas Zotomayor & Emmanuel T. Erediano

TINIAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Oct. 7, 2013)—Three people were killed and four survived a plane crash in the jungles of Mt. Laso early Sunday morning.

This is the second fatal crash following a Nov. 19, 2012 incident on Saipan that claimed the life of a female tourist.

The fatalities in Sunday’s crash were pilot Luis Silva, and two unidentified — one male and one female — tourists from China.

Silva, who was in his late 40s or early 50s, was a former Freedom Air pilot and was described as "very experienced."

The four survivors, also Chinese tourists, were flown to the Commonwealth Health Center a little past noon.

The plane was a Piper Cherokee 6 PA-32 belonging to Star Marianas and the reason for the crash has yet to be determined.

CNMI and federal authorities set up a unified command post at the Puntan Agingan early yesterday morning and held a media conference at around 10:30 a.m. to announce details concerning what was then described as a missing aircraft carrying six passengers and a pilot that left Tinian at 2:40 a.m. yesterday.

"All we know is that there is a report of an overdue plane. That is what we are trying to validate," Special Assistant for Homeland Security and Emergency Management Marvin K. Seman said in the media conference.

He was joined by Gov. Eloy S. Inos, Lt. Gov. Jude U. Hofschneider, Commonwealth Ports Authority Executive Director Maryann Lizama, Francisco C. Ada. Saipan International Airport manager Edward B. Mendiola, DPS Commissioner James Deleon Guerrero, Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Perry Tenorio, Press Secretary Angel Demapan, the governor’s legal counsel Teresa Kim-Tenorio, American Red Cross-NMI chapter executive director John Hirsh.

While the press conference was going on, Variety learned that a report was received that the crash site had been found on Tinian where three U.S. Navy helicopters had been dispatched.

As the command post was relocating to Sugar Dock, Seman, Inos, Hofschneider, Lizama and other officials, flew to Tinian immediately.

Seman said they received information sometime around 10:30 a.m. that a helicopter had spotted the crash site on Mt. Laso here on Tnian.

The four survivors were airlifted to Saipan immediately.

Seman said a little after 11 a.m. they received a call that the bodies of the pilot and the passengers were found in the wreckage on Mt. Laso.

"We discovered the three [fatalities] 30 minutes after the initial call," said Seman.

Search and rescue

As soon as notice was received that an aircraft with six passengers and the pilot was missing, the unified command consisting of federal and local responders began search-and-rescue operations.

Vessels from CPA Harbor Patrol, DPS Fire and Rescue Boating Safety and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Assateague conducted a search by water while helicopters from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Two Five searched by air.

Seman said the plane left Tinian at 2:40 a.m. and was bound for Saipan. The flight usually takes 8 minutes.

"We got the call at roughly 4 a.m. about an overdue flight," Seman said.

The wreckage was scattered around, he added, referring to the scene at the site which is about a 5-minute drive from 8th Avenue or east of the International Broadcasting Bureau.

As of the 3 p.m., Seman said they had yet to identify the bodies pending the arrival of Federal Bureau of Investigation personnel.

The crash site is an area covered with thick foliage and local and federal responding units used a bulldozer to clear a path to the site.

"It is really thick in there," said Seman. "It wasn’t a pleasing site."

Tinian Mayor Ramon M. Dela Cruz said the three fatalities included the pilot, adding that parts of the airplane were scattered about.

"There were two bodies trapped under the engine — the pilot and one female passenger. The other fatality — a male —was found outside the plane on the ground," he said, adding that the site was "gruesome."


Seman said the aircraft probably tried to make an emergency landing and hit the trees.

Other sources who declined to be named said that the pilot had complained about his schedule.

"It could be a case of fatigue," sources said.

The pilot’s girlfriend Lorraine, who was at the crash site at around 2:30 p.m. yesterday, said her boyfriend did not have a heart condition.

Another source who knew Silva said the pilot was in "good shape."

But Variety learned from other sources on Tinian that the pilot had figured in a minor incident on the runway. On Saturday, just as his plane was taxiing the runway en route to Saipan, the aircraft hit a ditch.

Variety was also told that, while the plane was hovering near the Voice of America transmitter, Silva called the tower on Saipan to check the weather. This was the last message heard from the pilot.

Extricating the bodies

As of 4:30 p.m., the bodies remained at the crash site as the FBI and DPS continued the investigation.

Seman said the crash was an "isolated event."

Close to a year ago, another Star Marianas Air Piper Cherokee Six PA-32 crashed on Saipan.

Then, the aircraft was piloted by Jae Choi who sustained injuries and was medevacked to the Philippines for further treatment.

His passengers were one Filipino and four Chinese, one of whom died.

Prior to this crash, the last aircraft accident to occurr was on Aug. 11, 2006 involving Taga Air’s Piper PA-32-300 aircraft but all seven people on board survived.

Stable condition

The four passengers who survived the plane crash were in stable condition, according to the Commonwealth Health Center yesterday afternoon.

CHC emergency preparedness coordinator Warren Villagomez said in a press briefing at the hospital that they received the first call about the incident at 5:45 a.m., Sunday.

CHC was placed under a "Code D," or Code Disaster, alert at 8:45 a.m. and the first two victims arrived in the hospital’s emergency room at 12:43 p.m., followed by two other victims at 12:44 p.m.

Villagomez said the victims were tourists. After the press briefing, members of the media were led to a room where the victims’ families and friends from China were being assisted by the American Red Cross-NMI chapter. None wanted to make comment.

The emergency room physician, Dr. Marty Rohringer, said the three adults were "in critical but stable condition," while the child was in "serious but stable condition."

CHC chief executive officer Esther L. Muna did not want to release more information about the survivors because their families had not been notified yet. Variety was told by sources that the child was three years old while the other passengers are in their 20s or 30s.

Variety also learned from sources that the first two victims who arrived at the hospital were a man and a woman followed, a minute later, by another woman and a child.

Rohringer said the patients were conscious when they were brought in.

"We had an excellent response to the Code D calls so all surgeons, anesthesiologists and staff came to assist," he added. "So there was no manpower shortage at all. We acted promptly. We were actually standing in the hallway as the patients arrived."

He said two of the adult patients required emergency surgery while the third adult "may or may not" need surgery, as the ER staffers had stabilized the patient very well "so the patient may not need to go to the OR although we thought the patient might initially."

Villagomez said the response was a well-coordinated effort, adding that their previous disaster preparedness training and exercises had paid off.

"I thank everyone who was part of the response effort," he added.

All the needed doctors and nurses were mobilized immediately, he said as he also acknowledged the assistance provided by the Red Cross led by John Hirsh.

"We have family members of the victims here and we are providing everything that we can to calm them and mitigate the situation," Villagomez said.

Hirsh said the Red Cross has a long history of working very closely with CHC, "and we value that partnership that really played out today."

He said there were a lot of volunteers who came to the hospital to comfort the families and friends of the victims.

Muna said they assured the families and friends of the victims that the survivors were provided with the best care from a medical team that was quick to respond.

In a media release yesterday, Tinian Transportation Management Solutions Inc., which is doing business as Star Marianas, said:

"The company is very sorry about this tragic loss. We are doing everything possible to assist the victims and their families.

"We are also cooperating with [federal authorities] in investigating the cause of the accident and we are not at liberty to discuss the specifics of the accident at this time.

"We want to thank DPS, CPA, U.S. Coast Guard, CHC, THC, Red Cross and other rescue and response personnel.

"[T]he notifications to the families in China have not been made at this time. Therefore, we are unable to provide a list of the passengers."

Still in the jungle

As of 7 p.m. Sunday, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Public Safety personnel were still at the crash site in the jungle.

At 4 p.m., authorities brought out the first body while federal and local authorities were extracting the remaining two bodies from the airplane.

From the main road, where the command post was set up, authorities had to create an access road by using a bulldozer to clear the vegetation. From there, one had to walk for 10 to 15 minutes to reach the main crash site.

"We have been up since 4 a.m., and we had to use a bulldozer to clear the area to help federal and local authorities reach the site," Office of CNMI Homeland Security and Emergency Management acting special assistant Marvin Seman told Variety.

Before lunch time, a boat from DPS boating safety office ferried the department’s crime scene technicians from Sugar Dock to Tinian following the discovery of the bodies and the airlift of the four survivors by a U.S. Navy helicopter to the Commonwealth Health Center.