Friday, January 16, 2015

Cessna 172N Skyhawk, N5660E, Hawaiian Night Lights LLC: Accident occurred January 16, 2015 in Ualapue, Hawaii

NTSB Identification: WPR15LA086
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, January 16, 2015 in Ualapue, HI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/11/2015
Aircraft: CESSNA 172N, registration: N5660E
Injuries: 1 Serious, 3 Minor.

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

The flight instructor reported that he was performing an introductory flight lesson for a student with her parents on board as passengers. Rather than fly in the normal practice area, the flight instructor and student decided to fly across a channel toward an adjacent island to avoid unfavorable weather conditions. The student flew the majority of the flight following the shoreline until the flight instructor took the flight controls and turned the airplane inland to return to the airport. As the flight instructor flew the airplane over mountainous terrain, the engine lost partial power, and the airplane then began to descend. The flight instructor subsequently performed a forced landing into densely forested terrain. The airplane was not recovered from the accident site, and it could not be examined on site due to the inhospitable and remote terrain; therefore, the reason for the partial loss of engine power could not be determined.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
A partial loss of engine power during cruise flight for reasons that could not be determined because the airplane was not recovered. 

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On January 16, 2015, about 1400 Hawaiian standard time, a Cessna 172N, N5660E, collided with terrain near Ualapue, on the Island of Molokai, Hawaii. The airplane was registered to Hawaiian Night Lights LLC, and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The certified flight instructor (CFI), student pilot undergoing instruction, and one passenger sustained minor injuries; a second passenger sustained serious injuries. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and both wings during the accident sequence. The instructional flight departed Honolulu International Airport, Honolulu, at 1304. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

The CFI reported that the flight was an introductory lesson for the student, who was a Japanese citizen, and that the student's parents were the passengers. The CFI was the owner of Hawaiian Night Lights, and utilized the airplane for flight instruction.

The CFI stated that they planned to flying for 2 hours, and prior to departure, decided to fly east towards Molokai due to unfavorable weather conditions around the Island of Oahu. The departure was uneventful and they flew east, following the northern coastline towards the end of Molokai. Having reached a waterfall as they approached the eastern shore, the CFI took the controls and initiated a circling climb inland over the mountainous terrain. During the climb he noticed that the engine was not producing full power, even though the throttle control was fully forward. He estimated the engine speed to be about 200 rpm lower than normal, and he applied carburetor heat. The flight progressed over the mountains at an altitude of about 3,500 ft mean sea level (500 to 1,000 ft above ground level) while he maintained best rate of climb airspeed. As they passed over a ridge the airplane began to descend at 400 ft per minute, and they became trapped below the peaks of surrounding terrain. The pilot turned off carburetor heat and began performing tight turns and chandelle maneuvers in an effort to clear terrain while now flying at best angle of climb airspeed. He warned the passengers of the impending crash, however, as they did not speak English, they could not fully understand. As they approached the valley floor he extended the flaps and told the passengers to brace for impact.

The airplane came to rest at the 3,000 ft level, on the eastern side of the island, 73 miles from the departure airport. Video of the accident site taken by search and rescue personnel revealed that the airplane was situated in densely wooded terrain within a crevasse just below a ridgeline.

Due to the inhospitable nature of the terrain, the airplane could not be examined at the accident site. Additionally, the airplane was not insured, and at the time of completion of this report it had not been recovered from the accident site; therefore, no examination was performed.

The most recent maintenance action performed on the airplane was an annual inspection, which was completed on August 1, 2014. According to maintenance logbooks, at that time the airframe had accrued 5,517.3 total flight hours, with the engine accumulating 1,362.7 hours since overhaul. The pilot reported that the airplane had flown an additional 95.6 hours since the inspection.

Radar data provided by the FAA recorded the majority of the flight leading up to the turn towards terrain. The data revealed a target departing eastbound following the southeastern shoreline of Oahu. The target then made the 26-mile crossing over the Kaiwi Channel where it performed a series of turning maneuvers. It then continued to track along the northern shoreline of Molokai. The final segment of the flight was not recorded as the airplane descended behind terrain and out of the radar coverage area.

NTSB Identification: WPR15LA086 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, January 16, 2015 in Ualapue, HI
Aircraft: CESSNA 172N, registration: N5660E
Injuries: 1 Serious, 3 Minor.

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 January 16, 2015, about 1400 Hawaiian standard time, a Cessna 172N, N5660E, collided with terrain near Ualapue, on the Island of Molokai, Hawaii. The airplane was registered to Hawaiian Night Lights LLC, and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The certified flight instructor (CFI), student pilot undergoing instruction, and one passenger sustained minor injuries; a second passenger sustained serious injuries. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and both wings during the accident sequence. The instructional flight departed Honolulu International Airport, Honolulu, at 1304. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed.

The CFI reported that the accident flight was an introductory flight lesson for the student, who was a Japanese citizen, and that the student's parents were the passengers. They departed Honolulu and headed east towards Kalaupapa where they performed basic flight maneuvers. They then followed the coastline towards the eastern end of Molokai. Having reached the eastern shore, they turned back, flying a direct route to the Koko Head VOR (very high frequency omni-directional radio range). Shortly thereafter, at an altitude of about 3,300 feet mean sea level, the engine lost power. The airplane began to descend, and as they approached a ridgeline the airplane encountered downdrafts. The pilot reported that the airplane was by now in a valley, and they had no route to escape, so he elected to force land the airplane into trees.

HAWAIIAN NIGHT LIGHTS LLC: http://registry.faa.gov/N660E 


A Maui pilot, who performed an emergency landing himself on Piilani Highway two years ago, helped locate a Cessna single-engine aircraft that made a forced landing Friday afternoon at the 3,000-foot elevation on the eastern end of Molokai.

"It's amazing that they were able to land," Capt. Ryan Fields said in a phone interview with The Maui News on Friday afternoon. "It's a miracle that they did what they could because it's 3,000 feet up, and I guess they landed in some trees. I don't know how they landed a airplane up there. It's pretty crazy, and it's a bad place to go down, I'll tell you that."

The fixed wing, single-engine Cessna 172 reportedly lost its engine power and was forced to make an emergency landing near Halawa Falls, Federal Aviation Administration and fire officials said.

A survivor of a plane that made a forced landing Friday afternoon on the eastern end of Molokai is assisted by hospital security guards and nurses at Maui Memorial Medical Center. The victim, who was in serious condition, was among three other passengers aboard a privately-owned Cessna that reportedly lost engine power near Halawa Falls. The other three passengers sustained minor injuries.

The four people aboard the plane were airlifted to a landing zone at Pu'u o Hoku Ranch by a Maui fire rescue crew aboard the Air One helicopter, said Capt. Rylan Yatsushiro, spokesman for the Maui Fire Department.

He said one person was in serious condition and was flown by Maui Medevac to Maui Memorial Medical Center. Three others suffered minor injuries and were transported by medics to Molokai General Hospital for further evaluation and treatment, Yatsushiro said.

The person in serious condition had a neck brace and was seen being helped out of the medevac helicopter by Maui Memorial Medical Center security and nurses around 4:30 p.m. The victim, who was on a stretcher, was placed on a cart and driven up a hill from the helipad to the emergency room.

Hawaiian Night Lights LLC is listed as the registered owner of the plane. A phone number listed for the Honolulu-based company was disconnected.

The plane was manufactured in 1978 and was certified on June 12, 2014.

The aviation company has a Hauula, Oahu, address and was registered in 2006, according to state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs records.

Fields, a pilot for Mokulele Airlines, said the Cessna went down around 2 p.m. He did not see the Cessna go down but was aware that a plane in east Molokai had issued a mayday call.

He said his aircraft, which was traveling from Molokai to Maui, was the only plane in the area at that time. He was able to confirm and locate the downed Cessna from a vantage point two to three miles away from the air.

"All I could tell was that there was a plane where I wasn't expecting it to be," he said. "We knew they were there, and we were picking it up on the radar and radioed in their coordinates."

Field said he did not see any smoke or flames from the aircraft and does not know what caused the plane to lose engine power. He said winds weren't too strong in Halawa Valley on Friday, though the area is known for being difficult to navigate due to its mountains, which reach almost 5,000 feet, and limited visibility.

"It's when it gets kind of cloudy that makes it hard, and lately the vog has been kind of bad so the visibility is kind of bad," he said. "It's not a place you want to be in."

The valley is a popular area for tourists and residents and boasts towering waterfalls and lush mountainsides. Maui resident Bobby Hill, a private pilot, said Friday that he usually takes a route through the Halawa Falls area on flights between Maui and Oahu.

"That's a very common route for sightseeing because it's beautiful on that side," he said. "It's less bumpy on trade-wind days."

Seeing the crashed Cessna on Molokai brought back memories for Fields, who dealt with his own miraculous landing after his plane experienced engine trouble off Wailea on a flight to the Big Island two years ago.

In October 2013, Fields helped maneuver a Cessna Grand Caravan carrying nine others onto Piilani Highway - avoiding cars and telephone poles. Everyone aboard walked away unscathed.

Fields confirmed that he was one of the two pilots aboard the Cessna Grand Caravan but said he could not comment on the incident until the National Transportation Safety Board issues its final report.

As one who could relate to the pilot of the downed plane, Fields said he was glad to be part of rescue operations Friday.

"It was cool being in the area and to help," he said. "I was pretty excited to be a part of that."

While all passengers survived Friday's landing, Halawa Valley has been the site of some of the worst air disasters in Hawaii's history.

On Nov. 1, 1996, a small plane carrying Maui Democratic Chairman Robert McCarthy, Maui County Councilman Tom Morrow and four others slammed into a ridge above the valley on a trip back to Maui following a campaign event. The crash killed everyone aboard.

On Oct. 28, 1989, an Aloha Island Air flight slammed into the valley walls killing 20 people. Thirteen of the victims were from Molokai, including eight Molokai High School volleyball players and two faculty members. It is reportedly the worst interisland air disaster in state history.

http://www.mauinews.com

EAST MOLOKAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A hard landing in a remote area on Molokai has sent four to the hospital.

Pilot Michael Richards and three passengers were flying at 3,000 feet over Halawa Valley when their Cessna Skyhawk lost its only engine,.

"It could have been much worse. It's a miracle that they had a place where they could put that plane down without killing themselves," said Valerie Richards, the pilot's mother.

"That poor baby didn't have a place to land. It was steep terrain, heavily wooded and there was no smooth place to go."

Richards and two of the passengers -- a father and daughter from Japan-- were treated at Molokai General for minor injuries. A third -- the mother -- suffered more serious injuries and was sent to Maui Memorial.

It's not Richard's first hard landing. He and a student were forced to land in a field near the Waipio Costco when the engine gave out. He also had a hard landing on Lanai in 2007. No one was injured in either instance.

"I do have experience with this ... I'm not a foreigner to this scenario," the pilot told Hawaii News Now in June.

FAA officials will now investigate this hard landing. And Richards plans to be back up and flying again soon.


http://www.k5thehometeam.com










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