A Makani Kai Air Cessna Caravan had a close call with a Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 717 while both were taking off from Kahului Airport (PHOG) on Wednesday morning, with the owner of Makani Kai disputing initial aviation authority claims that his pilot took off without clearance.
Richard Schuman, Makani Kai owner, said Thursday afternoon that he was taking a wait-and-see stance on the cause of the incident while awaiting the results of the Federal Aviation Administration investigation.
“I’m waiting,” he said. “I’m not choosing sides.”
Ian Gregor, public affairs manager for the Federal Aviation Administration Pacific Division, said Wednesday that a Cessna Caravan took off “without clearance” from the shorter Runway 5 at Kahului Airport as a Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 717 was taking off from the main Runway 2. The runways intersect at their northeast ends.
“A controller in the Maui tower spotted the conflict and instructed the Cessna pilot to turn left to avoid the Hawaiian Airlines jet,” Gregor said in an email. “The controller then alerted the Hawaiian Airlines pilot about the Cessna, and saw that the jet was already turning to the right, away from the smaller plane.”
A passenger aboard the Hawaiian flight, which was headed for Honolulu, said that both planes were in the air and estimated the distance between the planes to be about 100 yards as the pilots turned their aircraft in opposite directions.
No one was injured in either plane, and there was no damage, officials with both airlines said.
Gregor said that the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident.
Schuman did not have the passenger count at hand but said that the flight was heading for Molokai. The Cessna Grand Caravan can carry nine passengers.
He said that local Federal Aviation Administration officials have told him that the cause of the incident is inconclusive and that an investigation is ongoing.
Two planes were taking off at the same time, and one had permission and the other did not, Schuman said. There might have been confusion over who had clearance, he said.
“Pilots don’t just sit there and say ‘green light, we are going to take off,'” Schuman said. “They only take off when they are told,” adding that pilots confirm the clearance with air traffic controllers before taking off.
Schuman said that he consulted with his pilot and said: “He didn’t take off if he was told not to take off.”
The investigation, which includes reviewing tower and cockpit recorder tapes from the Hawaiian jet (the Makani Kai plane did not have a cockpit recorder) and other information, needs to run its course, Schuman said. Claims about who is at fault at this point are speculation, he said.
“We want to tell the truth,” Schuman said. “If Makani Kai’s at fault, the Federal Aviation Administration is going to say it, and I am going to support it.
“Let’s tell the truth. I have nothing to hide.”
A Hawaiian Airlines spokeswoman referred questions regarding the incident to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The pilot of a Cessna Caravan who took off without clearance at the same time that a Hawaiian Airlines jet was taking off thought he got the okay.
The Federal Aviation Administration told us about an incident that occurred Wednesday, when a Makani Kai Air pilot took off from Runway 5 at Kahului Airport while the Hawaiian Airlines plane was taking off from Runway 2.
The runways eventually intersect, so this wasn’t supposed to happen.
The FAA told us it was investigating, but we needed to find out more.
We spoke with Makani Kai Air owner Richard Schuman, who said it all started with the pilot thinking he heard the tower call his flight number, which ended with the same number as the Hawaiian Airlines flight.
“All commercial pilots would not just take off on their own,” he said. “Someone had to tell them, or they must have understood from someone that they were cleared to taxi, or they were cleared to take off,” Schuman said.
We listened to a recording of the radio transmissions between the pilots and air traffic controller.
The control tower tells Hawaiian Air Flight 155 that it’s cleared for takeoff. The Hawaiian Air pilot confirms that it’s taking off at Runway 2.
The tower then tells Flight 825, the Makani Kai flight, to turn left because it’s not cleared for takeoff. The Makani Kai pilot confirms to turn left to move away from the Hawaiian Air plane.
The tower then tells Hawaiian Air to use caution, “caravan,” referring to Makani Kai, departing to make a left turn.
Technically the FAA calls it a loss of separation, and is investigating the incident.
When we listened to the radio transmissions with Schuman, he explained to us what he told FAA investigators Friday. When the tower gave clearance for Hawaiian Air Flight 155, the pilot for Makani Kai, referred to as Kaleo 825, only heard the last part “5” and thought it was for him.
“When he heard ‘5, you’re cleared to take off,’ and he reads back, ‘Kaleo 825, cleared to take off’ and because tower doesn’t normally respond to that, that’s why he made the turn and he went,” Schuman said.
The control tower would have corrected Makani Kai when he radioed back, but Schuman tells us his pilot and the Hawaiian Air pilot radioed in at the same exact time to confirm that they were clear for takeoff.
“Both the Hawaiian and the Makani Kai pilot transmitted at exactly the same time, and the tower picked up the Hawaiian call and missed the Makani Kai call,” he explained.
The owner of Makani Kai Air says it was an honest mistake, and he’s already taking steps to make sure that a similar incident does not happen again.
He says his pilots will now reconfirm with the tower that they are actually cleared for takeoff by asking for a response instead of assuming that a non-response gives them the clearance.
We’ve also learned that this type of incident is not likely to happen at most major airports, like Honolulu, because they have radar systems monitoring everything that’s moving on the ground.
“They have someone watching what’s rolling, so if something similar was to happen, a controller would see two aircraft moving on the runway at the same time and would make an immediate call right there,” Schuman said.
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