HONOLULU (KHON2) — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says inadequate training of a pilot contributed to the death of 11 people in a skydiving plane crash in Mokuleia in 2019.

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Three safety recommendations were issued during the NTSB’s ongoing investigation of the June 21, 2019 crash, which led to the death of a pilot and ten passengers.

In the safety recommendation report, the NTSB cited the Federal Aviation Administrations (FAA) ‘Aviation Instructor’s Handbook,’ which states that the goal of a flight instructor is “to teach each learner in such a way that he or she will become a competent pilot.” NTSB said that in regards to the Mokuleia pilot, “the flight instructor did not achieve that goal.”

As a result of the finding, NTSB called on the FAA to better monitor the effectiveness of flight instructors. The safety board indicated that the pilot involved in the crash had failed three initial flight tests in his attempts to obtain his private pilot certificate, instrument rating and commercial pilot certificate. Further investigation revealed the pilot was not alone in his failed attempts. According to NTSB, the pass rate for other students taught by the same flight instructor was 59 percent.

FAA data shows the average national pass rate for students of all flight instructors is 80 percent.

Among the suggestions to better monitor flight instructors, NTSB asked the FAA to develop a system to automatically alert its inspectors of flight instructors whose student pass rates fall below 80 percent.

The NTSB also recommended that until a system that generates an automatic notification of flight instructors’ pass rates is implemented, FAA inspectors should “review pass rates on an ongoing basis to identify any in need of closer monitoring.”

Hawaii aviation historian Peter Forman said the FAA should adopt the recommendations made by the NTSB.

“This particular recommendation dealt primarily with one issue, which is that they noticed that the pilot of the accident they’re investigating had been trained by an instructor who only had a 59% pass rate on his students,” Forman said. “We should realize there are problems with the quality of the flight instruction world out there right now. And that we should be looking at every way to make it better.” 

The FAA sent KHON 2 News a statement, it said, “The FAA is working closely with the NTSB to investigate the June 21, 2019 accident at Dillingham Airfield. The agency takes NTSB findings and recommendations very seriously.  The FAA is evaluating the NTSB’s recommendations from this investigation and will provide a preliminary response within 90 days.”

Forman said other factors also affect the quality of flight instruction in the state. He said retention of qualified flight instructors could be a challenge, as some accept higher pay positions as pilots. He said access to aviation facilities could also be an obstacle.

Forman said, “The airports in Hawaii, extremely high rent, which is driving a lot of businesses out of business, simply because it’s so expensive to have an aviation enterprise here in Hawaii compared to the mainland.” 

The complete four-page safety recommendation report is available at here.

The analysis, probable cause and additional findings associated with the Mokuleia accident are expected to be released when that investigation is completed.

More information, including links to the preliminary report and the accident docket, is available here.