Owner says plane had spotless safety record prior to Mapunapuna crash


A day after a single-engine plane crashed in a canal under Moanalua Freeway, we’re hearing from the plane’s owner.

The aircraft went down Friday afternoon under the bridge that runs over Moanalua Stream and burst into flames.

Three men in their 20s survived, thanks to Good Samaritans who rushed to their aid. They were hospitalized in serious condition and were still recovering in the hospital as of Saturday evening.

The wreckage has since been taken to a tow yard in Kapolei, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be heading the investigation into what happened.

The owner of the Piper PA-28 issued a statement commending the pilot for steering the plane to minimize tragedy.

In a statement, the plane’s owner, Jahn Mueller, owner of Aircraft Maintenance and Flight School Hawaii, said:

“My heart goes out to the pilot and passengers and their families. We commend the pilot for steering the plane to minimize tragedy. We thank the bystanders who helped assist the victims. The plane has a spotless safety record and a new engine, and had been flown just one hour before that particular flight.”

Mueller says he rented the plane to one person, who had two passengers.

Jennifer Pfister, chief flight instructor at Aircraft Maintenance and Flight School Hawaii, says she’s worked closely with Mueller for the last five years.

She says she’d been flying the Piper Cherokee plane for about a year before the crash.

We’re told it was used often by the flight school for instructional training, and was regularly maintained.

“We don’t believe it was a mechanical issue,” Pfister said. “We’re waiting for the NTSB report and we’re just glad everybody is okay. We do have a second airplane. We’re just going to use that for our flight instruction now.”

George Hanzawa owns George’s Aviation Services, which was not involved in this incident, says the pilot did the best he could.

“(The area) is all warehouses and businesses. They needed some room to land and they didn’t have much choice,” Hanzawa said. “The choice that they did make was the correct one, because nobody got hurt on the ground. No property was damaged.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says the NTSB would be taking the lead on this investigation. A NTSB spokesperson said the FAA was on scene to gather information, and it’s not yet clear if it will send its own investigator.

Officials will find out what happened, why it happened, and make recommendations so an incident like this doesn’t happen again. A preliminary report should be out within seven to 10 business days.

“At some point, you are kind of at the mercy of the airplane itself, and nature and the law of physics and gravity,” Hanzawa said. “The plane is going to come down. The pilot ultimately will take the aircraft to that level of control, because if it goes beyond that, it is uncontrollable.”

The state Department of Transportation confirms the crash did not cause any structural damage to the bridge or freeway.

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