Witness describes final moments of skydive plane in NTSB preliminary report

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Witnesses recall Mokuleia plane crash

HONOLULU (KHON2) – A witness told The National Transportation and Safety Board the engines of a skydive plane sounded normal as it took off on a fatal flight. This is according to an NTSB preliminary investigation released today. The NTSB has been investigating the crash that killed 11 people when the plane went down shortly after takeoff at Dillingham Airfield on June 21. A final report from the NTSB could take many more months or years.

The full NTSB preliminary report states the following:

“On June 21, 2019, at 1822 Hawaii-Aleutian standard time, a Beech 65-A90, N256TA, collided with terrain after takeoff from Dillingham Airfield (HDH), Mokuleia, Hawaii. The commercial pilot and ten passengers sustained fatal injuries, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was owned by N80896 LLC, and was being operated by Oahu Parachute Center (OPC) under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a local sky-diving flight.

Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. According to the owner of OPC, the accident flight was the fourth of five parachute jump flights scheduled for that day.

Two flights took place between 0900 and 0930 and the third departed about 1730 on the first of what OPC called, “sunset” flights. The occupants on the accident flight included the pilot, three tandem parachute instructors, and their three customers, and two camera operators; two solo jumpers decided to join the accident flight at the last minute.

The passengers were loaded onto the airplane while it was on the taxiway next to the OPC facility on the southeast side of the airport. A parachute instructor at OPC observed the boarding process and watched as the airplane taxied west to the departure end of runway 8.

He could hear the engines during the initial ground roll and stated that the sound was normal, consistent with the engines operating at high power.

When the airplane came into his view as it headed toward him, it was at an altitude of between 150 and 200 ft above ground level and appeared to be turning. He could see its belly, with the top of the cabin facing the ocean to the north. The airplane then struck the ground in a nose-down attitude, and a fireball erupted.

The final second of the accident sequence was captured in the top left frame of a surveillance video camera located at the southeast corner of the airport.

A preliminary review of the video data revealed that just before impact the airplane was in an inverted 45° nose-down attitude. Runway 8/26 at Dillingham Airfield is a 9,007-ft-long by 75-ft-wide asphalt runway, with displaced thresholds of 1,993 ft and 1,995 ft, respectively.

A parachute landing area was located beyond the departure end of runway 8, and the standard takeoff procedure required a left turn over the adjacent beach to avoid that landing zone.

The displaced threshold areas had been designated for sailplane and towplane use, with powered aircraft advised to maintain close base leg turns to assure separation.

The airplane came to rest inverted on a heading of about 011° magnetic, 500 ft north of the runway centerline, and 5,550 ft beyond the runway 8 numbers, where the takeoff roll began.

The debris field was confined to a 75-ft-wide area just inside the airport perimeter fence. The cabin, tail section, and inboard wings were largely consumed by fire, and both wings outboard of the engine nacelle sustained leading edge crush damage and thermal exposure.

Both engines came to rest in the center of the debris field, and fragments of the vertical and both horizontal stabilizers were located within the surrounding area.”


Editor’s Note: DOT provided these documents on July 10, after KHON2’s stories aired July 8 and 9.

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