Bc Ferry Pilot Survives Maui Crash


Mar 10, 2003
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Thursday, February 19, 2004 — Time: 5:51:37 PM EST

Pilot survives small plane crash

By MELISSA TANJI, Staff Writer

KAHULUI - The pilot of a twin-engine plane crashed short of the Kahului Airport runway Wednesday afternoon as he was trying to make an emergency landing after reporting engine trouble on a flight to the Mainland.

The 42-year-old pilot was taken to Maui Memorial Medical Center in stable condition after being extricated from the downed aircraft, said Maui Fire Department acting Assistant Chief Jeff Shaffer.

The pilot has been identified as Alan Walls of British Columbia, Canada, who reportedly suffered only minor injuries. No other details on him or his condition were available Wednesday night.

Jogger Michael Mathews, who was running near the airport, said he saw the small plane flying low - no more than 30 to 40 feet overhead, "right over my head" - on approach to the airport.

"I thought it was a little low," Mathews said. "I saw the right wing dip. . . . The left wing went up."

Then he heard what sounded like a car crash, followed by a plume of dust rising from the airport.

Shaffer said the pilot told him he was able to "stabilize the situation" after initial problems with a fuel pump and he decided to return to Hawaii. But the pilot said when he was within a few hundred feet of the Kahului runway, he lost power in his right engine - causing the wing to dip and strike the ground, then causing the aircraft to cartwheel before it crashed.

The Piper Navajo spun 180 degrees when it landed short of the runway at 1:52 p.m., said Scott Ishikawa, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

"Fortunately a fire did not start aboard the plane, because it had a full tank of gas," Ishikawa said. He said the aircraft was carrying 2,300 pounds of fuel.

Shaffer said the eight-seater craft had had the seats removed to make room in the cabin for two large fuel tanks for the long flight.

Walls reportedly took off from Honolulu and was headed to Oakland, Calif, when he experienced engine trouble about 440 miles northeast of Maui. The pilot, the lone person onboard, initially informed the Federal Aviation Administration at 11:27 a.m. that one of his engines had failed, according to the Coast Guard.

At 12:45 p.m., Coast Guard personnel in a C-130 Hercules airplane and an HH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Barbers Point responded to assist the plane, locating it at 1:18 p.m. as it approached Maui. They following the small plane as it attempted an emergency landing.

Although the plane landed on its belly with little visible damage to the top of the fuselage, Walls was trapped in the cockpit and had to be extricated by rescue crews. Both Airport Crash Rescue and Maui County Rescue 10 crews worked to free the pilot from the plane's cockpit. They used a "roll-back" procedure where the plane's roof was cut open and rolled back for the victim to be lifted out, Shaffer said.

The plane landed on a grassy area at the north end of the main runway.

While rescue crews worked to free the trapped pilot before they could move the wreckage of the plane, FAA and airports officials shut down the main runway for about two hours. Although aircraft still could land at the airport's shorter runway, commonly used for commuter flights, large jetliners including Mainland aircraft were diverted to Honolulu.

Ishikawa said the main runway was closed from 1:52 to 4:05 p.m. Although interisland flights could still use the shorter runway, interisland flights to Maui also were delayed.

Federal Aviation Administration specialists were expected to arrive in Kahului today to begin an investigation of the crash.