Tuesday, January 22, 2008

NTSB reports on Alpine Air crash in Hawaii

NTSB logoThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a preliminary report on the loss of a Beech 1900C and its pilot earlier this month in Hawaii. The aircraft is believed to have crashed into the Pacific Ocean near the island of Kauai. The body of the pilot has not been recovered. The aircraft (registration number N410UB) was operated by Alpine Aviation Inc., doing business as Alpine Air, as an on-demand cargo flight under 14 CFR Part 135 rules at the time of the accident.

According to the NTSB report, the aircraft departed Honolulu International Airport at 04:43 AM local time on January 14, 2008 carrying 4,200 pounds of mail en route to Lihue, on the island of Kauai. The report notes that "night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules flight plan had been filed." The aircraft was lost from radar over the ocean about 7 miles south of the Lihue, at 05:08 AM. It had been scheduled to arrive in Lihue at 05:15 AM.

Here is an excerpt from the NTSB report:
The Coast Guard indicated that debris from the airplane was initially identified floating on the ocean surface at 0848, approximately 11 miles south-southwest of the airport. The water depths in the search area were up to 800 fathoms (4,800 feet). Additional debris was identified and collected and then transported to the Coast Guard station at Lihue. The Coast Guard discontinued the search on the afternoon of January 15.

An Airport Duty Operations Controller was conducting an airport inspection while the accident airplane was approaching the airport. He recalled that he heard a pilot who identified himself as Alpine Air state that he was, "...landing 35 and 7 miles out." Airport personnel reported that the runway lights, medium intensity approach lighting system with runway alignment indicator lights (MALSR), and precision approach path indicator (PAPI) lights for runway 35, were recorded as functional at the time of the accident.

The following weather conditions were reported at Lihue Airport at 0453: wind from 030 at 23 knots with gusts to 27 knots, 10 miles visibility, cloud layers scattered at 4,100 feet and overcast at 5,500 feet, temperature 20 degrees Celsius, dew point 13 degrees Celsius, and the altimeter setting was 30.13 inches of Mercury. [NTSB ID: SEA08FA062]
The pilot, identified in news reports as Paul Akita of Honolulu, was making his first flight following a two day scheduled rest period, and had been scheduled to return to Honolulu later on the same day as the accident. The Honolulu Advertiser reported:
Akita was one of 10 pilots employed by Alpine Air in Hawai'i. He graduated from Everglades University with a bachelor's degree in aviation and joined Alpine Air in July 2004 after flying for Big Kahuna Aviation.
The NTSB expects to issue its final report on the accident within eight months to one year.