NTSB Report: Loss of Engine Power Likely Caused Molokaʻi Plane Crash

August 13, 2015, 4:57 PM HST · Updated August 13, 4:59 PM

Molokaʻi Plane Crash: NTSB Report. Maui Now graphic.

Molokaʻi Plane Crash: NTSB Report. Maui Now graphic.

By Wendy Osher

The National Transportation Safety Board released a report this week saying the probable cause of a Cessna plane crash on Molokaʻi in January was partial loss of engine power.

The plane crash was reported at around 2 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 16, 2015 in the Ualapue area of East Molokaʻi.

According to accident reports, the certified flight instructor, student pilot undergoing instruction, and one passenger sustained minor injuries.  A second passenger sustained serious injuries, and the airplane was unrecoverable due to the inaccessibility and remote terrain where the crash occurred. 


A certified flight instructor report indicates that the flight was an introductory lesson for the student, who was a Japanese citizen.  According to the NTSB report, the flight instructor was performing an introductory flight lesson for a student, with her parents on board as passengers.

The CFI document reportedly states that they planned to fly for 2 hours, and prior to departure, decided to fly from Oʻahu, east towards Molokaʻi due to unfavorable weather conditions around the Island of Oʻahu.  According to the report, the plane made the 26-mile crossing over the Kaiwi Channel where it performed a series of turning maneuvers.

The report indicates that the student flew the majority of the flight, and that the flight instructor took the controls after they had reached a waterfall along the east shore.  The pilot reportedly turned the airplane inland to return to the airport and “initiated a circling climb inland over the mountainous terrain.”

During the climb, the NTSB report indicates that the pilot noticed that the engine was not producing full power, “even though the throttle control was fully forward.”

According to the NTSB report, the flight progressed over the mountains at an altitude of about 500 to 1,000 feet above ground level, but  began to descend at 400 feet per minute after passing over a ridge.

“The pilot turned off carburetor heat and began performing tight turns and chandelle maneuvers in an effort to clear terrain while now flying at best angle of climb airspeed,” the report states.  “As they approached the valley floor,” the pilot reportedly told the passengers to “brace for impact,” according to the NTSB report.

The NTSB reports that the flight instructor performed a forced landing into densely forested terrain, and the plane could not be examined on site due to the inaccessibility and remote terrain.

The airplane was registered to Hawaiian Night Lights LLC.  Authorities say an annual inspection on the plane was conducted on Aug. 1, 2014, and there was not insured.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the accident was, “a partial loss of engine power during cruise flight for reasons that could not be determined because the airplane was not recovered.”

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