Sunday, July 28, 2002

NTSB eyes pilot fatigue
in Molokai plane crash

Human error is a factor in
the crash that killed 6 passengers

Star-Bulletin staff

The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that an airplane crash that killed six people on Molokai in 2000 was due to pilot and co-pilot errors, possibly because of fatigue.

According to the agency's final report on the accident, the Sabreliner 265-65 "collided with mountainous terrain after the flight crew terminated the instrument approach and proceeded visually at night."

Investigation revealed that the pilot and co-pilot made a number of mistakes in preparing to land on Molokai en route from Maui at 8:44 p.m. May 10, 2000, resulting in the plane crashing into a mountain slope about five miles southwest of the Molokai Airport.

Killed in the crash were: pilot Bill Marr, 63; co-pilot Jason Miller, 28; Macy Price Sr., 69; his son Macy Price Jr., 38; Laurel Marr, 63, the pilot's wife; and Delilah Deterding, 20.

Price Sr. of Golden, Colo., owned the Sabreliner 265-65 jet and traveled frequently with his son Macy Jr. He owned ranches in Argentina and on Molokai. Other passengers were from Iowa, Kansas and Argentina.

Original NTSB investigations estimated that if the private jet had been 100 feet higher, it would not have slammed into the mountain.

The final NTSB report said the pilots chose the wrong frequency to turn on lighting of the airstrip, then concluded that the airport was obscured by clouds despite weather information to the contrary. They also apparently didn't realize how close to the ground they were flying, descending below appropriate altitudes during their approach to the airport.

The NTSB report said that pilots approaching a runway over a dark featureless terrain may experience an illusion that the airplane is at a higher altitude that it actually is. In response to this illusion, sometimes referred to as the black hole phenomenon, a pilot may fly a lower-than-normal approach running the risk of a crash.

Although the flight crew's performance was consistent with fatigue-related impairment, based on available information, the Safety Board staff was unable to determine to what extent their flight decisions were attributable to fatigue and decreased alertness.

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