Hana plane crash still a mystery
No one can guess why the pilot flew inland or what went wrong
WAILUKU » The cause of a fatal airplane crash in Hana remains unknown, according to a preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Board investigator-in-charge Kristi Dunks said officials are still gathering information about the crash, and that a final report will probably be issued within six months.
The body of pilot Alan Gerow, 58, a businessman from Salt Lake City, was retrieved from the wreckage of a rented airplane that crashed Dec. 15 into the highlands near Hana.
Records obtained from the airplane rental business, Maui Aviators LLC, showed that Gerow had completed a company checkout in an airplane on Nov. 26, the board said.
The certified flight instructor who performed the checkout said Gerow was visiting the area and wanted to tour the island.
During the checkout flight, Gerow and the flight instructor flew toward the Hana Airport but did not land there.
"Various maneuvers were completed and a total of seven landings were logged at the Kahului Airport," the report said.
The NTSB said the length of the checkout flight was 1.3 hours, in addition to one hour of ground instruction.
The single-engine Cessna was full of fuel upon the pilot's departure from Kahului Airport at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 15, and was destined for Hana, the board said.
"He planned to return to Kahului later that afternoon," the report said.
A Maui helicopter pilot flying in the area discovered the smoke and wreckage in mountain terrain at the 2,400-foot level, about 3 1/2 miles southwest of Hana Airport, the board said.
"He searched for survivors and then notified his ground crew, which radioed for assistance to the local Fire Department helicopter," the report said.
According to the helicopter pilot, based on the accident site, it appeared that the airplane was flying west-southwest before the impact, the NTSB preliminary report said.
The helicopter pilot reported clear skies with little wind and no turbulence, the report said.
A couple of flight experts said that, based on what they know, the cause of the crash is "mystery."
Ralph Hiatt, director of the Pacific Aerospace Training Center at Honolulu Community College, said his guess is that Gerow was sightseeing.
Like most airplane rental corporations, Hiatt said, Maui Aviators had Gerow take off and land to demonstrate he was capable of flying the aircraft.
Hiatt said a pilot usually will radio his location if there's a problem, but there was no radio contact between Gerow and the Kahului tower at the time of the crash.
Phil Olsen, a flight instructor who lives on Oahu but has flown in the Hana region, said he didn't know why Gerow would have flown in the area of the crash, because there's not much to see.
"It's an odd place to be," Olsen said. "There's really little to be seen up there, and it's not a place you would go to cut across the island."