A Partenavia twin-engine aircraft is shown here.
Flight company might have lacked permit
The plane was carrying a pilot and four Japanese nationals when it went down on Molokai
WAILUKU » A Hawaii business whose plane crashed Sunday on Molokai is being investigated for allegedly not having air taxi certification.
The twin-engine Partenavia P68 Observer, operated by the Tora Flight Adventure Club, was carrying a pilot and four Japanese nationals. It had taken off from a private airstrip in West Molokai when it banked to the right and crashed about three miles southeast of the old Sheraton hotel at the Kaluakoi resort.
Two of the passengers, one listed in critical condition and another in serious condition yesterday, were taken to Molokai General Hospital in Kaunakakai, then later to the Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus said the Tora flight club did not have a Part 135 certification to run an air taxi service.
"The overall crash, as well as this particular issue, is being investigated," he said.
Some residents said the company brings in tourist groups daily.
Edie Anderson, who has lived in Kaluakoi for 19 years, said she expressed her worries about the air traffic over residences to FAA officials about three years ago.
But Anderson said an FAA official at the time told her the operation was legal.
The owner of the airplane is listed as the Honolulu-based John Hutton Corp. on 14 Lagoon Drive, the same address as Tora Flight Adventure and the same company named as the landowner of 60.5 acres of West Molokai land including the private airstrip.
Much of the Papohaku and Kaluakoi area is dry pastureland, with most properties about five acres or larger, and occupied by scores of retirees.
The airstrip is about a half-mile from the ocean below the hillside town of Maunaloa.
According to Maui County online property tax information, there are no records showing commercial buildings or a residence, although residents have said there are structures on the property, including a house and a swimming pool.
The land, classified as agricultural, is valued at $472,200, and the net taxable land value is $1,500, with the tax payment for 2005 amounting to $60, the county said.
Police and fire officials said the aircraft was severely damaged in the accident, with a crushed fuselage.
"Just by looking at the plane, it was hard to believe the people survived," fire Capt. Travis Tancayo said.
Anderson said airplane pilot John Weiser, who had taken off shortly before the other airplane left the private airfield, told her the night sky was clear and beautiful.
Police Sgt. T.C. Meyer Sr. said a man called from the private airstrip at Kaluakoi at about 8:30 p.m. Sunday and reported a plane crashed with five passengers aboard.
All passengers were out of the aircraft and in need of medical attention, Meyer said.
Meyer said the victims were stabilized and transported to waiting medics for assessment and treatment before being brought to Molokai General Hospital and later to Queen's.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigator has been assigned to investigate the cause of the crash, according to the FAA.
Fergus said the FAA was conducting a separate probe about the air taxi certification and would provide the information to the NTSB.
Tora Flight Adventures declined comment.