Removal of plane wreckage to begin
HILO » A private helicopter company will remove the Cessna 172M tour plane from its crash site on the east side of Mauna Loa this morning starting at 6, the National Transportation Safety Board announced.
The Island Hoppers plane crashed June 17 while on an around-the-island flight that originated in Kailua-Kona. The pilot and two passengers were killed.
The plane was found Sunday in dense forest at the 5,200-foot elevation of Mauna Loa, several miles inland from Punaluu Bay.
Because of the density of the forest, with trees reaching as high as 40 feet, the helicopter company has hired three off-duty Hawaii County Fire Department employees who will be lowered into the forest on ropes to prepare the plane for transport, NTSB spokeswoman Bridget Serchak said.
Fire Department pilot David Okita said previously that the plane is in at least two pieces, including a detached wing. The recovery crew will have to determine whether the body of the plane retained enough structural strength to be moved in one piece or several, he said.
The pieces would normally be taken to a flatbed truck for transport to a final destination, Okita said. Serchak said the pieces will be taken to the Civil Air Patrol hangar in Hilo.
The work has to be carried out early in the morning before clouds build up and impair visibility, Serchak said.
"If this work cannot be carried out by 9 a.m., they will continue this effort Friday morning during the same time period," she said.
NTSB investigator Jim Struhsaker is currently working on a preliminary report that is expected to be posted on the NTSB Web site next week, Serchak said. Struhsaker will also schedule a media briefing at a time still to be determined, she said.