Pilots' errors blamed in crashes


POSTED: Friday, May 08, 2009

Pilot error caused a Cessna to crash June 17 into Mauna Loa on the Big Island, killing all three on board, the National Transportation Safety Board reported yesterday.

The NTSB also found that a pilot of a Beechcraft King Air twin-engine turboprop, killed Jan. 14, 2008, when the plane crashed seven miles from Lihue Airport, “;most likely descended into the ocean because he became spatially disoriented.”;

In the Big Island crash, the NTSB said, the Cessna 172 was on a 2 1/2-hour flight that took off from Kailua-Kona. The report said the flight plan called for the plane to stick to the shoreline about 2,000 feet above sea level.

But the pilot changed his route, and failed to switch from visual to instrument navigation when the weather turned cloudy. The report says clouds and mountainous terrain contributed to the accident.

Killed in the crash were pilot Katsuhiro Takahashi, 40, of Kailua-Kona and passengers Nobuhiro Suzuki, 53, and his wife, Masasako, 56, of Uruayasu, Japan.

In the Kauai cargo flight crash, the NTSB said in another report that the probable causes also included the pilot's loss of situational awareness. Darkness and simultaneous monitoring of cockpit instruments and another airplane were likely contributing factors.

The NTSB noted the pilot was flying alone at night, with no natural horizon and few external visual references during the visual approach to the airport. Also, the air traffic control tower was closed overnight.

The pilot, Paul Masahiko Akita, 38, of Wailupe, was never found. Akita worked for Alpine Aviation, also known as Alpine Air.

Because most of wreckage sank in the ocean and was not recovered, it is unknown whether the cockpit instruments were working, the report said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.