2 die in crash of ultralight


POSTED: Thursday, April 22, 2010

Captain Zodiac Rafting First Mate Kamalu Hawelu said she saw a light sport aircraft with two people get caught in an updraft at about 400 feet at Kealakekua Bay yesterday morning.

“;It went straight up and flipped over,”; she said. “;The wings on the ultralight snapped shut like a butterfly landing on a flower. ... They came crashing down.”;

Killed in the crash about a half-mile from shore were the 38-year-old pilot, Tedd Robert Hecklin, owner of Tedd's Flying Adventures of Kailua-Kona, and passenger Kathryn Grace Moran, 37, of Kailua-Kona.


Hawelu said she and Zodiac Capt. Mitchell Kaufman swam from the snorkel tour vessel to rescue the two, but both the man and woman had multiple injuries and attempts to resuscitate them were unsuccessful.

“;I just did what I did because I would want someone to do that to me if I was in trouble,”; she said.

Fire officials said the crash was reported at 9:36 a.m., about 20 minutes after the Airborne Outback XT-912 SST Tundra micro-light left the Kona Airport.

Big Island police and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the crash.

Witnesses on commercial boat tours in Kealakekua Bay said the aircraft was banking left when they heard a loud popping sound, observed the aircraft's wing fold up and then saw the plane fall into the ocean.

Hawelu said ultralight aircraft fly along the coastline often and the wind was light yesterday morning.

She said the aircraft apparently got caught in a sudden updraft on the northern portion of the bay where there is a wind tunnel effect off the pali at Kaawaloa.

“;They always fly in that zone. It was surprising that happened,”; she said.

Hecklin listed himself as a pilot instructor since 2009, who taught people how to fly lightweight shift control aircraft or powered hang gliders, according to his personal account on Facebook.

;[Preview]  Big Island plane crash

Two people died in the crash involving a micro-light aircraft. Officials say they left the Kona International Airport 20 minutes prior to the crash.


Watch ]





The aircraft was manufactured by Airborne Windsports PTY Ltd. as an Edge XT-912-L model in 2009, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

He was issued a temporary certificate for the aircraft on Dec. 28, but the certificate expired Jan. 27, the FAA said.

Three other air accidents have been reported to the FAA since Jan. 26, 2007, involving Airborne Windsports models, including one on Kauai on Aug. 1 that resulted in the flight instructor and student sustaining serious injuries.

The aircraft involved in the Kauai crash was registered to a private individual and operated by Birds of Paradise of Kapaa, Kauai, the FAA said.

The pilot was at the top of a broken cloud deck and was descending when he encountered severe updrafts and downdrafts, causing him to lose control of the aircraft, according to the FAA.

The flight instructor then deployed the parachute and the aircraft struck the side of a mountain, the FAA said.






        In addition to yesterday's crash, the Federal Aviation Administration said there have been three light-sport aircraft accidents involving the Airborne Windsports models since 2007:

» Jan. 26, 2007, Palm Harbor, Fla., the pilot was forced to make a correction to the aircraft on takeoff because a jet was landing nearby. The light sport aircraft incurred damage in a crash landing.


» June 15, 2009, Alamorgodo, N.M., upon landing on a runway, the pilot lost control of a model XT-912 aircraft, which was hit by two gusts of wind. The resulting crash caused substantial damage to the aircraft.


» Aug. 1, 2009, pilot and passenger were severely injured after the aircraft struck the side of a mountain on Kauai. The pilot lost control while descending with an XT-912-L and encountering updrafts and downdrafts.