NTSB Investigates Fatal Hawaii King Air Skydiving Crash

 - June 24, 2019, 10:11 AM
NTSB investigator-in-charge Eliott Simpson briefs board member Jennifer Homendy at the scene of a June 21 Hawaii skydiving crash. (Photo: NTSB)

NTSB investigators have arrived at the scene of a fatal June 21 crash of a Beechcraft King Air A90 in Mokuleia, Hawaii. The 11 persons onboard, including several employees of operator Oahu Parachute Center, perished when the aircraft hit terrain immediately after takeoff from Dillingham Airfield (PHDH) at approximately 6:30 p.m. local time.

"This is the deadliest accident involving a civil airplane in the U.S. since 2011," NTSB member Jennifer Homendy told reporters Sunday.

The twin-turboprop jump plane was reportedly operating a sunset skydiving flight. Homendy said the aircraft banked left following takeoff from Runway 8, “and then came to rest inverted” north of the runway near an airport perimeter fence and caught fire. Weather conditions at the time were “clear, with a light wind,” she added, and local officials noted a debris field of approximately 2,500 square feet.

The 52-year-old King Air, N256TA, was also involved in an incident three years ago during another skydiving flight near Byron, California. During that flight, it suffered overstress failure of the starboard horizontal stabilizer and elevator as the pilot attempted recovery after accidentally stalling the aircraft and rolling into a left spin.

According to the NTSB’s probable cause report on the July 2016 event, the aircraft stalled and spun twice more before the pilot was able to regain control and return for a safe landing. The stabilizer and elevator were later found “a few miles south of the airport.” The Safety Board faulted the pilot for the inadvertent stall/spin entries and improper recovery technique and also noted an aft-of-limit CG condition as a contributing factor.

Homendy said yesterday the subsequent repairs to the King Air will be closely examined in this investigation. She also called attention to a 2008 investigative report on skydiving operations in which the NTSB identified several safety concerns, including inadequate aircraft maintenance and inspection, pilot performance deficiencies, and lack of industry oversight. "We have no idea whether any of those issues are factors in this accident, but it's something we'll keep in mind as we'll be evaluating and analyzing the facts of this investigation,” she added.