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Student pilot says engine failure caused plane crash at Hilo airport

  • TIM WRIGHT / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER
    A small Cessna 172 plane crashed Tuesday afternoon at Hilo Airport, critically injuring two people.
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A 21-year-old student pilot who was flying a Cessna 172 aircraft shortly before it crashed Tuesday at Hilo Airport said Thursday the accident was caused by a sudden loss of engine power.

Michael Dowsett, a University of Hawaii-Hilo student and graduate of Les Jardin Academy on Oahu, shattered his left ankle, broke two leg bones and fractured a cheekbone in the 1:50 p.m. crash. 

Also injured were a pilot instructor and a female student, both of whom were transported from the scene to a hospital in critical condition. Officials have not released identification information. Dowsett was transported to Hilo Medical Center in serious condition.

Dowsett, who was recovering at the medical center on Thursday, said he was piloting the airplane when it took off from Hilo Airport Tuesday afternoon for what was intended to be his last training flight before for testing for a private pilot license.

In a telephone interview, Dowsett said he flew the single-engine, four-seat aircraft over Akaka Falls and then returned to the airport to practice landings and take-offs. He said the airplane was 50 feet to 100 feet above the ground when the engine lost power.

To avoid hitting houses, Dowsett said, he attempted to bank hard to get back to the airport. At some point, he said, the pilot instructor took over the controls.

The crash site on the airfield was near oil storage tanks, Keaukaha subdivision and Keaukaha Elementary School.

“It was just tragic. We did not have enough altitude or airspeed,” Dowsett said. 

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board personnel are investigating the crash.

According to the state Department of Transportation, the plane was executing “touch-and-go” maneuvers when it crashed at Hilo International Airport.

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