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Friday’s skydiving crash among worst aviation disasters in Hawaii history

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Video by Dennis Oda and Bruce Asato / doda@staradvertiser.com and boda@staradvertiser.com
A memorial sprung up at Dillingham Airfield in Mokuleia for victims of Friday's skydiving plane crash. The death toll was one of the worst aviation disasters in Hawaii history.
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The crash site of the Piper Navajo Chieftain twin-engine plane. A Big Island Air sightseeing flight out of Keahole crashed on Mauna Loa, killing all 10 aboard.

Friday’s crash of a skydiving plane at Dillingham Airfield in Mokuleia that killed 11 passengers and crew was one of the worst civilian aviation disasters in recent Hawaii history. The death toll was the highest from a civilian air crash in 20 years, since the 1989 crash of a commuter flight on Molokai that killed 20.

Here’s a list of major air crashes and incidents, in descending chronological order, based on National Transportation Safety Board reports:

>> Sept. 25, 1999: A Big Island Air sightseeing flight out of Keahole crashed on Mauna Loa, killing all 10 aboard. The NTSB cited as the probable cause the pilot’s decision to fly the Piper Chieftain under visual flight rules in an area of cloud-covered mountainous terrain.

>> April 22, 1992: Nine people were killed when a Scenic Air Tours’ Beech E-18S from Hilo crashed in bad weather in Haleakala National Park on Maui. The NTSB determined the probable cause as pilot error and noted the pilot falsified his qualifications and the tour company failed to run a thorough background check before hiring him.

>> Oct. 28, 1989: Twenty people, including eight members of Molokai High School volleyball teams, perished when an Aloha IslandAir twin-engine De Havilland commuter plane slammed into hilly terrain near Halawa Bay during a night flight from Kahului, Maui.

The NTSB said there was the evidence the pilot made a navigational error and mistakenly believed he was flying around the northern end of Molokai. The probable cause of the tragedy was the pilot’s decision to continue using visual flight rules in bad weather that obscured the mountainous terrain, the NTSB report said. Contributing causes included insufficient pilot training and operational oversight by the airline.

>> June 11, 1989: A Scenic Air Tours flight from Hilo to Kahului crashed near a waterfall in Waipio Valley, killing all 11 aboard. The NTSB cited the probable cause as the pilot’s decision to maneuver the Beech H18 over a canyon area with insufficient altitude.

>> Feb. 24, 1989: An improperly latched cargo door on a United Airlines Boeing 747 flight from Honolulu to Auckland, New Zealand, caused an explosive decompression. Nine passengers were ejected from the plane and lost at sea, and 38 others were injured. The NTSB noted a design deficiency in the cargo door locking mechanism that made the latch susceptible to damage and show that it was properly locked even though it wasn’t.

>> Dec. 5, 1981: Eleven members of a 12-member skydiving team, including the pilot, died when their twin-engine Beechcraft Delta 18 crashed. The team was supposed to parachute into Aloha Stadium before a University of Hawaii football game but the jump was canceled due to poor conditions. As the plane maneuvered away from the stadium, it went into a dive and hit the reef off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor.

An NTSB report cited the 20-year-old pilot’s failure to maintain airspeed. The report also noted the pilot was unqualified to operate the plane and did not conduct appropriate pre-flight planning, and that the Beechcraft was not properly loaded.

>> April 11, 1974: Eleven people died when a Panorama Air Tour sightseeing tour Beech H18s crashed on the slopes of Mauna Loa on a flight from Keahole to Kahului. The NTSB said the pilot was flying with visual flight rules in adverse weather and low visibility.

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