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Sources identify 2 men killed in plane crash near Dillingham Airfield

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration has begun their investigation near Dillingham Airfield where two men died in a single-engine Cessna Ector 305A on Saturday.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration has begun their investigation near Dillingham Airfield where two men died in a single-engine Cessna Ector 305A on Saturday.

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration has begun their investigation near Dillingham Airfield where two men died in a single-engine Cessna Ector 305A on Saturday. The beleaguered airfield was the site where eleven people died in June 2019 in a sky diving plane accident. Pictured is a memorial along the airfield fence for those who died in the 2019 accident.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration has begun their investigation near Dillingham Airfield where two men died in a single-engine Cessna Ector 305A on Saturday. The beleaguered airfield was the site where eleven people died in June 2019 in a sky diving plane accident. Pictured is a memorial along the airfield fence for those who died in the 2019 accident.

Update 4 p.m.

Multiple sources have identified the pilots in Saturday morning’s deadly crash near Dillingham Airfield as Rick Rogers, a longtime Hawaiian Airlines employee, and 78-year-old Bill Enoka, who also had a lengthy aviation career.

Ann Botticelli, spokeswoman for Hawaiian Airlines, said Rogers, 70, began working with the company in 1987 as a pilot before retiring in 2010. Rogers then became a consultant archivist for the company.

“He had endless curiosity and an abundance of ideas about how to tell our company’s history. He curated our archives with care and loved to share what he knew,” Botticelli said in an email Saturday. “He was a passionate protector of history, an aviation enthusiast, an author, and a marine archaeologist. In short, he was a renaissance man and all of us were very lucky to have spent time with him.”

Rogers was “an excellent pilot,” said Juan Ariza, owner of AutoGyro Hawaii at Dillingham Airfield.

“He flew with many of my students and many other people that I worked with. He was an outstanding person,” Ariza said.

Ariza knew Rogers and said both were part of Hawaii’s close-knit aviation community.

Karen Oliveira-Spofford, who knew both aviators, left a bouquet of flowers near the crash site today.

Oliveira-Spofford said she knew Enoka, who was a dear friend of her late father and well-known aviator Mel Souza, from small kid times. She said both Enoka and Rogers also came to her assistance when she earned her private pilot’s license at about 20.

Oliveira-Spofford said Rogers taught her to do spins when she was a young pilot. She said Enoka once did a check ride for her when her Dad brought her to Kauai.

“The aviation community in Hawaii is very tight knit. I wanted to honor them on behalf of my Dad who really cared about them, especially Bill Enoka who was his dear friend,” Oliveira-Spofford said.

“Both of them were really good men. They were from a generation of real gentlemen and they were incredible pilots. It was really tragic to lose them,” she said. “They really were legendary, salt of the earth, and just the finest gentlemen that you could imagine.”

Previous Coverage

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and officials from the Federal Aviation Administration this morning were at the scene of a fatal airplane crash that killed two men Saturday near Dillingham Airfield.

NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said investigators will be looking into conditions ranging from “human, machine and environment, including weather, geology and other aspects.”

Weiss said the FAA is a party to the NTSB investigation.

“They will assist us in gathering facts, but we’ll do the analysis and finding of probable cause,” he said.

Weiss said NTSB generally takes about two weeks to issue a report with preliminary findings and could take up to a year or two to release its final report.

>> RELATED: 2 dead in Dillingham Airfield plane crash

Emergency Medical Services’ reported that one of the men killed was 78. Police said the other man was 70.

The single-engine Cessna Ector 305A crashed about 200 yards from the Dillingham Airfield, the site of a June skydiving crash that killed all 11 on board. The circa 1979 plane, which was owned by the Honolulu Soaring Club, crashed under unknown circumstances soon after taking off at about 9:15 a.m. and landed in tall grass.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said Saturday that the plane came to rest upside down.

The future of Dillingham Airfield, which was in doubt before the crash, remains uncertain.

The state Department of Transportation, which operates the airfield under a lease with the U.S. Army, last month informed the Army that it intends to cut the lease short and transfer the airfield back to Army control on July 1.

Several businesses that operate at the airfield, including skydiving and glider companies, fear that returning the airfield to Army Control would bring an end to commercial operations there.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz issued a statement Saturday calling for the closure of Dillingham Airfield. “It has become clear that Dillingham Airfield cannot continue to operate safely,” he said in a statement. “Our obligation is to keep people safe, and the only way to do that is to keep the airfield closed. I urge the FAA and HDOT to shut down the airfield until they can guarantee safety of operations at Dillingham.”

But Sen. Gil Riviere (D, Heeia-Laie-Waialua) on Saturday called Schatz’s statement on closing the airfield “irresponsible” and said the two pilots who died were “highly qualified aviators, devoted to the love of flight.”

DOT spokesman Tim Sakahara said today that Dillingham Airfield is still closed pending the investigation, but there haven’t been any discussions about changing the timetable for the state to exit its lease.

“This incident didn’t impact anything that the state is doing to transfer the lease back by June 30, 2020,” he said.

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