Pilot Explains West Molokai Accident
For John Weiser, the pilot whose plane crashed on his west Molokai airstrip on Feb. 27, it was a 1 in 10,000 accident.
“I must have landed on this airstrip more than 10,000 times in the last 30 years with no trouble,” he said, adding that he has more than 20,000 pilot hours logged. “When I came in to land that day, I was off-center. I should have turned around and come back, but instead, I did the turn and when I rolled out, I was in the trees.”
Weiser said his private grass airstrip on his Papohaku property has runway lights, and though some are out, he still lands at night, as he did on Feb. 27. He said it was dark when he landed, so he couldn’t tell the damage to his twin-engine Partenavia aircraft. He was uninjured and no passengers were on board.
“I just jumped out of the plane and fed my cats,” he said.
Federal regulations require an aircraft operator to immediately report an accident to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB.) Thursday, Feb. 27 was the same night an aircraft crashed on Lanai causing five fatalities, and Weiser said he thought investigators would “have their hands full” with that tragedy. So he said he decided to wait to report what he considered to be a minor incident.
Neighbors reported noticing the aircraft in the trees and notified authorities the following Monday, March 3. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigators traveled to the site the following day, examined and photographed the aircraft, reviewed its maintenance records, and spoke with Weiser, according to FAA spokesperson Ian Gregor.
NTSB investigator Van McKenny said he is currently reviewing the information and will release a preliminary report within a month.
McKenny said because the aircraft has structural damage, the event is classified as an accident, rather than an incident.
He added that though the four-day delay in reporting the accident doesn’t comply with federal requirements, he’s “never seen action taken” against those who do not follow the regulation.
Weiser said he has never had a serious aircraft accident.
“[I’ve had] mechanical problems in the past that have required emergency landing procedures, but never crashes, never severe damage, and never a single injury to the pilot or passengers,” he said.
Online FAA records indicate that Weiser holds only a private pilot’s license for single engine aircraft, but Gregor confirmed that Weiser in fact holds a commercial pilot’s certificate with multi-engine and instrument ratings. Gregor said those ratings are considered temporary because Weiser passed the tests fairly recently and the FAA is still processing the applications.
In December, 2009, the FAA revoked Weiser’s pilot’s license following several violations, and since then, Weiser said he has worked hard to retake the tests and earn his ratings back.
Weiser said until he can repair his damaged aircraft or replace it, his tour company, Pandair, is not currently operating. In addition to running air tours, he said he also helps out those in need of flights or emergency transportation.
“I shall continue helping those who need free flights in and out of Kalaupapa as well as any others with urgent medical problems needing attention,” he said. “I’ve always tried to be a good neighbor.”