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NTSB: Skydiving Plane That Crashed Wasn't 'Airworthy'

Aircraft was damaged before pilot pushed it on takeoff, leading to 11 deaths
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 13, 2021 2:27 PM CDT

(Newser) – A pilot's aggressive takeoff led to an aerodynamic stall, causing the 2019 crash of a skydiving plane in Hawaii that killed all 11 people on board, government safety investigators have determined. The National Transportation Safety Board said the stall caused a loss of control at an altitude that was too low for the pilot to recover, the AP reports. The crash in Mokuleia was one of the most deadly in US civil aviation in recent memory. The board also found that the Beech King Air 65-A-90 had gone into a stall and spin in 2016 while in California, twisting the left wing. The wing wasn't repaired, leaving the plane in an "unairworthy condition." An aerodynamic stall happens when a plane loses lift under its wings due to a high angle of the nose and air speed that's too low; per the NTSB, the damage reduced the margin for an aerodynamic stall.

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The NTSB said Tuesday that while the Federal Aviation Administration inspected the Oahu Parachute Center's planes, the inspections failed to identify the damaged left wing. During an NTSB hearing last month, senior accident investigator David Lawrence said the FAA doesn't give tour operators and skydiving flights any more oversight than owners of other private planes, even though they carry paying passengers. Typically, he said, the FAA just conducts periodic airport checks of the planes and the pilot’s license. Findings from the Hawaii crash included that the FAA's oversight and monitoring of such operations "do not ensure that the operators are properly maintaining their aircraft and safely conducting their operations," Lawrence said. NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said passengers on tour planes expect and deserve a safe ride. "When they’re parachuting they are accepting a risk associated with jumping out of the airplane," he said, "but they are not expecting the airplane to crash due to poor maintenance."

(Read more plane crash stories.)

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