NTSB gets first look at salvaged Makani Kai airplane

NTSB gets first look at salvaged Makani Kai airplane
Images provided to Hawaii News Now
Images provided to Hawaii News Now

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The president of Sea Engineering, the company that recovered the Makani Kai airplane that crashed off Molokai, said the aircraft was in pieces on the ocean floor.

"The wings were separate. The fuselage was separate. The engine was separate from rolling on the rocks in the swell," Patrick Ross said.

The Cessna Grand Caravan sat aboard the salvage vessel Kahana at Pier 29 Thursday morning. Ross said sections of the plane were scattered across a 100-foot-long debris field. It took his crew about ten hours to float all the pieces to the surface.

Pilot Clyde Kawasaki said the plane's power failed suddenly, shortly after take off from Kalaupapa on Molokai last Wednesday. The hope is the engine holds the answer to what went wrong.

"It's actually in much better shape than I thought it would be. The propeller, I really anticipated that it would have fallen off. We're fortunate in the regard that many of the components are still attached," NTSB Air Safety Investigator Jim Struhsaker said.

"I'm really glad we have the engine because it's an important piece of the puzzle," Makani Kai owner Richard Schuman said.

He said the appearance of the salvaged aircraft is misleading. The plane was intact when it hit the ocean and sank.  But it was under water for nearly a week. Ross said Saturday's large northwest ocean swell took it apart.

"The damage was done by the ocean, not by the impact, not by the crash," he said.

"A layman person if he looked at that right now, if he didn't know it was an airplane, he wouldn't know it was an airplane. It doesn't resemble anything near an airplane," Schuman said.

The engine was cleared of saltwater and doused in a preservative. It will be sent to the manufacturer for the NTSB and others to analyze.

"We'll do our best to get a look inside but we will not disassemble it here," Struhsaker said.

Nine people were aboard the plane and made it out safely. State Health Director Loretta Fuddy died in the aftermath. Sea Engineering searched the ocean floor for personal effects but only found some tools and a tool belt.

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