The FAA is investigating an incident at the Kahului airport on Maui in which a Hawaiian Airlines plane and a Makani Kai single-engine Cessna aircraft nearly crossed paths while taking off.
In an email sent to Hawaii News Now on Thursday, an FAA spokesperson said the Makani Kai Cessna took off without clearance on a runway that intersects at one end with another runway being used to facilitate a Hawaiian Airlines jet.
Makani Kai officials say there were two pilots on board the aircraft and both of them believed they had clearance to take off.
Hawaiian Air passenger Mike Moyers, who is a former commercial airlines pilot, saw the Cessna outside the window heading towards them and knew something was wrong.
"Just as I saw it, coming right at us from the left side of the airplane, the pilot made a hard right turn to keep from running into it. It was less than 100 yards away, maybe 25-50 yards," said Moyers.
With the planes taking off at the same time, the agency says, the pilot of Hawaiian's Boeing 717 had to turn away from the smaller plane.
"A controller in the Maui tower spotted the conflict and instructed the Cessna pilot to turn left to avoid the Hawaiian Airlines jet," said the statement. "The controller then alerted the Hawaiian Airlines pilot about the Cessna, and saw that the jet was already turning to the right, away from the smaller plane."
The FAA says it is still investigating the incident.