Former pilot of company involved in skydiving crash scrutinizes FAA’s lack of oversight

Updated: Jul. 10, 2019 at 8:01 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A pilot who once flew for the skydive company involved in the Mokuleia tragedy believes last month’s deadly crash will ultimately come down to a mechanical issue and the pilot not having enough training to handle the emergency.

"I think ultimately what's going to come out is going to be a combination of factors of some type of mechanical issue, which basically means engine failure or partial engine failure, and pilot error," said Anthony Skinner.

Skinner has been a pilot for nearly four decades and worked for Oahu Parachute Center for about a year in 2017.

He also knew the pilot, Jerome Renck, who had only recently moved here from France to pursue an aviation career.

Skinner suspects Renck wasn’t adequately trained on the Beechcraft King twin-engine airplane.

"The training is usually done in a small, light, twin-engine aircraft and each engine delivers maybe 125 to 150 horsepower each. The King Air on the other hand, each engine is rated over 550 horsepower,” Skinner said. “That's a lot of power if you're running on one engine, one side of your aircraft, that engine is pulling that hard, can you understand the dynamics? It's going to swing that wing around really hard if you're not prepared for it."

On Tuesday, the owner of Oahu Parachute Center declined an interview with Hawaii News Now saying his lawyer advised him not to speak to the media.

A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board also released on Tuesday does not mention the cause of the crash on June 21st at Dillingham Airfield.

But it cites an employee at Oahu Parachute Center who said the aircraft was between 150 and 200 feet high on takeoff when it flipped and crashed nose down.

That witness also told investigators the plane's engine sounded normal before takeoff.

Federal investigators said two people jumped on the plane just before takeoff. All eleven on board were killed in the fiery crash.

Skinner believes higher levels of training are needed in the industry.

"With skydive operations, they hire guys will fairly low hours. It's a good starter. They start somewhere. You got your commercial, you got your single-engine rating, now you can start building time in skydive operations,” he said.

Skinner also agrees with NTSB investigators who publicly criticized the FAA for failing to adopt tougher oversight of skydiving operations.

“Maybe in the future, maybe in skydive operations where they use multi-engine aircrafts, maybe they will demand higher levels of training,” said Skinner.

A final NTSB report is usually released 18 to 24 months after the incident.

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