HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Mokulele Airlines flight from Maui to Hawai'i Island was forced to turn around and glide back to the Kahului airport Wednesday morning after reported engine failure.
One of the passengers on-board, John Harding, says he's been flying with Mokulele Airlines along that same route about twice a month for the past four years -- and he could tell as soon as they were in the air that something was wrong.
"We took off and all is normal as usual but all of a sudden the engine started making a few noises and it just didn't sound right. The pilot looked back at us and said that we need to get back to the airport and make a landing and with that the engine cut off entirely, the propellers stopped moving -- and as you know Mokulele only has one propeller -- so with that we started a radical descent and he did a big sweeping turn and luckily we were close enough to the airport still that we were able to make the runway," described Harding.
Harding says emergency personnel were on the ground waiting for them when they landed, but fortunately, no one was hurt.
"We glided back to the airport safely thank God. We were literally gliding. If we'd been another 15 - 20 minutes into the flight and over the ocean we would've ditched into the ocean, there's no doubt about it," Harding said.
An FAA investigation is underway.
"A single-engine Cessna 208 operated by Mokulele Airlines returned to Kahului right after departure due to an engine problem. The captain declared an emergency and the aircraft landed without incident at 9:35 a.m.," said Ian Gregor, the Public Affairs Manager for the FAA Pacific Division.
Harding says he was re-booked on another flight three hours later and was a little apprehensive about getting on-board, but needed to get to his mother.
"This was quite a traumatic experience because if we would've been a little further away from the airport we wouldn't have made it back to the airport. The pilot himself said that and when we hit the ground the pilot and co-pilot shook each other's hands and congratulated each other on how remarkably safe a landing they made, because they were visibly shaken about the incident too. I know mechanical failure happens, but when you drop out of the sky like that and nobody knows about it it's kind of alarming," described Harding, who says he's not sure he'll fly with Mokulele again after "cheating death" but commended his pilots for their professionalism.
Mokulele Airlines' General Manager Darryl Grace confirms there was a precautionary landing at the Kahului Airport Thursday.
"The pilots followed their procedures and landed the aircraft without any incident," Grace said.