LIHU’E ” A Hawaiian Airlines jet that federal investigators say “sustained
substantial damage” during a landing at Lihu’e Airport earlier this summer
continued to fly passengers across the state for several more hours before
airline officials discovered the damage.
“I can tell you factually that it
was broken,” said Wayne Pollack, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
investigator in charge. “The aircraft was substantially broken. It sustained
substantial damage during the landing event.
“The integrity of the aircraft
was compromised. The aircraft was structurally damaged, so at that point did
not meet its type certificate.”
Pollack added that airworthiness of the
plane after the hard landing is an issue the NTSB is investigating.
or not the hard landing made the McDonnell Douglas DC-9-51 unfit to continue
flying passengers, Pollack said, is a matter for the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) to determine.
Hawaiian Airlines spokesman Keoni Wagner
said the plane was out of service for the better part of two months while
repairs were made.
There is evidence that the tail section of the plane
scraped the runway upon landing, Pollack said. The NTSB investigation is
focusing on, among other things, the cockpit crew’s training, experience and
competency, he continued.
Pollack said special requirements must be met in
order for pilots to land at Lihu’e Airport, and part of the NTSB investigation
is looking into whether or not the Hawaiian Airlines pilots met those
According to FAA specifications, Lihu’e Airport is considered a
special airport with special qualifications required for pilots to land there,
because of the height of the nearby Hule’ia Mountains (Hoary Head Ridge)
That height could make instrument (non-visual) landing dangerous for
pilots not experienced at the airport. Since the Hawaiian Airlines pilots fly
regularly in and out of Lihu’e, the special requirements aren’t expected to be
an issue with the federal investigators.
A final report on the incident is
several months away, said Pollack, who was surprised to hear from The Garden
Island that some Kaua’i residents called the newspaper to say they suffered
injuries during the hard landing.
“If they are injured, they should call
me,” so that the NTSB can add that information to its investigation, said
Separate investigations continue by the NTSB and FAA into the
cause of the hard landing, which both agencies say caused no injuries.
after reporting in an article that there were no injuries in the incident, the
newspaper received several telephone calls and e-mails from people who were on
the flight, including at least two who said they were injured during the
One passenger, Vicky Stofleth, 38, a mother of five from Kapa’a
who had been commuting to the University of Hawai’i at Manoa to get a degree
that she hoped would lead to a good-paying job, was in tears when she
telephoned a reporter after the first story ran.
She said she was
devastated by the event and had to stop commuting because of injuries suffered
during the landing.
She suffered a sacroiliac separation, where the
triangular bone at the base of the back separated from the pelvis. Hawaiian
Airlines, she said, offered to pay only for her physical therapy, which
continues three times a week some three months after the accident.
wanted Hawaiian to pay for her medical expenses and for the year of college
that she had to forfeit because she was unable to travel to the university, but
the airline refused, she said.
Another passenger on the plane, a North
Shore resident who didn’t wish to be identified as she still flies on Hawaiian
on business several times a month, said the landing injured her, as well,
requiring her to undergo physical therapy.
When traveling inter-island on
business, she avoids flight 193, which leaves Honolulu around 4:15 p.m. for
arrival at Lihu’e at about 4:50 p.m. That was the full flight (five crew, 134
passengers) that experienced the hard landing in mid-June.
“The issue that
I am worried about is that it says there’s no injuries,” she said of the NTSB
preliminary report. “That really bugs me.”
When she went to the hospital
after the incident, Wilcox Memorial Hospital emergency room personnel told her
four or five other people had come in with various injuries associated with the
same landing, she said.
She said a Hawaiian Airlines contact person told
her husband that the tail section of the plane hit the runway at about the same
time the landing gear did.
The incident left her shaken.
“I don’t even
like to fly any more, and I have to fly for my job. It was a terrible
experience,” she said. “When we landed, there was stone silence. The only thing
that was said was, ‘Don’t touch the oxygen masks’ that had fallen down. Nobody
said ‘Welcome to Lihu’e,’ ‘Sorry about that landing,’ nothing. Nobody said a
Some of those around her were also shaken, with nervous laughter
being heard and comments like “`Well, that was a controlled crash,'” she said.
Somebody else said remarked, “`Anything you can get up and walk out of is a
good landing,” she said.
Hawaiian Airlines’ insurance company, United
States Aviation Underwriters, is paying her physical therapy expenses, she
said. She said the therapy is for back and neck injuries.
The North Shore
resident was seated at the rear of the plane on a full flight.
said FAA investigators are interested in speaking to people who were injured on
the flight and other passengers on that same plane.
The FAA investigation,
according to Mike Spencer, FAA aviation safety inspector, focuses on crew
competency, aircraft airworthiness, airport weather and other conditions, air
traffic control facilities and other factors.
“To the best of my knowledge,
there were no injuries. If (anyone was injured), then the NTSB would certainly
like to hear from them,” Spencer said. “If a passenger were injured in an
aircraft accident, then that would be primarily an NTSB concern.”
confirmed that the damage to the plane wasn’t discovered until a routine
walk-around inspection conducted after the plane had flown several additional
inter-island flights and was done flying for the night”a fact also confirmed by
Hawaiian Airlines’ Wagner.
“We didn’t get any reports of injuries.
According to our operations people, there weren’t any reports of injuries,”
Wagner said. “Sometimes, subsequent to when these things happen, we hear from
people, and I don’t know whether that might be the case in this instance or
Later, Wagner confirmed that two passengers have contacted the
airline, which had requested but not received medical records and other claims
Spencer said for “turnaround” flights such as Hawaiian and
Aloha Airlines fly between Honolulu and Lihu’e, there is no regulation stating
pilots must do walk-arounds during every stop.
While the FAA does mandate
that aircraft only carry passengers if the plane is airworthy, it is up to the
airline and pilots to determine airworthiness, Spencer said.
writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) and [
by Dennis Fujimoto)