Search continues for cause of cargo plane crash off coast of Kalaeloa
HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — The Coast Guard retrieved floating debris — mostly general cargo — Saturday from waters off Kalaeloa where Transair Flight 810 crash landed in the ocean Friday, injuring the two pilots who were the only ones aboard the cargo plane.
Brightly colored stuffed animals were among the cargo pulled from the water and brought to the Coast Guard’s Honolulu base on Saturday by the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Gerczak. The initial debris field from the emergency landing of the Boeing 737-200 was estimated at 1.24 miles wide.
The wreckage of the 46-year-old plane remained at the bottom of the ocean Saturday, approximately 150 feet underwater, said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew West.
He said the National Transportation Safety Board, the state and the owners of the aircraft were still deciding what would be done with the plane.
The NTSB began its on-scene work Friday, the NTSB said in an email response to questions. A 10-person team of investigators began arriving Friday, but the remainder of the team was expected to arrive Saturday evening.
Meanwhile “Transair has voluntarily chosen not to operate our Boeing 737 cargo aircraft temporarily while we assess the situation and continue to cooperate with federal authorities in their investigation,” a Transair spokesman said in a statement Saturday. The company had a fleet of five Boeing 737s.
The NTSB said investigators will document the scene and examine the aircraft. They will also request radar data, weather information, air traffic control communication, airplane maintenance records and the pilots’ medical records.
The team specializes in air traffic control, systems, maintenance records, human performance, operations, power plants and structures and wreckage recovery.
Investigators will provide factual information in the early stage of its investigation, but will not state a cause.
A preliminary report is expected within 15 days after the accident.
Investigations of fatalities and other major investigations take 12 to 24 months to complete, while others average 12 to 18 months.
West said the Coast Guard and other partners are also charged with ensuring any environmental cleanup, but he did not have a status on Friday’s fuel spill or other impacts. The Coast Guard has set up a safety zone at the scene and is monitoring the area.
In the early hours of Friday morning, the plane had just taken off from Daniel K. Inouye International Airport for Kahului when it experienced engine trouble and the pilots tried to circle back to Oahu.
In a recording of air traffic control communications, one of the pilots reported one engine had cut out, and that it was likely the other would be lost, too, because “it’s running very hot,” while the plane was flying at slow speed, he said.
The pilot said the plane was not carrying hazardous materials, and asked whether there was a closer airport. Communications from the plane then went dead.
The Coast Guard received a report of the downed plane at about 1 :40 a.m., about 2 to 4 miles south of Kalaeloa. The Coast Guard rescued a 58-year-old pilot over an hour later at about 2 :57 a.m. after the tail of the aircraft he was standing on sank.
He was taken to The Queen’s Medical Center in critical condition.
The other pilot, age 50, was covered in jet fuel and hanging onto floating cargo when he was rescued.
He was in serious condition with a head injury and multiple lacerations, but managed to walk off a rescue boat.
Transair did not have updates Saturday on the pilots’ medical conditions.
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