Fuddy v. Makani Kai Air

Shortly after taking off from Kaluapapa Airport bound for Honolulu, a Cessna 208B Caravan with registration number N687MA operated by Makani Kai Air experienced an engine failure and crashed into the ocean off Moloka’i. The flight was an air taxi commuter flight between two Hawaiian islands with eight passengers on board. Many of the passengers were employees of the State of Hawaii who were flying on business. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, and a company flight plan had been filed. The pilot stated that shortly after take off, he heard a loud bang and then completely lost power. He tried to return to the airport, but, once he realized he could not make it, determined that he would have to ditch the plane in the ocean. The pilot glided to the ocean surface where the plane floated for approximately 25 minutes, allowing the passengers to exit the plane. The airplane landed within open ocean water in a flat or slightly nose up attitude. One passenger swam to shore, and rescue personnel recovered the pilot and other passengers from the water about 80 minutes after the water landing. The pilot and two passengers were seriously injured, and one passenger died before rescue. Five passengers sustained minor injuries.

The engine failure occurred when the aircraft was climbing 500 feet above ground level and was caused by fracture of compressor turbine (CT) blades. The engine was on a time between overhaul (TBO) extension program which extended the normal 3,600 hour interval to 8,000 hours. The engine had 3,752.3 hours on it when the failure occurred. The borescope inspections were not being performed as frequently as recommended by Pratt & Whitney, and the operator had elected not to perform engine trend monitoring. The NTSB determined that if the engine manufacturer service bulletin had been complied with or specifically required as part of the borescope inspection procedure, possible metal creep or abnormalities in the turbine compressor blades might have been discovered and the accident prevented.

The scene after the ditching of the airplane was chaotic. Passengers had difficulty locating life vests and inflating them. More than one passenger jumped into the ocean without any flotation devices. The pilot, who had suffered a severe blow to the head, began tossing seat cushions into the ocean for the passengers to use. Two passengers used life vests that were meant for infants.

The State of Hawaii Health & Social Services Director, Loretta Fuddy, died in the crash. She was found by the rescue personnel wearing a partially inflated infant life vest. Although she did not suffer any significant traumatic injuries during the crash, her cause of death was directly attributable to not having proper safety gear provided on board the plane. No safety briefings were performed before the flight as are required by Federal Aviation Administration regulations. Passengers were not briefed on ocean ditching procedures or the location or usage of flotation equipment. The firm successfully resolved the Fuddy case and that of another injured passenger.

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