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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 30401
Last updated: 23 October 2017
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Time:17:26 HST
Type:Silhouette image of generic PA31 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Piper PA-31-350 Chieftain
Owner/operator:Big Island Airlines Inc
Registration: N411WL
C/n / msn: 31-8352039
Fatalities:Fatalities: 10 / Occupants: 10
Other fatalities:0
Airplane damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Mount Mauna Loa, near Pahala, Hawaii -   United States of America
Phase: En route
Nature:Domestic Non Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Keahole-Kona International Airport (KOA), Kona, Hawaii
Destination airport:Keahole-Kona International Airport (KOA), Kona, Hawaii
On September 25, 1999, about 17:26 Hawaiian standard time (HST), Big Island Air flight 58, a Piper PA-31-350 (Chieftain), N411WL, crashed on the northeast slope of the Mauna Loa volcano near Pahala, Hawaii. The pilot and all nine passengers on board were killed, and the airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a post-impact fire. The sightseeing tour flight was operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 as an on-demand air taxi operation.

A visual flight rules flight plan was filed, and visual meteorological conditions existed at the Keahole-Kona International Airport (KOA), Kona, Hawaii, from which the airplane departed about 16:22. The investigation determined that instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in the vicinity of the accident site.

A Big Island Air employee who observed the pilot upon his arrival at KOA shortly before 07:00 HST on the day of the accident stated that the pilot appeared to be alert and well rested. The pilot was scheduled to make two air taxi flights that day. The morning sightseeing flight departed about 07:00 HST, and the second (accident) flight departed about 16:22 HST.

The morning's weather report was included on the "Flight Plans and Weather" form that Big Island Air pilots typically reference before flying with an indicated time of about 07:00 HST. Big Island Air's Director of Operations reported to National Transportation Safety Board investigators that he had obtained this weather information from the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Honolulu Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS). No evidence exists to indicate that the pilot sought or obtained an updated weather briefing for the accident flight later that afternoon as required by the FAA.

The pilot departed KOA about 16:22 HST for his second sightseeing tour of the day and followed a half-island tour route. About 17:20 HST, the pilot requested permission from the Honolulu AFSS to transition through a restricted area of airspace (R-3103) that encompasses part of the center of the saddle area. The pilot was advised by AFSS that the restricted area was "open," and he was authorized to transition the area for the next 30 minutes. The FAA did not record any further radio transmissions from the accident pilot.

According to FAA-recorded radar data, at 17.21:04 HST, the accident airplane was located approximately 16 nautical miles (nm) east-southeast from the eastern side of the restricted area (about 8.5 nautical miles from the crash site). The accident airplane's altitude, as transmitted by its Mode C-equipped transponder, was about 6,600 feet, and the underlying terrain's elevation was about 4,600 feet mean sea level (msl). Both the airplane's altitude and the terrain's elevation were increasing.

Between 17.21:04 HST and the last recorded radar return at 17.25:29 HST (when the airplane was within 1/3-mile of the accident site), the airplane's average ground track was approximately 291 degrees, magnetic. During this time, the accident airplane's altitude increased from about 6,600 to 9,600 feet. Several witnesses observed clouds below the 10,000-foot level around the time of the accident. About 17:26 HST, the accident airplane crashed on the northeast slope of the Mauna Loa volcano at 10,100 feet msl [at approximate co ordinates: 1928′46.3″N 15536′09.6″W]

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows: the pilot's decision to continue visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) in an area of cloud-covered mountainous terrain. Contributing to the accident were the pilot's failure to properly navigate and his disregard for standard operating procedures, including flying into IMC while on a visual flight rules flight plan and failure to obtain a current pre-flight weather briefing.


1. NTSB Identification: DCA99MA088 at
2. FAA:

Revision history:

27-Sep-2008 01:00 ASN archive Added
25-Jun-2015 18:25 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Operator, Location, Phase, Nature, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
13-Sep-2017 22:11 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]
16-Oct-2017 13:29 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]

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