Maui News

Two Pilots Rescued from Downed Aircraft Off Lāna‘i; Witness From Another Plane Describes Seeing the Distressed Craft Hitting the Water

February 27, 2021, 8:44 PM HST
* Updated March 1, 8:46 AM
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By Wendy Osher

Witness From Another Aircraft Describes Seeing the Distressed Plane Hit the Water

Updates: (5:56 a.m. 2.28.21) (9:35 p.m. 2.27.21)

Two pilots of a downed airplane were rescued by the Coast Guard on Saturday evening about eight miles off Lānaʻi. Officials say the downed craft was a single-engine DA40 Diamond Star aircraft.

At 5:49 p.m., Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center watchstanders received a report from Honolulu Control Facility stating the aircraft was experiencing engine trouble and was likely going to ditch in the water. 

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The FAA responded to Maui Now’s request for information saying two people were aboard the fixed wing craft with a tail number N680DS. The aircraft was was manufactured in 2006 and it’s registered owner is George’s Aviation Services Inc., located on Lagoon Drive in Honolulu. The FAA is investigating the cause.

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Maui Now spoke to the pilot of a separate aircraft who was flying a plane from Lānaʻi to Honolulu at the time of the incident. About 10 minutes into flight, Justin Constantino, a pilot with Mokulele Airlines said he heard a “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday,” from the Diamond aircraft.  According to Constantino, the radio call from the distressed aircraft indicated that there was a “request for vectors” from the troubled craft to get back to Lānaʻi.

“After a few minutes they declared their emergency,” said Constantino in reference to the Diamond aircraft.  Air Traffic Control then asked Constantino and his Second-In-Command to turn back to look for the distressed aircraft.  “We gladly accepted. We were able to spot them when we were at 3,000 feet and followed,” he said. 

“We saw the plane hit the water. We were about 1,200 feet at the time while following them in… no indication what went wrong. We were talking to 0DS and they said they lost their engine and had white smoke coming out of the cowling,” said Constantino.

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“We then circled the area for about 40 minutes until we had to head back to Honolulu,” he said, noting that another aircraft took over monitoring. 

Once on scene a Dolphin helicopter crew from the US Coast Guard located the two pilots from the downed craft and deployed a rescue swimmer to give aid and hoist the pilots to safety.

“As a watchstander this is the type of outcome we want to see with every case,” said Lt. j.g. Makenzy Karnehm, a Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center watchstander in an evening update. “Both the Coast Guard and our partners train together for incidents like this and once the call came in we were able to quickly mobilize a robust response and rescue the pilots.”

Maui County and Molokaʻi Fire Departments deployed air and surface assets to aid in the rescue. The downed aircraft is reported to have sank and does not present a threat to navigation, according to the Coast Guard.

The cause of the incident remains under investigation.

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Two pilots of a downed airplane off Lānaʻi were rescued by the Coast Guard on Saturday evening.

An Air Station Barbers Point MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrew and Station Maui response boat crew were deployed in response.

As of 8:05 p.m., the pilots are being transported to awaiting emergency services and no major injuries are reported at this time, according to a Twitter update issued by the USCG.

The incident was reported at around 6 p.m.

Maui Now reached out to the USCG and the FAA, and is awaiting a response. Stay with us for further updates.

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.  
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