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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Circumstances of fatal plane crash on Lana'i a mystery, NTSB says

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Staff Writer

Among the mysteries of last week's fatal plane crash on Lana'i is where the plane had been and why it was flying at low altitude.

The light plane appeared to have been in perfect operating condition when it crashed Thursday evening, killing its student pilot.

Matthew Monczynski, 23, a Navy man and new father, was killed, and flight instructor Matt McGurk, 22, suffered serious injuries.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Tealeye Cornejo said yesterday that she hopes an interview with McGurk will help clear up details and provide clues to what happened to the 33-year-old Piper Comanche. But McGurk was under medication and unavailable for a meeting with investigators.

Cornejo said she hopes the FAA will conduct an interview after she leaves the Islands tomorrow.

A flight plan filed for Monczynski and McGurk's flight indicated they planned to fly at 8 p.m. from Honolulu to Kapalua, Maui. The crew by radio cancelled the flight plan after 8 p.m., leading investigators to believe they had reached their destination, but it's still not clear where they went.

Cornejo said the Kapalua airport has no air traffic control tower and is closed to air traffic without prior permission. There have been suggestions the plane might have landed at Lana'i Airport, but that terminal is closed after the departure of the last commercial flight.

"They might have landed at Lana'i, but there is no record. Nobody would have known," Cornejo said.

The Piper is a 4-seat, single-engine aircraft with a 180-horsepower motor and a cruising speed of 115 mph.

Its age is not necessarily a concern, because a properly maintained aircraft can be considerably older then the 1968 Piper and still be a safe vehicle, said FAA Pacific representative Tweet Coleman.

And all early indications are that the Piper with tail number N319FC that crashed on Lana'i was properly maintained, she said.

The wreck was inspected by the NTSB as well as by manufacturer's representatives from builder Piper and engine maker Lycoming.

"They couldn't find anything wrong," Coleman said.

Cornejo said the engine was sound. While one fuel tank was ruptured in the crash, there was gas in the plane's remaining fuel tank. The controls appeared to have been working properly, she said.

"I still am looking into maintenance records and human factors as well as weather," but thus far there are no obvious signs of why the plane went down, Cornejo said.

"Unless the survivor remembers exactly what happened, all I can do is close doors," she said.

The NTSB has turned over control of the aircraft to its owner, Jahn Mueller of Mueller Aviation at Honolulu International Airport.

Mueller would not comment about the crash, but said he expected the wreckage to be removed within two weeks.