2 die in 'micro-light' air crash
By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer
The owner of a Big Island motorized glider touring company and his passenger died yesterday morning when their aircraft crashed and sank in Kealakekua Bay.
Big Island police identified the pilot as 38-year-old Tedd Robert Hecklin, owner of Tedd's Flying Adventures in Kailua, Kona. They identified the passenger as Kathryn Grace Moran, 37, of Kailua, Kona.
Hecklin and Moran were flying in an Airborne Outback XT-912 SST Tundra, a type of "micro-light" aircraft also known as airborne trikes.
Hecklin's website, teddsflying .com, advertises "powered hang gliding flights around the Big Island" for $100 for a 30-minute flight or $175 for a 60-minute flight.
It says the Australian-built aircraft "features tandem seating in which the student is in the rear and instructor in the front; similar to riding a motorcycle in the sky!"
Big Island firefighters received a report of the crash at 9:36 a.m. yesterday, 20 minutes after the micro-light aircraft took off from the Kona airport.
Witnesses on commercial boat tours in Kealakekua Bay said the aircraft was banking left when they heard a loud popping sound and saw the aircraft's wing fold up before it fell into the ocean.
A crew from Kailua, Kona, Zodiac operator Captain Zodiac pulled Hecklin onto their craft and helped get Moran onto an inflatable boat operated by Dolphin Discoveries. Nearby kayakers assisted.
People performed CPR on Hecklin and Moran as they headed back to Kealakekua boat ramp but could not revive them.
Firefighters took the victims to Kona Community Hospital, where they were pronounced dead. Autopsies have been ordered.
According to the National Weather Service, conditions in the area at the time of the crash were mild, with westerly winds of about 7 miles per hour.
A profile of Hecklin posted on the Tedd's Flying Adventures website said that Hecklin had been flying since he was 13 years old "when he would trade labor at the local airport each weekend in exchange for flying instruction."
According to the website, the company had a 100 percent safety record.
Airborne trikes are composed of an engine-powered, three-wheeled "trike" on which the operators sit, attached to a large glider wing. Once in the air, the craft can glide without engine power. Operators control the trikes by shifting their weight.
The Edge XT-912-L that crashed yesterday was registered with the Federal Aviation Administration under Hecklin's name as a weight-shift-controlled light sport craft. Manufactured by Airborne Windsports, it had a 9-foot trike powered by a four-cycle Rotax engine and a 32-foot glider wing.
The same model was involved in a fatal crash in Chelan, Wash., in 2008. Investigators ruled that the operator "failed to maintain adequate airspeed during initial climb, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall."Advertiser Staff writer Michael Tsai contributed to this report. Reach Dan Nakaso at email@example.com.