Feds look into plane’s landing far from airport

Federal authorities were investigating Tuesday the emergency landing of a Mokulele Airlines Cessna on Piilani Highway in Wailea on Monday night, officials said.

None of the eight passengers aboard or the two pilots were injured. The plane experienced engine trouble before safely landing on the northbound lane of the highway around 7 p.m. Monday. There were no reports of injuries on the ground, although officials said the plane did clip some traffic signs.

Marvin Moniz, Kahului Airport District manager, said authorities with the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were looking into the matter, while the Cessna Grand Caravan sat on an empty lot near Kilohana Drive in Wailea on Tuesday. The plane was towed there, a short distance from the highway landing, Monday night with the help of a police truck, witnesses said.

Mokulele officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Moniz said it will be up to Mokulele to determine how it wants to remove the Cessna, but he cited some challenges, including having a truck and trailer transport the aircraft back to Kahului Airport.

With the aircraft’s wingspan of 54 feet from tip to tip, it may be difficult to get through narrow roadways that may need to be shut down, he said.

Another option could be to detach the wings and then transport the aircraft, Moniz added.

Just moving the aircraft off Piilani Highway to the empty lot off Kilohana Drive on Monday night was challenging because crews had to navigate between traffic signs with only 2 feet to spare in some cases, Moniz said.

Moniz, who responded to the scene about 20 minutes after the plane safely landed, said he overheard one of the passengers saying he was relieved to have safely landed and added that the pilot did a good job.

The passengers were taken back to Kahului, Moniz said.

Mokulele Airlines flights were running normally on Maui on Tuesday, he added.

Firefighters got a call around 7 p.m. Monday of a possible plane crash, said Fire Services Chief Lee Mainaga on Monday evening. Units from the nearby Wailea Fire Station found the plane intact about 50 yards south of the Piilani Highway-Kilohana Drive intersection.

Flight 1770 was heading from Kahului Airport to Kamuela when it lost engine power, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor. The FAA website said the damage to the plane was minor.

A witness who lives in the Wailea Fairway Villas said Monday night that he saw a plane approaching the area about 100 feet above the ground and could hear sputtering as it approached.

Piilani Highway was closed between Kilohana and Wailea Ike drives for several hours Monday. It was reopened at 10:50 p.m, police said.