On May 21, 1995, about 1130 local island time, a Stol UC-1 amphibian airplane, N108CA, crashed at sea under undetermined circumstances about 35 miles north of Saipan, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. The aircraft was owned and operated by Leisure Time Investments of Saipan and was on a personal transportation flight between islands in the Marianas chain. Weather conditions en route are not known; however, visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the Saipan International Airport. No flight plan was filed and there is no indication that the pilot obtained a preflight weather briefing. The aircraft was destroyed and sank. The certificated commercial pilot and two passengers sustained fatal injuries. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
Inspectors from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) were on Saipan conducting other business and provided assistance by interviewing persons with knowledge of the flight's circumstances and obtaining aircraft records.
The information disclosed that the aircraft departed Saipan International Airport at 0720 for a flight to Pagan Island, which is an uninhabited island 180 nautical miles north of Saipan and is part of the Marianas chain. The group intended to do some hiking on the island, which has a dirt airstrip. After departure from Saipan, there were no further confirmed radio communications between the flight and any FAA facility. There were no distress calls from the aircraft monitored by any known source.
Ground witnesses to the departure stated that the pilot refueled the aircraft from his own 50-gallon drums. No detailed information was available to determine the amount of fuel onboard at departure.
The pilot of a second airplane, which was to meet the group at Pagan, stated that he left Saipan about 1 hour after the accident airplane and fully expected it to be on the ground at Pagan when he arrived. As he neared the island, he found poor weather conditions consisting of low clouds and rain showers over Pagan. The pilot reported that he was able to circumnavigate the bad weather and successfully landed. The accident aircraft was not there and he said he initiated radio calls on his single sideband HF transceiver to ascertain its whereabouts.
Both of the passengers made cellular telephone calls to their respective families. One call was reportedly made about 1100 and the second one closer to 1130. In the calls, the passengers told their families that the airplane was about 45 miles from Saipan and was returning because the flight could not land at Pagan due to bad weather and they should be picked up at the airport about noon or so.
Concerned family members and the pilot of the second aircraft reported the aircraft overdue about 1530 on the afternoon of May 21st. Search efforts were instituted by the Commonwealth Civil Defense Force, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Air Force. Small pieces of wreckage and two bodies were recovered on May 22 from a location about 35 miles north of Saipan and about 15 miles south of the island of Anathana. The identities of the recovered victims were established by the local island law enforcement agency as the pilot and one of the passengers. The second passenger remains missing.
The pilot was hired by the owner as both pilot and a mechanic for the aircraft. Review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman record files revealed that he holds a Commercial pilot certificate with airplane ratings for single engine land, multi engine land and instruments. No record was found that the pilot had ever been issued a seaplane rating for either single engine or multi engine aircraft. According to FAA inspectors, there is no record that the pilot obtained seaplane training at any known facility in the Mariana Island group. The most recent second class medical certificate was issued December 21, 1994, with the limitation that correcting glasses be worn while exercising the privileges of his airman certificates.
The pilot's personal flight records were not recovered. On the pilot's last FAA medical certification application he listed his total flight time as 13,150 hours. Review of the aircraft maintenance records revealed that about 80 hours of flight time were put on the accident aircraft since it's purchase by the owner and import to the islands.
The pilot is also the holder of an FAA Airframe and Powerplant mechanics certificate, most recently issued on September 25, 1989. In addition, he is the holder of an Inspection Authorization, originally dated in March of 1992.
According to FAA records, the passenger who owns the company to which the aircraft is registered, does not hold a current pilot or medical certificate. At one time the passenger held a combined student pilot and third class medical certificate, which was issued in 1988.
There is no record that the second passenger at any time held any pilot or medical certificate.
The Stol UC-1 is a remanufactured single-engine Republic Seebee amphibian, which was originally manufactured in the 1940's and early 1950's. The remanufactured version has two Lycoming IO-360 series engines mounted on the wings in place of the fuselage- mounted single engine originally installed. With a typical 135- knot cruise speed, the aircraft has a total fuel capacity of 100 gallons.
The aircraft and engine maintenance records were obtained by FAA inspectors on Saipan and forwarded to the Safety Board for examination. The aircraft was remanufactured by Stol as a UC-1 on May 24, 1973. The Lycoming IO-360-B1D engines documented by the records to be on the aircraft at the time of the accident were original installations by Stol in May of 1973.
The maintenance history of the airframe from 1992 to the present was examined. On January 29, 1992, an annual inspection was accomplished at an aircraft total time of 2,098 hours. The records show the aircraft was disassembled for shipment to Saipan on April 10, 1992, and reassembled on the island on May 20, 1992, at a total time of 2,133 hours; an annual inspection was also endorsed on that date. The next entry shows an annual inspection signed off by the accident pilot on August 1, 1993, at a total time of 2,194 hours. The next and last airframe logbook entry was dated March 1, 1995, and consisted of an annual inspection sign-off endorsed by the accident pilot at a listed total time of 2,200 hours.
The engine logbooks disclosed that both powerplants completed a major overhaul on April 26, 1985, at a total time of 1,608 hours. The last entries found in both engine logbooks were noted to be the May 20, 1992, aircraft reassembly and annual inspection sign- off noted above for the airframe logbook.
FAA inspectors interviewed witnesses who stated that the pilot reported a history of fuel pump and generator problems on the aircraft. According to the witnesses, the pilot changed fuel pumps before the flight. The right generator was reportedly inoperative prior to the flight. Neither the described component discrepancies nor any corrective action was found listed in a review of both the airframe and engine logbooks.
No evidence was found to indicate that either the pilot nor any other occupant of the accident aircraft obtained a preflight weather briefing.
The National Weather Service (NWS) forecast for the Marianas zone for May 21 was reviewed. The synopsis stated that while generally dry conditions would prevail across the Mariana Islands, radar and satellite imagery showed a cluster of showers and thunderstorms to the south and a frontal system well to the north.
The pilot of the aircraft which was to meet the accident aircraft at Pagan Island stated that he departed Saipan about 1 hour after the accident aircraft and encountered no adverse weather until arrival at Pagan. As he neared the island, he found poor weather conditions consisting of low clouds and rain showers over Pagan. The pilot reported that he was able to circumnavigate the bad weather and successfully landed at the airstrip.
No aircraft or surface vessel engaged in the search for the aircraft reported observing or encountering any unusual meteorological conditions.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The remains of the pilot and one passenger were recovered on May 22, 1995, from the ocean. Autopsies were performed by the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands on May 24, 1995. According to the attesting pathologists, the injuries sustained by both were the result of blunt force trauma. Specimens were retained from the pilot for toxicological analysis, with negative findings for alcohol and all screened drug substances.