Pilot, 2 passengers uninjured
About six minutes into a sight-seeing tour of the island, a Piper PA28-140 Cherokee Cruiser plane of the Marianas Air Transfer Inc. experienced an engine problem, but its pilot successfully landed the aircraft on the fairway of the Laolao Bay Golf & Resort in Kagman last Saturday afternoon where a charity golf tournament was wrapping up. Fortunately, no one was injured.
The Filipino pilot, Capt. Josh Dominise, and his two Chinese female passengers were not injured, witnesses and police said.
The last group of golfers had just finished that particular hole so nobody was on that fairway, Saipan Tribune learned.
Police and Commonwealth Ports Authority officers secured the site until National Transportation Board and Federal Aviation Administration investigators fly in, according to Department of Public Safety Commissioner Robert Guerrero on Saturday.
DPS acting spokesman Sgt. Jason Tarkong said that on Saturday at 1:34pm, police and Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services first responders proceeded to a reported plane crash incident at the golf course.
Tarkong said upon arrival, police learned that the pilot and two passengers were safe.
Tarkong said preliminary information showed that the pilot was required to execute an emergency landing on the golf course.
He said FAA is handling the investigation.
DFEMS spokesman Derek Gersonde said at 1:40pm their medics and rescue units from the Kagman and Susupe fire stations were dispatched to the crash site.
Gersonde said upon arrival, medics came upon the four-seater “Cessna aircraft” with three individuals, including the pilot.
The pilot refused to be treated by medics, while the 21-year-old passenger complained of head pain. The 20-year-old passenger complained of neck pain.
Gersonde said the two passengers were transported to the Commonwealth Health Center emergency room.
Gersonde said the plane took off from the Saipan commuter airport and was touring around Saipan when it performed an emergency landing.
Star Marianas Air Inc. president Shaun R. Christian, in a press release, said pilot Dominise is employed by Star Marianas Air, but the aircraft is owned by Marianas Air Transfer.
Christian said the plane was flying an island sight-seeing flight and the pilot declared an emergency at 1:11pm and landed at the golf course.
Christian said the aircraft was north of the Laolao Bay Golf & Resort when the pilot heard the engine make a loud noise followed by a loss of power.
Dominise declared an emergency with the Saipan Air Traffic Control Tower and informed the controller that he would be making an emergency landing at the golf course.
Christian said there were no injuries as a result of the landing and an inspection conducted in coordination with the NTSB revealed no substantial damage to the plane’s structure.
Christian said an initial inspection of the engine did reveal a significant crack on the aircraft’s engine block, which is consistent with the pilot’s reported experience.
“Since the engine was purchased new from the manufacturer seven months ago, and had more than 70 percent of its useful life remaining, the NTSB has offered to assist in determining what may have caused what is preliminarily being considered a critical manufactures defect.
Christian said late Saturday afternoon, NTSB released the aircraft to Marianas Air Transfer.
Christian said Star Marianas Air is assisting in getting the plane transported to Tinian, where its maintenance department will work with FAA, NTSB, and the engine manufacturer, to determine what needs to be done to ensure other engines of this type do not encounter a similar defect.
Christian said an NTSB incident response team representative commended Dominise for his quick decision making and his successfully executed emergency landing.
Christian said although Star Marianas Air does participate in the operation of the flight seeing island tours by providing pilots and operational support, the aircraft involved is not owned by Star Marianas Air.
He said the aircraft is also not used by the airline to conduct passenger carrying flights between the islands.
A witness told Saipan Tribune that the plane landed on the fairway in hole No. 5 green west course, ran about 200 yards before it stopped just next to the bushes.
The Hyatt Regency Saipan 21st Annual Charity Golf Classic was about to be finished when the incident happened.
A tournament participant said he was about to eat lunch at the hotel’s restaurant when he heard some people talking that a plane had just crashed at the golf course.
The golf player, who requested anonymity, said he proceeded to the direction of hole No. 5.
“I was looking for a smoke. But there was none,” he said, adding that he then saw the pilot and the two passengers talking to some golf players.
He said an ambulance later came.
The crash-landing left marks on the fairway.
A retired law enforcer, who happened to be at the golf course, said he was impressed with the smart decision and the skills of the 24-year-old pilot in making a successful crash land at the golf course.
On Nov. 19, 2012, a passenger was killed and six others, including the pilot, were injured when a seven-passenger Piper PA-32 Cherokee Six operated by Star Marianas Air lost power while taking off Saipan airport on its way to Tinian and nosedived into the trees adjoining the north side of the runway where a fire then ensued. All six passengers were Chinese nationals.
On Oct. 6, 2013, a Piper Aircraft of Star Marianas crashed three miles north of the Tinian International Airport, killing the pilot and two of the six passengers. The four other passengers were injured. The plane was completely destroyed. All passengers were Chinese nationals.
On Aug. 1, 2006, the pilot and six passengers were injured when a Piper Cherokee of Taga Air Charter Services crashed on a farm in upper Dandan en route to Tinian. Except one who is an American, all passengers were Japanese nationals.