Star Marianas Airlines president Shaun Christian denied yesterday a rumor swirling in social media that one of its airplanes “died” in midair after taking off last Friday afternoon from Tinian.
“The engine didn’t die,” Christian said.
Last Friday, a source contacted Saipan Tribune saying that a Star Marianas plane departed from Tinian at 2pm and “was about 200 feet in the air when the engine died.”
“The pilot managed to glide the aircraft and landed [it] safely. Another pilot inspected the plane upon landing. He muttered that the plane was out of fuel. Continued negligence seems to be the trend with this airline company that has already had two plane crashes and fatalities,” the source said.
“No Airport Rescue Fire Fighters, medics, or Commonwealth Ports Authority police were on site, probably because the pilot did not call it in,” the source added.
Christian said there was a misinterpretation of what actually happened that afternoon.
“We teach the pilots on what they need to do about making a decision to check first. They are trained to do these landings. The pilot rejected takeoff that involves reducing the power to idle,” Christian said.
For smaller planes, according to Wikipedia, the pilot can choose to cut the power anywhere from a few feet above the ground to thousands of feet in the air. It depends on weather conditions (wind in particular), how they are going to maneuver in for landing, and what they are trying to accomplish. Long-range glides are mainly just a stunt or a training exercise to prepare for that fateful day when the engine quits.
As to why Star Marianas didn’t report it to CPA, Christian said it wasn’t an incident that was reportable.
“The pilot got airborne and opted to reject the take off. After the plane landed and maintenance was done, we tried to identify the problem. It then flew later that day again because no problem was found,” Christian said.
“The pilot made a right decision and it was a safe decision. …It wasn’t 200 feet in the air, it was between 50 to 100 feet in the air. As for the gas, when we inspected the plane, there was more than 50 gallons of gas still in the plane,” he added.
There is a certain phase that is taught pilots, when soon after taking off, if there is something that they feel is wrong with the plane, the pilot makes the determination to reject the take off, added Christian.
“A lot of these things always happen and we try to avoid is as much as we can but the pilot made the right decision for safety matters,” Christian said.
He noted that Star Marianas does a total of 4,500 flights per month with a total of 150 takeoffs everyday, while on busy days, a total of 200 takeoffs are made.
“Nothing was wrong with the plane. It was a misunderstanding and it was misinterpreted,” he said.