Passenger: Pilot ‘did an awesome job’

Three Maui tennis players and the pilot survived an emergency landing in brush near the shoreline in Waiehu on Sunday afternoon, with one passenger praising the work of the pilot.

“The pilot was absolutely amazing to do what he did,” Neil Archer said in a phone interview Monday. “There wasn’t any other place to land – and that was not a landing strip. That wasn’t even a field. It was just a place to drop.

“The pilot did everything he could, and he did an awesome job.”

Archer was one of four aboard the small plane that landed about 50 yards off of Waiehu Beach down Lower Waiehu Beach Road. He didn’t offer much detail about the incident but did say that the emergency landing occurred quickly.

“At one moment you’re flying, the next thing you know you are on the ground,” he said.

The Waikapu resident said he immediately called his wife after the landing and embraced and kissed her upon her arrival along the beach.

Archer declined to comment any further about the ordeal until after the investigation.

The Federal Aviation Administration released preliminary information on the incident, reporting that the fixed wing, single-engine plane suffered “substantial” damage in the emergency landing.

The report said that the 1989 Piper PA-28 Cherokee aircraft “force landed in a grassy area 3 miles from (its final destination Kahului Airport).”

Mokulele Iki LLC is listed as the registered owner of the plane and its office is located at 3440 Kehala Drive in Kihei, according to the FAA registry. Attempts to reach Mokulele Iki on Monday were not successful.

Ian Gregor, public affairs manager for the FAA Pacific Region, said that the agency and the National Transportation Safety Board are currently investigating the crash site but did not have any details on the removal of the plane.

FAA inspectors and police officers were at the site Monday morning, with officers securing the area until the afternoon, said Maui police spokesman Lt. William Juan. He said he did not know of any salvage operations for the white, blue-striped plane or how the aircraft would be removed from its remote location about a quarter-mile down the beach from Pakele Place.

Responding to multiple calls of a plane crash at 5:38 p.m. Sunday, firefighters from Kahului and Wailuku arrived at the scene to find the pilot and three male passengers uninjured. The men flying from Honolulu to Maui were returning home after playing in a U.S. Tennis Association mixed 18 and over sectional tournament on Oahu. Archer, an independent tennis teacher, said he was part of a group of Maui players that played in the tournament.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.