The twin-engine plane carrying singer Aaliyah and eight others was significantly overloaded when it crashed in the Bahamas last month, according to a preliminary report. The National Transportation Safety Board report, released Saturday (Sept. 8), seems to corroborate early press speculation as to the cause of the tragedy.
“The total weight of the luggage, fuel on board at the time of the accident, plus the weight of the passengers showed that the total gross weight of the airplane was substantially exceeded,” the report said.
NTSB officials said they could not release figures on weight or other specifics on the crash. “It’s a Bahamian accident and we have to publish what they approve us to publish,” said Jorge Prellezo, southeast regional director. Prellezo said he did not know when the final NTSB report would be released.
Nine people were on board, but the Cessna 402B is certified to carry only six to eight people, including the pilot, Cessna Aircraft Co. spokeswoman Jessica Myers has said.
Bahamian authorities have said the estimated weight of the plane, luggage and fuel was about 5,495 pounds, not including the nine occupants. The maximum authorized takeoff weight for the Cessna 402B is 6,300 pounds.
No mechanical problems were found in the engines or airframe, but the plane’s center of gravity was located toward the back of the plane, according to the report. The plane lifted off, then nosed down, crashing on the side of the runway, the report said.
Bahamian officials, who are overseeing the investigation, are deciding whether to ask U.S. authorities to subpoena aircraft owner Gilbert Chacon to obtain the maintenance records, the pilot’s training records and to learn the details of how the charter was arranged. Chacon is the owner of Blackhawk International Airways, a charter airline.
Neither Blackhawk nor Skystream, the plane’s registered owner, had a permit to operate commercial charter flights in the Bahamas, said a Bahamian investigator. Both companies are based near Miami.
The report said that Chacon “has only communicated to investigators through his attorney and has not produced the aircraft engine logbooks,” and noted that “the complete maintenance history of the airplane is unknown.”
Chacon has an unlisted home phone number and could not be reached for comment yesterday. A message left at Blackhawk was not immediately returned.
Aaliyah, who at 22 was a two-time Grammy nominee for best female R&B vocalist, was leaving the Bahamas on Aug. 25 following a video shoot. The artist’s self-titled third Virgin album is No. 1 on The Billboard 200 this week, leaping up from No. 19.
Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.