Pilots Poor Judment In Question R&B Singer Aaliyah Killed In Plane Crash


Pilot's Judgment In Question
R&B Singer Aaliyah Killed In Plane Crash

August 25, 2001, a twin engine Cessna 402B departing  Abaco Island in the Bahamas crashed this Saturday killing R&B singer Aaliyah and eight others. The aircraft (N8097W) crashed shortly after takeoff on Abaco Island in the Bahamas for a flight to Opa Locka, Florida. It is believed that this aircraft was over gross weight and the pilot lacked the skill level needed to safely operate this aircraft.

Blackhawk International Airways was authorized by the FAA as a part 135 carrier to operate as a single pilot operation. With Morales acting as pilot in command of the Cessna 402B this made it a multi pilot operation. As the company already had another pilot signed off  by the FAA. This is in clear violation of the FAA. As Morales was not signed off by the FAA to fly for Blackhawk nor was Blackhawk signed off as a multi pilot operation. Investigation of the pilot's background revealed the pilot , Luis Morales III was from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The day of the crash, was Mr. Morales' first official day with Blackhawk International Airways. He had been employed with Golden Airlines in which he was fired 4 hours before the fatal crash. Company officials reported he simply failed to show up for work two days in a row.


On July 7, 2001, Morales was arrested by the Broward Sheriff's Office in an area of Pompano Beach known for drug sales. A deputy who pulled over Morales' 1993 Volkswagen Fox for running a stop sign said he found pieces of crack cocaine and other paraphernalia in the car. According to the deputy, Morales said he was in the area to buy powder cocaine for a friend.

In November 2000, Morales was arrested by Fort Lauderdale police after he tried to "return'' $345 worth of stolen aviation parts to a local distributor. Instead of giving Morales cash, store employees called police, who were investigating a string of airplane burglaries. Morales was charged with dealing in stolen property after detectives found that a receipt in his bag belonged to the burglary victim who actually bought the parts. An additional charge of grand theft was tacked on when detectives recovered other stolen items. Eddie Golson, president of Pro Freight Cargo Services at Opa Locka Airport, said workers carted ``a pickup truck of freight'' from the crash site Monday. "

That's absurd to think that this pilot got in this airplane with eight other people and a truck full of freight and expected this thing to fly,'' Golson said. "What the hell was going on?''  A baggage handler was reported to have said the passengers were a hurry to get back to the states to catch a connecting flight and no one weighed the passengers or baggage. The NTSB and the FAA along with Cessna Aircraft and Continental Engines had sent investigators down to the Bahamas to assist the Bahamian government with their investigation. "No question, this airplane was over gross weight when they took off,'' said John Frank, executive director of the Cessna Pilots Association. ``Everything that's coming out is pointing to what it looked like at the beginning -- this was an overweight aircraft.''

The FAA reported that there are no service difficulty reports or enforcement actions involving the downed plane. However, the agency did report four administrative actions against Blackhawk, three for technical violations and the most recent for maintenance failures.  The agency issued a correction letter April 28, 2000, citing Blackhawk's failure to comply with manufacturer recommended maintenance programs and FAA programs for its aircraft's engines or other parts, Blackhawk failed to have a person in charge of maintenance with an appropriate certificate and used unsanctioned techniques and equipment for repairs, she said. Records show that Blackhawk, listed as the operator of the flight, is owned by Gilbert Chacón and his son Erik, who founded the company in 1991. The small charter and tour business, which recently moved to a small office next to the Lantana Airport, was at one time based at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. But a company called Skystream, whose corporate address is the same as the Pembroke Pines home of Gilbert Chacón, is listed as the owner of the plane.

After speaking with a representative of the Chacóns, investigators remain uncertain about the relationship between the two companies. The Chacóns have not made themselves available for comment. Federal court records indicate Gilbert Chacón pleaded guilty in 1993 to one count of bankruptcy fraud. U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham sentenced Chacón to three years' probation and a $3,000 fine for hiding the true value of his assets from creditors. Chacón's probation ended in February 1996. Records are sketchy about the bankruptcy and the subsequent criminal case, but former federal prosecutor Eduardo Palmer, now a private litigator in Miami, said he remembered that one of the primary allegations involved Chacón's hiding and moving valuable airplane parts to deceive his creditors. The Chacóns have hired Michael A. Moulis, a former FAA staff attorney. "Our condolences go out to the families,'' Moulis said, in a statement. ``We're definitely cooperating with authorities. Other than that, we will have no comment.''


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