Dean International Flight School in Miami, Florida has been linked to another plane crash in less than two weeks. The crash involved a Cessna 172 airplane carrying a flight instructor and a student; they were forced to crash-land in Key Biscayne after the craft’s engine reportedly lost power last Thursday night. Both men survived the crash with minor injuries.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokeswoman Katheleen Bergen told the press that the aircraft had taken off from Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach and was flying to Miami Executive Airport before it was forced to land. Bergen said the FAA is investigating the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is also reportedly investigating the incident. An NTSB investigator told news sources that the damage to the plane was extensive enough to classify it as an accident, but the agency has not yet finished its investigation.
The student pilot involved in the first crash on July 1 wasn’t as lucky. His plane, a Cessna 152, reportedly disappeared in the night. The flight school’s owner, Robert Dean, didn’t report the missing craft to the FAA until four days later. The plane’s wreckage was eventually found in the Everglades a few miles west of Homestead, and the student pilot, whom news sources identified as Nigerian-born Mark Ukaere, died in the crash.
Ukaera had purpotedly been licensed to fly the plane but violated the flight school’s policy forbidding student pilots from flying alone, Dean told the Miami Patch.
“That first accident that took place was a pilot that did not follow our basic rules of not flying alone at night and not getting permission to fly,” said Dean. “This is in our written agreement and signed by every student.”
He said the Key Biscayne crash was caused by debris blocking fuel from getting to the engine and that the instructor and student had followed proper protocol.
“The instructor and the pilot did exactly what we train for and walked away with a minor nose scratch,” he said.
Ukaere wasn’t the first student fatality in the flight school’s history. Records from the FAA show that the school has had 23 prior accidents in the past decade, including a student fatality in 2014. The FAA reportedly took action in several of the cases, issuing warning notices and fines to the school. The official reports cited a number of problems, including insufficient maintenance of fuel and oil fluid levels and failed pre-flight inspections.
“Our ration of accidents is far less then the other schools at our airport. Our aircrafts do approximately 50,000 flight hours per year compared to other schools that operate 10 to 15 aircraft per year and do 10,000 to 12,000 hours per year,” Dean said in defense of his school’s safety record.
Dean International Flight School has 50 airplanes and trains more than 350 pilots per year. It has reportedly graduated over 8,000 pilots from all over the world.
“We have the best school and maintenance department,” he added. “We continue to strive for no accidents or incidents and pray for all students and instructors to follow the rules that we have in place to keep us all safe and sound.”