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THE NATION

Pilot on Flight That Killed Pop Star Was Unauthorized

August 30, 2001|From Associated Press

MIAMI — The pilot of the ill-fated Bahamas flight carrying pop star Aaliyah and eight others did not have federal authorization to fly the plane and had been in court on a crack cocaine possession charge 12 days before the deadly crash, authorities said Wednesday.

Luis Antonio Morales Blanes, 30, had not been listed as the pilot for the twin-engine Cessna by Blackhawk International Airways, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.

She said the company is cleared to fly charters under an air-taxi certificate, which authorizes a single pilot to fly the plane. Bergen said that pilot wasn't Morales.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation. U.S. and Bahamian aviation officials are investigating whether excess weight from baggage--among other possible causes--contributed to Saturday's crash.

NBC "Nightly News" on Wednesday, citing unidentified sources, said the plane was over its maximum takeoff weight by 700 to 1,500 pounds. Leeland Russell, police chief on Abaco Island where the plane crashed, told Associated Press that the plane's contents have been weighed, but he would not comment on whether the plane was overloaded.

The Cessna was bound for Opa-locka, Fla., when it went down shortly after takeoff on Abaco Island, 100 miles north of Nassau. Everyone aboard was killed in the crash or died later of their injuries.

Aaliyah, a Grammy-nominated star with a platinum-selling album and high-profile movie roles to her credit, had come to the Bahamas with the others to shoot a music video.

Bergen said the FAA was still trying to clarify the relationship between Blackhawk and the plane's registered owner, a Florida company called Skystream.

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