The small plane that crashed into a residential area of Chofu, western Tokyo, last weekend was likely close to its weight limit as it was carrying five times as much fuel as needed, transport ministry officials said Tuesday.
In addition, the hot temperature of around 34 degrees at the time of the aircraft’s takeoff could have reduced the power of the plane’s engine and prevented it from gaining altitude, aviation sources said.
The Piper PA-46 crashed at around 11 a.m. Sunday, less than a minute after taking off from Chofu Airport.
The crash killed the pilot, Taishi Kawamura, and two others. They are believed to be Nozomi Suzuki, who lived in the house the plane crashed into, and All Nippon Airways Co. employee Mitsuru Hayakawa, a passenger in the pane, though police would not verify this.
Five other people were injured.
Police and the Japan Transport Safety Board are investigating whether the hot weather or the load weight was behind the cause of the accident while also looking into the possibility of engine trouble.
The aircraft, which was scheduled to make a one-hour flight to Izu Oshima Island about 100 km south, was carrying about 280 kg of fuel, enough for a five-hour flight, according to the flight plan submitted by the pilot.
The theoretical weight limit for the 1,200-kg aircraft was 1,950 kg. The fuel, along with the five men on board and their luggage, is likely to have brought the total weight of the plane to more than 1,850 kg.
A ministry official said it is possible the aircraft was fueled for a round trip and given extra fuel.
Single-engine propeller aircraft like the Piper PA-46 tend to drastically lose power when the outside temperature rises to around 35 degrees, the aviation sources said.
Little wind and the 800-meter-long runway at Chofu Airfield may have also made it difficult for the plane to gain altitude considering its heavy load, they said.
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