The pilot of the plane carrying Aaliyah and seven others from the Bahamas to Florida Saturday pleaded no contest to cocaine possession less than two weeks before the fatal crash and was not authorized to fly the craft.
Aaliyah, pilot Luis Morales III and the other seven passengers, who included the singer’s security guard and makeup artist as well as representatives from her record label, were killed when the Cessna 402B crashed shortly after taking off from Marsh Harbour International Airport on Abaco Island (see “Aaliyah Killed In Plane Crash” ).
Morales, 30, was pulled over on August 7 when he drove his car through a stop sign in Pompano Beach, Florida, according to the Broward County Sheriff’s records. The police officer searched the car, found pieces of crack cocaine and booked Morales on a felony cocaine-possession charge, as well as charges of driving with a suspended license and running a stop sign, records show. Morales told the arresting officer he was in the area to purchase powder cocaine for a friend, according to the arrest report.
On August 13, Morales entered a no-contest plea to the possession charge, as well as to a November charge of possessing stolen property, records show. He was given three years’ probation, and the judge did not enter a decision on the condition that Morales successfully complete the probation, which included mandatory drug tests, according to the Broward County clerk of courts.
Morales’ no-contest plea meant that his pilot’s license should have been revoked under Federal Aviation Administration rules, according to FAA spokesperson Kathleen Bergen. While Morales’ license hadn’t been revoked yet, he was not authorized to fly the plane, which was operated by Blackhawk International Airways, according to Bergen.
Blackhawk is cleared to fly charter planes under a “single pilot certificate,” meaning that only one pilot was authorized to fly the plane that crashed, Bergen said. Such certificates are common for small air taxi services like Blackhawk, which only has two planes, she said.
Though she did not identify the authorized pilot, Bergen said it was not Morales. Morales’ license qualified him to fly Cessna 402B planes, but he was not on Blackhawk’s certificate. Bergen said “it would not be appropriate” for the FAA to release the name of the authorized pilot.
While Blackhawk International is on record as the plane’s operator, a company named Skystream is listed as the plane’s owner, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Transportation. Both companies list the same Pembroke Pines, Florida, address as their headquarters. Calls to Blackhawk were not returned, and no phone number was available for Skystream.
U.S. and Bahamian authorities are still investigating reports that engine failure and overloading contributed to the crash (see “Aaliyah Plane Crash Investigation: No End In Sight” ).