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Questions Surround Aaliyah Crash

The mourning continued Wednesday for pop star Aaliyah, amidst reports that the pilot of the young singer's ill-fated flight was not licensed to fly the aircraft and had a history of drug abuse.

The pilot, Louis Morales III, 30, who also died in the crash that killed Aaliyah and members of her entourage Saturday, had pleaded no contest to charges of cocaine possession just 12 days before the crash and had a criminal record, the Miami Herald reported Wednesday.

The Herald also reported that Morales did not have FAA authorization to fly the Cessna 402B for the plane's operators, Blackhawk International Airways. The plane, bound for Opa Locka Airport in South Florida, crashed during take-off in the Bahamas, killing all eight people on board.

According to FAA records, Blackhawk is cleared to fly charters under what is known as a single-pilot certificate, "meaning only one pilot was authorized to fly the plane that crashed," said Kathleen Bergen, the FAA's Atlanta spokeswoman.

Morales was not the authorized pilot, Bergen told the Herald.

The Daily News of New York reported Wednesday that the FAA had cited Blackhawk for safety violations nine times in four years. In June 1999, the FAA warned Blackhawk that it was not following drug testing guidelines, the Herald said.

Morales held a commercial pilot's certificate to fly multiengine aircraft with an instrument rating, a certification that Bergen said qualified him to fly the Cessna. Bergen also told the Herald that Morales had no rule violations on his brief record as a pilot.

However, the FAA is still trying to decipher the relationship between a company called Skystream, the registered owner of the plane, and Blackhawk, which is listed on Customs documents as the flight's "operator," the Herald reported. It is not uncommon for an owner to lease a plane to an operator, but Bergen said the Blackhawk-Skystream connection was murky.

"The whole thing is still under investigation, and under what certificate that flight was operating has not been established," Bergen said.

Morales had received probation on the cocaine charges, a sentence that also covered earlier charges of receiving stolen property and third-degree grand theft, the Herald reported. It was not yet clear if the criminal charges would have affected his flying privileges.

U.S. and Bahamian aviation officials are also investigating whether excess weight from baggage and overloading contributed to the crash.

Meanwhile, friends and fans remained distraught by Aaliyah's death, which has resonated throughout the music industry. MTV has dedicated hours of programming to commemorate the 22-year-old singer.

In Hollywood, Calif., a record store billboard has become an impromptu memorial for singer-actress Aaliyah, with one of the hundreds of handwritten messages imploring: "Keep on singing up in heaven."

"It felt very sad," said Celina Torres, 11, as fans scrawled their feelings on a 10-foot-high sign promoting Aaliyah's latest album. "We watched her videos on MTV and my dad brought us to get her CDs."

Colleagues at the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards on Tuesday night also mourned the star.

"What brings peace to my heart is that she was able to do what she loved to do," singer-actor Tyrese said. Aaliyah was among those nominated for an award, but did not win.

The performer's body was flown Tuesday to New York; the bodies of Morales and the other victims were to be returned to the United States on Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.