Maxwell: London Features International
September 03, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

MAXWELL SMART For the fourth straight week, the top album on the Billboard chart is ”Now,” but this week, it’s soul man Maxwell‘s ”Now,” which debuts at No. 1 with sales of 296,375, according to SoundScan. Previous champ ”NOW That’s What I Call Music! Vol. 7” drops to No. 3 (211,525 copies), elbowed out by Maxwell and another strong debut, Juvenile‘s ”Project English” (213,475 units). Also pushed down two slots were Alicia Keys‘ ”Songs in A Minor” (No. 4, 165,475 sold) and ‘N Sync‘s ”Celebrity (No. 5, 138,550 records).

Still in the top 10 were the Isley Brothers‘ ”Eternal” (No. 6), Linkin Park‘s ”Hybrid Theory” (No. 7), Usher‘s ”8701” (No. 8), Staind‘s ”Break the Cycle” (No. 9), and Jennifer Lopez‘s ”J. Lo” (No. 10).

Expect hard rockers Slipknot to shake up this pop/R&B-heavy list with ”Iowa,” next week’s probable chart victor. Also, watch for Aaliyah‘s self-titled album, which rose eight spots to No. 19 upon news of her death, to climb even further.

CON AIR While the cause of Aaliyah‘s fatal plane crash last weekend is still under investigation, officials revealed Wednesday that pilot Luis Morales had been convicted of cocaine possession just 12 days before the flight, and that he was not the pilot the Federal Aviation Administration had authorized to fly that plane. Police in Pompano Beach, Fla. had stopped Morales on July 7 for running a stop sign, and they reported finding traces of crack on his front seat and in a plastic bag. On August 13, Morales pleaded no contest to charges of cocaine possession, driving with a suspended license, dealing in stolen property, and grand theft. The last two charges stemmed from a November incident in which he allegedly stole model airplane parts and a toolbox from a hobby store and tried to sell them back to the merchant. Morales, 30, was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to undergo drug testing.

While the FAA had qualified Morales to fly Cessna 402B aircraft, he was not authorized to fly that particular plane, which was operated by charter service Blackhawk International Airways under a single-pilot certificate that listed someone else, whose name the FAA has not released, as the authorized pilot. In any case, the felony conviction should have been grounds, under FAA rules, for the agency to revoke Morales’ pilot license, but the FAA had not yet done so. The FAA has cited Blackhawk three times in the last four years for such safety violations as failure to follow drug-testing guidelines and performing improper aircraft maintenance.

Meanwhile, investigators from the U.S. and the Bahamas continue to look into the supposed failure of one of the plane’s two engines and possible overloading as potential causes of the crash. Witnesses said that Morales had trouble starting both engines of the propeller plane, and that baggage handlers had argued with the eight passengers over packing the plane with so much gear from Aaliyah’s music video shoot for the song ”Rock the Boat.” An ”NBC Nightly News” report cited unnamed sources who speculated that the plane was between 700 and 1,500 pounds over its maximum takeoff weight, but authorities won’t know for certain until they finish retrieving and weighing the luggage (they have already weighed the bodies and sent them back to the U.S.).

Aaliyah’s family plans a private service Friday at New York’s Frank E. Campbell funeral home, but Virgin Records promises to stage a public memorial for fans.

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