NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


SPATIAL DISORIENTATION CITED IN CRASH OF AIRPLANE CARRYING OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSTY ATHLETES

January 23, 2003

Washington, DC - The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that the probable cause of the crash of a Raytheon (Beech) King Air 200 aircraft (N81PF) near Strasburg, Colorado, was “the pilot’s spatial disorientation resulting from his failure to maintain positive manual control of the airplane with the available flight instrumentation.”

A contributing factor was the loss of alternating current (AC) electrical power during instrument meteorological conditions.

The accident occurred on January 27, 2001, shortly after the aircraft, operated by Jet Express Services, departed Jefferson County Airport, Broomfield, Colorado, for Stillwater, Oklahoma, on an instrument flight rules flight plan. N81PF, with two pilots and eight passengers aboard, was one of three airplanes transporting members of the Oklahoma State University (OSU) basketball team and associated team personnel after a game at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The aircraft was destroyed, and there were no survivors.

The Board found that icing was not a factor in this accident, nor was there evidence of a cabin pressurization problem. The physical evidence recovered from the wreckage site and the recorded radar data, the Board said, indicated that a complete loss of AC electrical power occurred aboard the airplane. This loss of power should have been readily apparent to the pilot.

The Board concluded that the pilot did not appropriately manage the workload associated with troubleshooting the loss of AC electrical power and establishing and maintaining positive control of the airplane. The airplane’s estimated flight path in the final two minutes of flight was consistent with a steep spiral resulting from spatial disorientation. While the AC electrical failure contributed to the accident, the Board said, it was not a causal factor because non-AC-powered instrumentation remained available for the duration of the flight for the pilot to use to safely fly and land the airplane.

Although the university’s air transportation policy was not causal to the accident, the Board concluded that OSU did not provide any significant oversight for the accident flight. The university’s Flight Department had no records on file regarding the pilots or the accident airplane, as required by OSU policy, and, as the accident flight was a donated flight, it was not coordinated with the Flight Department manager, as were charter flights and flights involving university airplanes.

The university has since adopted a revised, comprehensive transportation management system that ensures the necessary oversight for athletic team and other school-sponsored travel and provides a greater margin of safety for students, faculty and staff.

The Board recommended that collegiate associations review OSU’s post-accident transportation policy and develop, jointly or independently, a model policy for member institutions to use in creating or strengthening their travel programs.

The accident report, containing the Board’s findings and recommendations, can be found on the NTSB web site, www.ntsb.gov.

NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100

 

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.