NTSB: Weather Played Role In Plane Crash That Killed Tulsa Family And Friend

Wednesday, June 22nd 2011, 9:28 am
By: News On 6


TULSA, Oklahoma -- Federal investigators believe weather conditions and the pilot's disorientation played a part in a plane crash that killed the pilot, his family and a friend on Labor Day weekend of 2009.

The crash on September 5, 2009, killed Stephen, Dana, Laura, and Christina Lester as well as family friend Kenneth Veteto.

The plane struck a cable attached to an antenna shortly after taking off from Jones Riverside Airport that morning.

9/5/2009:  Related Story:  Five Tulsans Killed In Chandler Park Plane Crash

Dr. Stephen Lester and Kenneth Veteto were both deacons at Park Plaza Church of Christ on South Sheridan in Tulsa.  They were heading to Dallas to watch an OU football game.

9/6/2009:  Related Story:  Tulsa Crash Victims Remembered For Their Faith

According to the National Transportation Safety Board's latest report on the crash, investigators believe Stephen Lester became disoriented in the heavy mist that covered much of northeastern Oklahoma that morning.

The NTSB's Factual Report, which is the second of three reports the agency will issue on the crash, details what happened before and during the fatal flight.

Read the NTSB's Factual Report on the crash.

Lester used the phone to get a weather briefing at 6:30 that morning and decided to delay his flight for several hours because of the mist.

Chandler Park Crash

The NTSB says the single-engine Piper PA-32R-300 took off at 10:37 a.m.

Transcripts of the conversation between the pilot and a ground controller indicate a problem just a couple of minutes later.

The plane took off to the north, and a ground controller instructed the pilot to climb, to turn to the west-northwest and stay at an altitude of 4,000 feet.

But at 10:41:27, the pilot was still at 1,500 feet and the controller again instructed him to turn to a heading of 190.  The pilot acknowledges the transmission, but failed to turn.

At 10:41:39, the controller told the pilot to fly a heading of 090 degrees, or due east, because of antennas just to the northwest.

The controller also reminded the pilot that he was still at 1,500 feet and should be at 4,000 feet.

According to the report, "the pilot responded that he was climbing; however the controller informed the pilot that he was in fact descending. There were no further radio communications with the pilot."

The NTSB's next report on the crash will be the Probable Cause report, which is usually issued a few months after a Factual Report. 

Factual Reports usually do not contain any conclusions about what caused a particular crash, however this one does include an explanation of spatial disorientation.

It says, "...during periods of low visibility, the supporting senses sometimes conflict with what is seen, when this happens, a pilot is particularly vulnerable to disorientation. The degree of disorientation may vary considerably with individual pilots, Spatial (sic) disorientation to a pilot means simply the inability to tell which way is up."