NTSB Releases Factual Report On 2011 Plane Crash That Killed OSU Coaches, Supporters
Perryville, Arkansas - The National Transportation Safety Board has released its second report on the plane crash that killed four people connected to the Oklahoma State University women's basketball team.
The crash happened on November 17, 2011 near Perryville, Arkansas. The crash killed OSU women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant women's basketball coach Miranda Serna, as well as Olin and Paula Branstetter.
The latest NTSB report on the crash is called the Factual Report. It is the second of three reports the NTSB will release on the crash and does not include any conclusions as to what caused the crash. It does, however, answer many questions about the incident.
For instance, immediately after the crash it wasn't clear who was actually flying the plane, a single-engine Piper PA-28-180.
Both Olin Branstetter and his wife, Paula, were experienced pilots. According to the Factual Report, Mr. Branstetter was at the controls when the plane crashed. Coach Budke was sitting in the right front seat, Coach Serna was seated behind him and Paula Branstetter was seated behind her husband, in the left rear seat.
According to the report, the Branstetters had flown from Ponca City to Stillwater to pick up Budke and Serna for a recruiting trip to Little Rock, Arkansas.
Employees at the Stillwater airport say the plane landed at about 1:45 that afternoon and did not receive any services, including fuel, while on the ground.
The NTSB report says that about two hours later, radar data showed the plane at an altitude of 7,000 feet on a southeasterly heading. At about 4:10 p.m., the airplane turned right and descended, then disappeared from radar. There were no air traffic control communications with the airplane.
According to the report, the weather was clear at the time of the crash, with visibility at 10 miles and a temperature of 52 degrees Fahrenheit.
"Witnesses near the accident site reported seeing the airplane flying at a low altitude and making turns. They then observed the airplane enter a steep nose-low attitude prior to descending toward the terrain," according to the report.
Olin Branstetter, 82,the pilot, was a certificated flight instructor certificate for airplane single engine airplanes. He was issued a third class medical certificate on April 1, 2010, with a restriction for corrective lenses for near and distant vision. The NTSB says he had more than 2,200 hours total time, with over 350 hours in the airplane that crashed.
His wife, Paula, 79, had more than 1,145 hours, most of which were accrued in the plane that crashed. She was issued a third class medical on August 26, 2011, without restrictions.
According to the NTSB, neither pilot had practiced night landings recently enough to satisfy FAA requirements for landing at night with passengers. Although not relevant at the time of the crash, the planned itinerary for the roundtrip flight would have included a night landing, at about 11 p.m.
The report notes that Oklahoma State University had limited oversight of the donor flight program at the time of the crash. "Coaches and staff were allowed to arrange travel directly with the donors without notification to the university," according to the NTSB.
"There was no requirement to verify pilot qualifications and airplane inspections; in this case, the pilots did not have documentation supporting the completion of currency requirements for a night landing with passengers," the investigator notes.
"Although the athletic department had an oversight program for student athletes, coaches and staff were exempt from the requirement. OSU's travel policy has since been modified to include coaches and staff into a program similar to the oversight provided to student athletes. The new policy would include a review of pilots and aircraft by an aviation consultant."
The final report on the crash, called the Probable Cause Report, could take months or even years to be issued by the NTSB.