NTSB: Plane Lost Power Minutes Before Crash That Killed Former OU QB, Tulsa Businessman

Wednesday, March 4th 2015, 3:25 pm
By: Richard Clark

The crash that killed former OU quarterback Steve Davis and Tulsa businessman Wes Caves happened after the plane's engines apparently lost power minutes before reaching the airport, according to information in a new NTSB report.

The twin engine Hawker Beechcraft model 390 Premier 1 jet crashed into houses near the airport in South Bend, Indiana on March 17, 2013.

The crash killed Caves and Davis, and seriously injured two other men on the plane and one person on the ground.

3/17/2013: Related Story: Small Jet From Tulsa Crashes At South Bend Airport, Killing Two

On Wednesday the National Transportation Safety Board released its Factual Report on the crash. It's the NTSB's second of three reports on the incident. The NTSB saves its analysis and finding of probable cause on a crash for its final report, but the Factual Report contains the information on which it bases its conclusions.

The twin-engine business jet was equipped with a cockpit voice recorder which the NTSB says contained about 31 minutes of conversation, radio transmissions and other audio leading up to the crash.

According to the recorder, Caves and Davis discussed a variety of topics related to piloting the aircraft, including how much fuel it would require for the return flight to Jones Riverside Airport and how to use its flight management systems.

4/5/2013: Related Story: NTSB: Airplane 'Lost All Power' Before Crash That Killed Steve Davis, Pilot

Several statements in the conversation indicate Davis was flying the plane while Caves explained how to use its systems.

The flight proceeded smoothly, according to the transcript, until the jet neared the airport in South Bend. Caves coached Davis in how to maintain a certain airspeed as the plane descended to prepare for landing, the transcript shows. The discussion included Caves telling Davis more than once to move the throttles back in order to slow the plane down to the desired speed, according to the transcript.

At 4:14:29 p.m. Eastern time, the pilot said "uh-oh" and Davis replied, "What?" according to the report.

The report says at 4:14:33, there's a sound similar to the landing gear warning horn for 3.5 seconds, then at 4:14:35, Caves told Davis, "You went back behind the stops and we lost power."

The report says “finger levers, or pull-up locks, were installed to prevent the inadvertent movement of the thrust levers from flight idle into the fuel cutoff position.”

According to the transcript, Caves then tried to restart the engines while informing ground controllers of the emergency.

At 4:15:08, Caves radioed the approach controller, "South Bend, we have an emergency, two six delta kilo. Dead engines, dead stick, no power."

At 4:15:30, the controller asked for the pilot's intentions and Caves replied "uh, we've lost all power and we have no hydraulics."

At 4:15:53, Caves told the controller "We have no navigation. If you could give us a vector please. We have no heading either. Which -- you're gonna have to tell us which way to fly."

At 4:16:32, the NTSB says, the recorder stopped working while the airplane was still airborne with both engines not running.

The airplane then made an attempt to land. Since only its nose gear was extended, a ground controller told the pilot to go around. Witnesses told the NTSB the airplane bounced several times on the runway on its second attempt, with the main landing gear still retracted. It then made a climbing right turn, rolled over and crashed.

The report states investigators studied the sounds recorded by the cockpit voice recorder and determined that the pilot made one attempt to restart one of the engines before the crash. However, according to the report, the switches weren't set correctly.

According to the Factual Report on this incident, the plane was owned by 7700 Enterprises of Montana, a company owned by Caves, which does business in Tulsa as DigiCut Sales.

Caves, 58, and Davis, 60, were joined on the flight by passengers Jim Rodgers and his son-in-law Christopher Evans.

The NTSB report says Davis was an experienced pilot with 1,877.2 total flight hours. Caves had about 613 hours, with 171 hours in the type of airplane he was flying when the crash happened.

According to the NTSB, Caves' son told investigators Davis was not affiliated with Caves' company and was on the flight as a friend. Caves and Davis knew each other from college, when they became acquainted as student-athletes at the University of Oklahoma, Davis as a football player and Caves as a wrestler.

Caves' son told the NTSB Caves and Davis had had no contact with each other after college until a few months before the fatal flight, when Davis began looking for volunteer pilots who would fly for charitable organizations.

The NTSB points out in this report that it is an interim factual summary of the investigation. The NTSB usually completes the Probable Cause Report a few months after the Factual Report on a particular crash.