Investigation Continues Into Owasso Plane Crash That Killed Senator's Son

Tuesday, November 12th 2013, 4:17 pm
By: Craig Day

The Tulsa County Medical Examiner's Office has officially confirmed Dr. Perry Inhofe was the pilot who lost his life in an Owasso plane crash Sunday afternoon.

He was killed just one day before his 52nd birthday while he was flying home to Tulsa from Salina, Kansas.

Inhofe was the surgeon son of U.S. Senator James M. Inhofe. He is survived by his wife, Nancy, and sons Glade and Cole.

His plane crashed near 98th Street North and Memorial Drive on Sunday. Witnesses say they saw the twin-engine plane circling and then crash into the woods. Those witnesses also say they saw one of the plane's engines were out.

11/11/2013 Related Story: Dr. Perry Inhofe, Son Of Sen. Jim Inhofe, Killed In Owasso Plane Crash

Perry Inhofe was an orthopedic surgeon for Central States Orthopedics, which released a statement Tuesday afternoon.

"We are heartbroken for the Inhofe family. He is one of our shareholders, and the staff is numb by the tragic news," said Central States Orthopedics CEO David Long.

"Family was first with Dr. Inhofe and he considered those of us here at the office as an extension of his family."

11/11/2013 Related Story: Colleague, Patients Mourn Death Of Dr. Perry Inhofe In Owasso Plane Crash

"He died doing what he loved. He was a pilot in command and had been flying since he was a teenager," said Long.

The National Transportation Safety Board expects to haul off the wreckage by Thursday, but they were able to recover both engines and the propeller on Tuesday.

FAA records show Inhofe has just recently bought the 1974 Mitsubishi MU-2B aircraft. While some question the safety record of that type of aircraft, a longtime MU-2 pilot says it's a well-built and safe aircraft.

Earle Martin flies the same type of plane Inhofe was piloting. Martin has an air charter business based out of Houston, but he gets maintenance on his plane done in Tulsa.

He's flown a Mitsubishi MU-2 model for 24 years.

"I've had wonderful experiences with it, I don't intend to fly anything else in my career," Martin said.

The safety record of the MU-2, which has short- and long-bodied versions, has prompted scrutiny from the FAA. But Martin says it's a very responsive, stable aircraft.

"It does take some more expertise in terms of getting used to the speeds and getting used to the handling characteristics, and that's one reason they instituted a special training program seven years ago," he said.

Since that FAA-required training program started seven years ago, there have been only two fatal crashes involving the aircraft compared to 19 in the previous seven years.

Martin credits the added training and owners investing money to get airplanes fitted with the latest technology and upgrades.

"We've had the best safety accident record in the past seven years of any aircraft, repeat, any aircraft in this class," he said.

Co-workers say Inhofe was an experienced, commercially-rated and multi-engine pilot with about 3,000 hours logged with the FAA.

He was also a certified flight instructor.

Dr. Inhofe served patients in northeast Oklahoma at Central States Orthopedics since 1994.

Mitsubishi released a statement on the crash:

"Mitsubishi and the MU-2 family of owners and operators are deeply saddened by the loss of life suffered during this accident. Our hearts and prayers go out to the pilot's family and loved ones. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident and all information regarding it will be issued through the NTSB."