NTSB reports released on fatal OSU plane crash


Wednesday, August 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Reports from the National Transportation Safety Board indicated power losses to certain instruments aboard an ill-fated Oklahoma State University plane, but no conclusions on what caused the aircraft to go down.

The NTSB on Tuesday released hundreds of pages of raw investigative material on the Jan. 27 crash that killed 10 people associated with the OSU men's basketball program. The two pilots, two reserve basketball players and six others were returning to Stillwater from a game against the University of Colorado.

The reports offered no cause of the accident and they didn't provide analysis of how the electrical power loss may have led the plane to crash in a snowy field 40 miles east of Denver about 20 minutes after take off.

Kevin Hofsas, of Byers, Colo., told the NTSB that the plane was ``over-revving'' just before impact and sounded as if ``the pilot were putting the plane through multiple pitch and altitude changes.''

Hofsas said it sounded at first as if the pilot were doing aerobatics.

The NTSB has ruled out engine failure and focused on the plane's electrical power partly because its transponder had stopped sending altitude data back to air traffic controllers.

The reports also showed several gauges with readings that indicated a loss of power, such as the altimeter being frozen at 23,200 feet. If the instrument had it been properly working at the time of the crash, it would have reflected the drop in altitude.

When controllers last talked to pilot Denver Ray Mills at 6:26 p.m. Oklahoma time as he was climbing from 16,300 feet to 23,000 feet, Mills reported no problems. The plane crashed about 10 minutes later.

``According to the Sperry Flight Systems Maintenance Manual, the flag comes into view when the Air Data Computer goes invalid or the altimeter loses primary power,'' one report stated.

Others who were killed along with Mills were OSU basketball players Nate Fleming and Daniel Lawson; sports information employee Will Hancock; director of basketball operations Pat Noyes; trainer Brian Luinstra; student manager Jared Weiberg; broadcast engineer Kendall Durfey; Oklahoma City television broadcaster Bill Teegins; and co-pilot Bjorn Fahlstrom.

One of the reports released Tuesday says wreckage from the plane spread across 2,800 feet. The airplane traveled 125 feet from point of first impact.

The main wreckage was comprised of the cockpit, forward fuselage, nose landing gear, left inboard wing, left inboard flap, and fuselage belly. It came to rest upside-down about 125 feet southeast of the first impact point and showed fire damage.

Zane Fleming, whose son Nate was one of two players killed in the crash, had not seen the report Tuesday but said he was not surprised by the finding that the plane had lost power.

He said investigators hired by the family examined the wreckage and found that the plane had lost electrical power to its altimeter, which shows how high the aircraft is flying.

``We still don't know what caused the failure,'' he said. ``We're hoping to find out more information in regards to what happened and how it happened.''

That information could help protect student athletes who travel in the future, said Fleming, who plans to urge the NCAA to make any needed changes.

``If there are some responsibilities out there, we want to know where that lies,'' he said. ``The way those student athletes are transported today can be changed for the better. It's not just with Oklahoma State University. It's for all universities.''

The university issued a two-sentence statement Tuesday saying it joins with victims' families in thanking the NTSB for ``the hard work and exhaustive review that has provided us with the level of information contained in the report.''

``Along with the families, we await the NTSB's final conclusions,'' the statement said.

Following the crash, the University of Colorado announced its men's and women's basketball teams would take commercial flights rather than charters for the remainder of the season. The policy will be in effect for the 2001-02 season as well. OSU said it would continue to use small planes to travel.