Final Report: Spatial disorientation cited in death of Oklahoma State basketball players

 - January 4, 2008, 10:07 AM

King Air 200, Strasburg, Colo., Jan. 27, 2001–At about 5:37 p.m. MST, King Air N81PF–owned by North Bay Charter and operated by Jet Express Services–crashed into rolling terrain near Strasburg. The twin turboprop departed from Jefferson County Airport (BJC) in Broomfield, Colo. at approximately 5:18 p.m. with two pilots and eight members and associated personnel of the Oklahoma State University basketball team. They were on an IFR flight plan to Stillwater Regional Airport (SWO), Okla., after a game at the University of Colorado at Boulder that afternoon. The crash killed all 10 occupants and destroyed the airplane. IMC prevailed in the area of the accident, according to the NTSB.

The Safety Board determined the probable cause was the pilot’s spatial disorientation resulting from his failure to maintain positive  control of the airplane with the available flight instrumentation. The NTSB decided icing did not play a part in the accident but listed a contributing factor as the loss of AC electrical power during IMC. The Board stopped short of considering the electrical failure a causative factor because the aircraft had non-AC-powered instrumentation available and the failure should have been readily apparent to the crew.

The NTSB concluded that the crew did not properly manage the workload associated with the failure, resulting in loss of control of the aircraft. This was substantiated by its final flight path, which was observed by a witness to be a steep spiral indicative of spatial disorientation.

The NTSB was also critical of a lack of oversight for athletic team and other college- and university-sponsored travel. It issued a safety recommendation to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and the American Council on Education regarding oversight and the use of supplemental lift. The flight had been a donation and was conducted outside the purview of the university’s flight department manager.