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NTSB Releases Final Report On Plane Crash That Killed Four

Posted On March 26, 2014

By Mike Perleberg

Barbara and Dan Horan (left) and friends Denise and Stephen Butz (right) all died in the December 2, 2012 plane crash near Greensburg Municipal Airport. The couples left behind a total of six children. file photo

Barbara and Dan Horan (left) and friends Denise and Stephen Butz (right) all died in the December 2, 2012 plane crash near Greensburg Municipal Airport. The couples left behind a total of six children.
file photo

(Greensburg, Ind.) – The final report on a deadly plane crash in Greensburg that claimed four lives has been released.

Dan Horan, his wife Barbara, and friends Stephen and Denise Butz were all returning home from Florida one evening in December 2012. As Horan was preparing to land his single-engine Piper PA-46 airplane at Greensburg Municipal Airport, it crashed into a nearby field. Each of the plane’s occupants died at the scene.

On Monday, the National Transportation Safety Board released its final report on the crash. The probable cause, according to investigators, was “the pilot’s failure to maintain airplane control while maneuvering in night instrument meteorological conditions due to spatial disorientation.”

The report indicates Horan may have been trying to abort a landing at the airport because he was below the missed approach point’s minimum altitude. Foggy and misty weather in the night sky played a factor.

Horan made a climbing right turn, which is when serious trouble set in.

“This turn was not consistent with the published missed approach procedure. The airplane then began a series of left and right ascending and descending turns to various altitudes. The last few seconds of recorded data indicated that the airplane entered a descending left turn,” the NTSB report stated.

Two witnesses heard the airplane flying low overhead at a low altitude shortly before the crash.

Visibility was less than two miles with a cloud ceiling of just 300 feet that night, according to the report. It was those weather conditions that may have caused the pilot to become disoriented.

“Federal Aviation Administration Flight Training Handbook Advisory Circular 61-21A cautions that pilots are particularly vulnerable to spatial disorientation during periods of low visibility due to conflicts between what they see and what their supporting senses, such as the inner ear and muscle sense, communicate,” the report noted.

Investigators determined the runway’s lights and the plane were functioning properly.

A second plane that had been travelling with the Horans and Butzs from Florida had attempted to land at Greensburg Municipal Airport  about 30 minutes earlier. That pilot also missed the runway approach and opted to land at a different airport.

The NTSB final report on the deadly plan crash is available online at http://www.ntsb.gov/aviationquery/brief.aspx?ev_id=20121203X20807&key=1.

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