NTSB blames jammed part for UM basketball plane mishap
Investigators say a plane carrying the University of Michigan men’s basketball team skidded off a runway in 2017 after a jammed part prevented pilots from tilting the nose upward during takeoff.
The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that the pilots could not have recognized the mechanical problem on the Boeing MD-83 before the accident at the Willow Run Airport.
The board says the plane was speeding down the runway at 158 mph on March 8, 2017, when the captain aborted the takeoff. The plane was still going 115 mph when it ran off the end of the runway, rolled 950 feet, hit a fence and crossed a paved road before stopping.
The 110 passengers and six crew members used emergency chutes to escape. One passenger suffered minor injuries.
Washtenaw County, where the airport is located, was under a high wind advisory on the day of the incident. The preliminary NTSB report said wind speeds at the time were 35 knots (about 40 mph) with gusts of 50 knots (about 56 mph).
The basketball program said at the time that the plane attempted to take off in high winds but the captain aborted the takeoff, braked and then the plane skidded off the end of Runway 23L at the Ypsilanti airport.
The NTSB also previously released part of its investigative report revealing that pilot Mark Radloff broke protocol by aborting takeoff while traveling at 187 mph, though his decision ended up saving all 116 lives.
The plane was "substantially damaged," according to the NTSB.
The charter flight was operated by Ameristar Charters. In addition to the Michigan men’s basketball team, cheerleaders, band members and members of the staff’s families were also on board.
The team was headed to Washington Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia for a Big Ten tournament game against Illinois.
Associated Press contributed.