[Editor’s Note: This is another case of where what was said to the press initially regarding pilot skills, turns out to be something less glowing in the final NTSB report.]
On November 5th 2006, a teenage pilot and his father, both active Civil Air Patrol members, died and two other young men were injured when their rental plane crashed in a field in northern Oklahoma. The 2003 Cessna Skyhawk, N53443, registered to Yingling Aircraft, Inc. was destroyed.
Ryan Markham Sageser, 17, and his father, Markham L. Sageser, 46, both of Wichita, Kansas, were pronounced dead at the crash site, four miles west of Hominy in Osage County, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said.
Their 18 year old back-seat passengers John Phillip Rice and Ryan Samuel Biedron, both Wichita residents, were transported by helicopter to St. John Medical Center in Tulsa with leg and internal injuries. Both were listed in fair condition Sunday night, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The 2003 Cessna Skyhawk was flying back to Wichita from a Ben Folds concert (Rock This Bitch, Jesusland, Bitches Ain’t Shit) in Tulsa when it crashed about 1:45 a.m. The impact threw Ryan Sageser and Biedron out of the plane, while Markham Sageser and Rice were pinned in the wreckage for several hours, authorities said.
The initial description of the events to the press at the time of the crash appeared in the papers as follows:
“From what we can tell, through records and flight log books, the pilot knew how to fly. The weather was good enough for him to fly,” said NTSB investigator William Gamble. “It was a fairly good airplane and fairly maintained, but we may not know the cause of the crash for weeks.”
At the time, other Civil Air Patrol members were also generous in their description of the two men who were active with Emerald City Squadron in Wichita, Kansas. Ryan Sageser was the squadron cadet commander and his father was the Public Affairs Officer.
The NTSB released their final report on July 25th 2007. Their findings differed greatly from what was initially stated to the press.
Civil Air Patrol Cadet Major Ryan Sageser held a private pilot certificate for airplane single-engine land and had just received his certificate on August 30, 2006. He was reported to have accumulated a total of 61 hours of flight time, which included 4.1 hours of night time, and 4.0-hours of simulated instrument time.
The pilot’s father, First Lieutenant Markham L. Sageser, was occupying the right front seat of the airplane, had flown as a student pilot in previous years; however, he never received a pilot certificate.
The overcast sky condition, reduced visibility due to rain and the scattered cloud layer, as well as the unpopulated terrain over the route of flight from Tulsa to Ponca City presented little illumination for ground references or a visible horizon. Local police helicopter support for search and rescue operations was delayed due to IFR conditions with their helicopter only being equipped for flight in VFR conditions.
The statements of both surviving passengers contained similar accounts of the mishap. During the first attempt to fly back to Wichita, the aircraft flew into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), including dense clouds and turbulence. The surviving passengers reported that the pilot “did not like the weather conditions” and decided to return to the Tulsa Airport. Once on the ground, the pilot checked the weather once again and told the passengers that he would try again and fly a different route of flight. The pilot explained that his new route of flight would be “perpendicular to the storm line” and would take them through the weather much faster.
The surviving passengers confirmed that during the mishap flight, the aircraft again flew into dense clouds and turbulence. The pilot was overheard to say he didn’t like what he was flying into. One of the surviving passengers noticed the altimeter indicated they were flying at less than 2,000 feet.
The airplane collided with terrain approximately 22.9 nautical miles northwest of Tulsa International Airport. The elevation at the initial point of impact was a measured 1,015 feet MSL.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s continued cruise flight into adverse weather conditions, and his failure to maintain clearance from terrain. Contributing factors were the dark night conditions, and the low ceilings.