POLK COUNTY, Fla. - Pilot inexperience is the likely cause of fatal plane crash that killed a Kansas businessman, his wife and their four children in a swampy area of Florida in 2012, according to federal aviation officials.
Ronald Bramlage purchased the turboprop plane about five weeks before crashing about 50 miles southwest of Orlando. The National Transportation Safety Board determined the plane's autopilot disengaged while he and his family were returning from a vacation in the Bahamas, and Bramlage couldn't maintain control of the aircraft, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/1ym4ZfN ).
The crash killed the Junction City businessman, his wife Becky and their children: Brandon, 15; Boston, 13; Beau, 11; and Roxanne, 8. Ronald Bramlage was the grandson of Fred Bramlage, the namesake of Kansas State University's basketball arena.
Bramlage had completed ground and simulator training for the aircraft, and had logged about 14 hours of flight time as pilot-in-command of the plane, according to the NTSB report.
Bramlage had been a pilot since 1994, and obtained his instrument rating in 1997. But the NTSB report said that prior to purchasing the 2006 single-engine Pilatus PC-12/47 aircraft, he had not logged any time as pilot-in-command of a turbo-propeller plane. He had not logged any instrument flight time for more than seven years, the report said.
"Although the pilot likely met the minimum qualification standards to act as pilot-in-command by federal aviation regulations, his lack of experience in the make and model airplane was evidenced by the fact that he did not maintain control of the airplane after the autopilot disengaged," the report stated.
During its descent from more than 25,000 feet, the plane was traveling at 338 knots — more than twice as fast as the maximum operating maneuvering speed, the NTSB reported. A nearby pilot reported hearing a mayday call.
The report said Bramlage took steps that placed stress on both wings. Part of the right wing broke off and punched a hole in the fuselage, causing his 13-year-old son to be ejected from the plane.
It was the same plane that once flew Casey Anthony out of Orlando after she was released from jail following her trial.