Observations: November 10 Crash of Perry Inhofe’s Mitsubishi MU-2B Airplane


The November 10, 2013, crash of a Mitsubishi MU-2B in Owasso, Oklahoma, is the most recent in a long list of MU-2 crashes that have occurred near the airport while taking off or landing. 

Many of these crashes have been the result of a mechanical problem with the Honeywell TPE-331 engine and the MU-2’s wing design. The aerodynamics of the wing design make approach and landing single-engine operations challenging or even impossible.

I have investigated numerous engine-failure / loss-of-control MU-2 accidents including those at Ft. Pierce, Florida, Woodlands, Texas, Centennial, Colorado, and San Antonio, Texas.

The accident history of the aircraft is similarly telling. Based on National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) statistics and Mitsubishi production records, approximately one-third of the fleet has been involved in an accident and approximately a quarter of the fleet has been involved in a fatal accident.

Perry Inhofe’s plane, registered as N856JT, departed Salina, Kansas, about 3:06 p.m. on Sunday with a destination of Tulsa International, located 204 miles away. A review of the radar data for the flight shows the aircraft in normal flight until about 3:45 p.m., when the aircraft was nearing Tulsa. It then made several turns and the descent rate increased.  About this same time, other pilots in the area heard the pilot of the aircraft say he was having engine problems.

Reviewing the video of the crash scene, the aircraft’s left propeller appears to have a couple of blades that are undamaged and the blades appear to be in the “feather” position. Propeller blades in this position is not normal and is indicative of an engine that is not producing power. The MU-2 has a system called the “negative torque sensing system” that automatically puts the blades at 80% of feather when the system senses the engine is not producing power.

We will continue to monitor this crash for further developments. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Inhofe family.