Thursday, February 26, 2015

Snow cited as cause of basketball team's airplane issues

WATERLOO (KWWL) -  Following their loss to the University of Northern Iowa basketball team, the Evansville Aces had a few hiccups getting home.

The Aces booked a private plane to take them back to Indiana, a twin-prop Jetstream 41. Before takeoff, the Evansville play by play commentator, Lance Wilkerson, tweeted, "About to fly out of Iowa. Say a prayer for us. Can't wait to see Eville."

The plane left safely, but as they climbed, the pilots noticed a problem.

"We have a vibration in the engine," one pilot says in the air-traffic recordings. "It's getting pretty bad so we're returning."

The controller then asked if they're declaring an emergency.

"Yes sir, we're declaring an emergency at this time," the pilot responds.

Back on the ground in Waterloo, fire crews stood at the ready, just in case.

Aviation Director Keith Kaspari said he was proud of his crews.

"When we got the call, we responded accordingly," he said. "We were in position, and of course, the aircraft landed safely."

The Evansville team spent another night in Iowa, with a few more tweets from Wilkerson.

"Plane is broke," he wrote. "Pilot did a great job getting us back. Firetruck was waiting on runway. Never in danger. All precautionary. Back to hotel."

The plane is operated by Corporate FlightManagementt, Inc, based in Smyrna, Tenn. Matt Chaifetz, the Chief Commercial Officer, said the issue was caused by blowing snow working its way into the plane's engine cowlings.

He said the aircraft wouldn't fit in the Waterloo hanger, so it sat on the runway.

"The way the aircraft was parked, and the way the wind was blowing, I mean, it would have to blow in a very particular way," Chaifetz said. "We're talking about a space that is maybe a half an inch or less around."

The plane was quickly repaired, and the team left around noon Thursday. They arrived safely home in the afternoon.

The Evansville basketball team is no stranger to aviation tragedy -- in 1977, most of the team and coaching staff were killed in a plane crash.

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