A husband and wife died in a small plane crash in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 27, 2018. The plane crashed at Millard Airport at around 8:45 a.m. local time after veering down the runway for takeoff. Rescuers noted that as they arrived the plane was on fire, sending black smoke into the air. One of the victims died in the crash while the other died from injuries later in the hospital. The small plane crash highlights some of the dangers of flying in personal aircraft.
Nebraska Plane Crash Victims Identified
Killed in the plane crash were David Steier, a 63-year-old accountant, and his wife Arlene Steier, 61-years-old. David died at the scene while Arlene died from her injuries at CUMC Bergan.
The Steiers were well-known in the Omaha aviation community as both David and Arlene had their pilot’s licenses for many years. It is not clear who was flying the 1962 Beechcraft Bonanza P35 when it crashed.
Arlene was heavily involved in the aviation community, sharing her passion for flying with children and teens, and taking part in local university aviation explorer’s programs. In 2018, Gov. Pete Ricketts appointed Arlene to the Nebraska Aeronautics Commission. In announcing the appointment, Arlene noted that since 9/11 it is impossible to go to the airport and watch the airplanes coming and going, making aviation more mysterious. This made her concerned about a potential pilot shortage, as children are less exposed to aviation than they were in the past.
Lauren Miltenberger, David and Arlene’s daughter, said her parents often took flights over Omaha for fun and may not have been traveling anywhere. She remembered them as beloved parents and grandparents and said the family would honor their beautiful memory.
NTSB Investigating Crash at Millard Airport
Although the investigation is still in its early stages, witnesses said it was not likely that the weather was a factor in the crash, with high visibility, clear skies, and winds at eight miles per hour. Investigators said the plane crashed only moments after it took off, cartwheeling down the runway.
Included in the investigation are two videos of the plane crash, which the NTSB will review. Millard Airport was closed on Sunday during the investigation but reopened after the Beechcraft was moved to a hangar near the crash scene. The plane, which landed with its tail in the air, was damaged by the fire, which could affect the evidence available to investigators. In addition to the physical evidence, investigators will also look at the pilots, their training, weather conditions, and any other factors that may have played a role in the crash. Radio calls will help determine who was flying the plane.
Assisting the NTSB is a representative of the company that manufactures the Beechcraft’s engine-Continental Motors-and the Federal Aviation Administration.
A preliminary report is typically released within a few weeks of a crash, while a full report could take a year or more. The Beechcraft does not have a black box, but other equipment on the plane could provide vital data about the crash.
Investigators Note the Possibility of Another Plane Associated with the Incident
In an initial briefing, Aaron Sauer, senior air safety investigator with the NTSB, said the plane was only airborne for a few moments before it crashed to the right of the runway. Investigators are not sure where the plane was headed but said there might have been another plane on the same trip that departed before the plane carrying the Steiers.
Witnesses Describe Pilots Struggling with Airport Fence
People who live near the crash site told reporters that a barbed-wire fence at the airport gave pilots some difficulty, including some who struggled to clear the fence.
“I saw a number of pilots miss that fence on approach (and have to adjust),” said Jeff Sheehan. “Something happened there where he went into that (ground) hard.”
Witness Steve Michael is a pilot with 24 years’ experience. He told the Omaha World-Herald the plane swerved as it sped up for take-off, lifted 20 feet into the air, then dipped to one side causing a wing to hit the ground and sending the plane cartwheeling. As it attempted take-off, the plane crossed two grassy strips next to the runway, making it appear the pilot had lost control of the aircraft and was trying to regain it.
Michael and a mechanic who was with him ran to the plane to see if there was anything they could do. According to Michael, Arlene Steier was ejected from the plane and was still breathing when they made their way to her.
The last fatal crash at Millard Airport was in December 2005. In that crash, three people were killed when the plane they were in crashed shortly after it took off.