Fatal Illinois Plane Crash Blamed on Possible Disorientation

Posted on Oct 22, 2014

The preliminary NTSB report has been released on an October 12 plane crash that killed three doctors in Palos Hills, Illinois, and spatial disorientation may have been to blame.


The aircraft, a twin-engine Beechcraft Baron, was carrying three doctors from Midway Airport to Lawrence, Kansas. The pilot, neurosurgeon Tausif Rehman, as well as cardiologist Maria Javaid and pulmonologist Ali Kanchwala, had flown to Chicago for the day to visit friends. The aircraft took off at 10:35 p.m. and crashed about five minutes later. There was no distress calls from Rehman prior to the crash.


The weather at Midway Airport at the time of the crash was overcast at 1,400 feet above the ground. Radar data shows that the plane climbed to 2,200 feet above mean sea level before turning and descending to 1,500 feet MSL. The plane then began a left climbing turn to an altitude of 2,000 feet MSL where it lost radar contact.


The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report points to spatial disorientation as the primary reason for the crash, citing the left circling turns as an indication that Rehman had lost his bearings. Left descending turns, often called a graveyard spiral, are common with pilots who have become disoriented in instrument conditions, as the plane’s left-turning tendencies make a descending left spiral feel similar to straight and level flight.


Rehman was a private pilot certified in multi-engine aircraft, but it was not clear if he has received his instrument rating. An instrument flight plan had not been filed prior to his departure from Midway. Investigators say that a full report could take over a year to be completed.


The aviation accident attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten extend their deepest sympathy to the families and friends of Rehman, Kenchwala, and Javaid after this tragic accident.