When NASCAR Champion Alan Kulwicki died in a Hooters plane crash

When NASCAR Champion Alan Kulwicki died in a Hooters plane crash

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by The Weather Network’s Chris Mei featuring stories about people, communities and events and how the weather has affected them.

Alan Kulwicki was a NASCAR champion, nicknamed “Special K” and “Polish Prince”. Throughout his career, Kulwicki has been sponsored by several companies including Maxwell House Coffee, the US Army and Hooters, the American restaurant chain.

On Thursday, April 1, 1993, Kulwicki flew in one of Hooters’ corporate aircraft (Fairchild SA227-TT Merlin) from McGhee Tyson Airport near Knoxville, Tennessee to Tri-Cities Regional Airport in Blountville, Tennessee. He was in Knoxville for a gig at their Hooters.

As the plane neared its destination, it slowed and crashed in a field near Blountville.

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Aboard the plane were Kulwicki, two Hooters executives and the pilot. Nobody survived.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the accident, including witness interviews and a physical examination of the crash site. The air traffic controller, who was communicating with the pilot at the time, said he could not understand the plane’s latest messages. The air traffic controller said he saw the plane’s lights fall in a steep spiral from cloud altitude.

Examination from the crash site revealed that the engine and propellers were not working. However, prior to the crash, there was no evidence of aircraft system failure.

Alan Kulwicki's 1992 Ford that won the championship

Alan Kulwicki’s 1992 Ford that won the championship

“Alan Kulwicki’s 1992 Championship-winning Ford “Underbird” at Hooters Casino.” Courtesy of Jay Bonvouloir/flickr

The NTSB final report said that “there was evidence that the anti-ice indicator lights on the engine intake were illuminated during impact,” indicating that the cause of the crash was the “pilot’s failure to understand procedures for using the engine intake.” -Adhere to anti-icing system and/or sustained ignition when operating in icing conditions.”

The NTSB also discovered a letter to all owners and operators of aircraft equipped with TPE331 engines (which was the Hooters aircraft) that suggested using engine intake anti-icing if the engine was exposed to moisture or when flying in areas with temperatures below 5°C.

To learn more about Kulwicki and the tragic plane crash, listen to tonight’s episode of This Day In Weather History.

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Thumbnail: “Fairchild SA227-TT Merlin IIIC VH-RCI at Sydney Airport.” Courtesy YSSYguy/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0


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