|Learjet 35 N47BA Prior to crash|
But 14 minutes after takeoff, approximately 37,000 feet above northwestern Florida, Jacksonville Air Traffic Control lost contact with N47BA, setting off a chain of events that included three separate military responses by F-16 fighter jets. The National Transportation Safety Board released a 31-page report on the crash Nov. 28, 2000 and investigators concluded that the probable cause was “incapacitation of the flight crewmembers as a result of their failure to receive supplemental oxygen following a loss of cabin pressurization, for undetermined reasons.”
|Payne Stewart Jumps|
Payne Stewart at the 1989 Open Championship
at Royal Troon by Lawrence Levy
Stewart was born in Springfield, Missouri, and attended Greenwood Laboratory School, a K-12 school, on the campus of Missouri State University. He graduated from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, where he was a member of Phi Gamma Delta. He was always popular with fans, especially for his distinctive clothing, and was reputed to have the biggest wardrobe of all professional golfers. He was a favorite of photographers because of his flamboyant attire of ivy caps and patterned pants, which were a cross between plus fours (trousers that extend 4 inches (10 cm) below the knee (and thus four inches longer than traditional knickerbockers, hence the name)) and knickerbockers, a throwback to the once-commonplace golf "uniform." Stewart was also admired for having one of the most gracefully fluid and stylish golf swings of the modern era.
On October 25, 1999, a month after the American team rallied to win the 1999 Ryder Cup in Brookline, Massachusetts, and four months after his U.S. Open victory at Pinehurst No. 2, Stewart was killed in the depressurization of a Learjet flying from Orlando to Dallas, Texas for the year-ending tournament, The Tour Championship, held at Champions Golf Club in Houston that year. Traveling on a Monday morning, Stewart was planning to stop off in Dallas to discuss building a new home course for the SMU golf program. The last communication received from the pilots was at 9:27 AM EDT, and the plane made a right turn at 9:30 AM EDT that was probably the result of human input.
|William Payne Stewart (1957-1999) was a professional golfer|
National Transportation Safety Board investigators later concluded that the plane suffered a loss of cabin pressure and that all on board died of hypoxia - lack of oxygen. A delay of only a few seconds in donning oxygen masks, coupled with cognitive and motor skill impairment, could have been enough to result in the pilots' incapacitation. The NTSB report showed that the plane had several instances of maintenance work related to cabin pressure in the months leading up to the accident. The NTSB was unable to determine whether they stemmed from a common problem – replacements and repairs were documented, but not the pilot discrepancy reports that prompted them or the frequency of such reports. The report gently scold Sunjet Aviation for the possibility that this would have made the problem harder to identify, track, and resolve; as well as the fact that in at least one instance the plane was flown with an unauthorized maintenance deferral for cabin pressure problems.
According to a USAF timeline, a series of military planes provided an emergency escort to the stricken Lear, beginning with an F-16 from Eglin Air Force Base, about an hour and twenty minutes (9:33 EDT to 9:52 CDT – see NTSB report on the crash) after ground controllers lost contact. The plane continued flying until it ran out of fuel and crashed into a field near Mina, South Dakota, a town ten miles (16 km) west of Aberdeen, after an uncontrolled descent. The five other people aboard the plane included Stewart's agents Robert Fraley and Van Ardan, and pilots Michael Kling and Stephanie Bellegarrigue, along with Bruce Borland, a highly regarded golf course architect with the Jack Nicklaus design company.
At the time of his death, Stewart had won $12,673,193 in career earnings. He won over $2 million during the 1999 season, and finished seventh on the year's money list.
Did You Know?
- The aircraft failed to make the westward turn toward Dallas over north Florida, and continued flying over the southern and midwestern United States for almost four hours and 1,500 miles (2,400 km), before running out of fuel and crashing into the nearby field.
- There was some speculation in the media that military jets were prepared to shoot down the Lear if it threatened to crash in a heavily populated area. Officials at the Pentagon strongly denied that possibility. Shooting down the plane "was never an option," Air Force spokesman Captain Joe Della Vedova said. "I don't know where that came from."
- During the week of his death, at that week's Tour Championship tournament, Stuart Appleby, Payne Stewart's good friend, with Stewart's wife's permission, organized a tribute to Payne and wore one of Payne's own signature outfits for the final round of the tournament on Sunday, and most of the rest of the golfers in the field wore "short pants" that day as well.
- According to publish reports, Bruce Borland, a senior golf course designer who worked for golf icon Jack Nicklaus at the Golden Bear’s golf course design firm, never met Stewart before the flight and was invited aboard at the last minute because he was unable to catch a commercial flight. Borland was to meet with Stewart to discuss designing a new golf course.
- When a flight crew is unresponsive, the FAA asks that the nearest military jet make a visual assessment—in this case, it was an F-16 pilot on a test run out of nearby Eglin Air Force Base.
- One year after Stewart's death, his widow Tracey and their two children, as well as the family of Stewart's agent Robert Fraley who also died on that flight, brought a lawsuit seeking $200 million in damages against the Learjet's operator, SunJet Aviation, Inc., and owner JetShares One Inc., as well as a lawsuit against the aircraft manufacturer Learjet. However, in mid-2000 SunJet Aviation had filed for bankruptcy protection, in part due to an FBI investigation and raid which disrupted the company's ability to fly. Only two years later did the FBI admit that they had found no wrongdoing. The case against Learjet went forward in state court in Orlando, Florida. In June 2005, jurors found that the plane's manufacturer had no liability in the deaths of Stewart and Fraley due to negligence in the design or manufacture of the plane.
- The segment of Interstate 44 passing through Springfield, Missouri was designated the "Payne Stewart Memorial Highway" in his memory. He also has a street in Fullerton, California named after him. There is also a "Payne Stewart Drive" in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada named after him, leading into Northview golf course designed by Arnold Palmer. Finally, Payne Stewart Drive in Jacksonville, Florida houses The First Tee along with a Job Corps Center.
- The communities of Mina and Aberdeen created their own memorial. Jon Hoffman, owner of the property where the plane crashed, contacted Stewart's widow Tracey and several family members of other crash victims; all agreed that the memorial would be a rock pulled from the crash site, engraved with the victims' names and a Bible passage. Hoffman fenced in about an acre (4,000 m²) of the property surrounding the memorial.
- In 2000, the PGA Tour established the Payne Stewart Award, given each year to a player who shows respect for the traditions of the game, commitment to uphold the game's heritage of charitable support and professional and meticulous presentation of himself and the sport through his dress and conduct.
- In tribute to Stewart, as well as his southwestern Missouri roots, the Payne Stewart Golf Club was opened in Branson, Missouri in June 2009 with the approval of Stewart's widow, Tracey. Ground-breaking on the $31 million layout took place on July 24, 2006. The 7,319 yard 18-hole course was designed by Bobby Clampett and Chuck Smith. Each hole on the course is named for some aspect or notable moment in Stewart's life. Click here to view hole descriptions.
- The Learjet was a marvel of engineering: It could climb 4,340 feet in a minute and cruise at up to 530 mph. In 1976 a similar Lear, the Model 36, set a round-the-world speed record.
|Payne Stewart Golf Club|
Remembering Payne Stewart ...
Remembering the Others....
(Thanks to FindAGrave member Andrew Bollinger)
(Feb 3, 1953 - Oct. 25, 1999)
Sports Agent: Fraley was the CEO of the sports management company Leader Enterprises.
(unknown - Oct. 25, 1999)
Kling, the pilot of the plane that crashed, was a former Air-Force pilot and had logged thousands of hours in the air throughout his years of flying.
Van Ardan - Pic unavailable.
Source(s): Via | Via | Via | Via
Pic source(s): Learjet plane - wikipedia | Payne Stewart Jumps by Flickr user Special Collections, University of St Andrews, Payne Stewart holding trophy - floridabaptisthistory.org | Payne Stewart Golf Club | Bruce Borland - FindAGrave.com