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DC-3 Crashes Killing U. of Evansville Basketball Team

By Patrick Mondout

At 7:22 p.m. on December 13, 1977, a Douglas DC-3 carrying the University of Evansville basketball team and associated personnel, crashed after hitting a tree shortly after takeoff at the Evansville Dress Regional Airport, Indiana. All 29 persons aboard died in the crash.

The DC-3 was operated by National Jet Services as a passenger charter flight from Evansville, Indiana, to Nashville, Tennessee. The aircraft departed runway 18 in instrument: meteorological conditions. The plane crashed less than 1 minute 30 seconds after takeoff.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable cause of the accident was an attempted takeoff with the rudder and right aileron control locks installed, in combination with a rearward center of gravity, which resulted in the aircraft's rotating to a nose-high attitude immediately after takeoff, and entering the region of reversed command from which the pilot was unable to recover.

Contributing to the accident was the failure of the flightcrew to insure that the passenger baggage was loaded in accordance with the configuration contained on the load manifest. Their failure resulted in a rearward center of gravity that was aft of the optimum range, but forward of the rearmost limit.

Don't miss the map at the bottom of this page.

Source: Adapted from National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report NTSB-AAR-78-10.

National Jet Services (charter) at a Glance
AirlineNational Jet Services (charter)
DateDecember 13, 1977
Registration NumberN51071
Crew Fatalities3 of 3
Passenger Fatalities26 of 26
Total Fatalities29 of 29

Air Safety References:
Bartelski, Jan. Disasters in the Air: Mysterious Air Disasters Explained. Airlife Publishing: England, 2001.
Beaty, David. The Naked Pilot: The Human Factor in Aircraft Accidents. Airlife Publishing: England, 1996.
Cushing, Steven. Fatal Words: Communication Clashes and Aircraft Crashes University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1997.
Faith, Nicholas. Black Box: The Air-Crash Detectives-Why Air Safety Is No Accident. Motorbooks International, 1997.
Gero, David. Aviation Disasters: The World's Major Civil Airliner Crashes Since 1950. Sutton, 2003.
Job, Macarthur. Air Disaster (Volume 1). Aerospace Publications: Fyshwick, Australia, 1995.
Job, Macarthur. Air Disaster (Volume 2). Aerospace Publications: Fyshwick, Australia, 1996.
Job, Macarthur. Air Disaster (Volume 3). Aerospace Publications: Fyshwick, Australia, 1999.
Krause, Shari Stamford. Aircraft Safety: Accident Investigations, Analyses & Applications. McGraw Hill, New York, 1996.
Macpherson, Malcolm. The Black Box : All-New Cockpit Voice Recorder Accounts Of In-flight Accidents. New York: William Morrow, 1998.
Macpherson, Malcolm. On a Wing and a Prayer: Interviews with Airline Disaster Survivors. Perennial, 2002.
Owen, David. Air Accident Investigation, 2nd Edition. Motorbooks International, 2002.
Stewart, Stanley. Emergency! - Crisis on the Flight Deck, 2nd Edition. Airlife Publishing, England, 2003.
Walters, James M. Aircraft Accident Analysis: Final Reports. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2000.
Wells, Alexander T. Commercial Aviation Safety, 3rd Edition. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2001.


Share Your Memories!

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Your Memories Shared!

"I knew one or more of the players. I think of Mike every once and a while from Terre Haute, In."


"The head coach, Bobby Watson, was a friend of my family. He had recruited me to to play basketball for Oral Roberts University where he had coached prior to receiving the head coach position at the University of Evansville. He sent a hand written letter to my mom and dad dated 12/12/77 that was so kind and full of hope. He also included an autographed basketball brochure of the U of E. The envelope containing the letter and brochure were post marked 12/13/77. It may have been the last thing that Coach Watson ever mailed. He was a dear friend and a great coach. He left behind a beautiful wife and three daughters. "

--Carleton Hurdle



An Nevada Airlines DC-3 similar to one that crashed.

Image courtesy of AirNikon. Find more of his photos at

Airline: National Jet Services (charter)

Location: Evansville, Indiana

Aircraft: DC-3

Date: December 13, 1977

Total Fatalities: 29 of 29

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