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Federal investigators say pilot became disoriented before southeastern Indiana plane crash


GREENSBURG, Indiana — Investigators said Tuesday that the pilot of a small plane that crashed in 2011 in southeastern Indiana had become disoriented in foggy, misty weather.

The National Transportation Safety Board released its final report Tuesday into the cause of the December 2011 crash in Greensburg that killed the pilot, his wife and another couple.

The report said that Don Horan of Greensburg was trying to abort a landing at Greensburg Municipal Airport 40 miles southeast of Indianapolis when he became "spatially disoriented," WRTV-TV reports (

The NTSB says the runway lights were functioning properly despite reports by witnesses. The NTSB also says the Piper PA-46 plane and its engine were in working order.

"However, during periods of low visibility, the supporting senses sometimes conflict with what is seen. When this happens, a pilot is particularly vulnerable to spatial disorientation. Spatial disorientation to a pilot means simply the inability to tell which way is up," the report said.

At the time of the crash, the 46-year-old Horan was returning from Florida with his wife, Barbara, 45, and their friends, Stephen Butz, 45, and 42-year-old Denise Butz.

Air traffic controllers in Indianapolis spoke with Horan when he was just 4 miles from his scheduled landing. The last few seconds of recorded data show that the airplane was making a descending left turn.

Horan was returning from Florida with his three passengers, while six other people who had been on the same weekend outing were in a second small plane. That plane attempted a landing at the Greensburg airport, but couldn't find the runway and instead landed about 30 miles away at a Columbus airport.

Information from: WRTV-TV,

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