Wolverine Basketball Team Safe After Plane Skids Off Runway

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WASHINGTON D.C. – With high winds in the Ypsilanti, Michigan area, the Michigan basketball team’s chartered plane skidded off the runway at Willow Run Airport (YIP). This was on Wednesday afternoon. The result was damage to the MD-83 stretch aircraft. They were using runway 23-L and there were 109 passengers and seven crew were aboard. There were slight injuries. Family members of the basketball staff, administrators, the pep-band and cheerleaders were also on board. The aircraft is operated by Ameristar Jet Charter.

According to those who witnessed the event, Michigan’s team plane never lifted off the ground. Amid heavy winds, the plane sped down the runway before the pilot slammed on the brakes and aborted the takeoff. The plane then slid past the end of the runway. The landing gear collapsed and the plane went through a perimeter fence. It came to rest with undercarriage damage in front of Tyler Road.

The plane stopped just short of a safety abatement ravine. “That pilot undoubtedly saved our lives,” said an unidentified passenger.

Wolverine Basketball Team Safe After Plane Skids Off Runway.
Wolverine Basketball team plane after skidding off the runway.

Michigan players Jon Teske and Mark Donnal assisted the flight attendants and took the doors off the plane, beginning emergency exit procedures. The inflatable chutes were deployed, but wind gusts caused them to flop and become unruly. All the emergency exits were opened including the tail cone, which could be seen lying next to the fuselage (aircraft left) of N786TW.

U-M head coach John Beilein stayed on the tarmac and supervised the deplaning. Once everyone was off the plane Beilein checked with each person individually. Most ran away from the plane. The engine was still revolving with a cluttered sound. “I thought it was gonna blow,” said one passenger. Many of the students took selfies.

The plane’s belly held all of the Michigan equipment. That stayed with the plane, as part of a National Transportation Safety Board investigation. The Michigan basketball contingent ultimately arrived in Washington D.C. on Thursday morning aboard a plane arranged by Delta Airlines. Andrea Fischer Newman, is one of eight U of M Board of Regents and is also an executive of Delta Airlines.

On Thursday morning, nearly 24 hours after their intended arrival at the Verizon Center Arena, the Wolverines played. They played in practice uniforms for the game against Illinois in their Big Ten Tournament contest, winning 75-55.

“President Schlissel and I are glad to know that the students, coaches and staff are all safe and that nobody was seriously injured,” said Warde Manuel, Director of Athletics. “The safety and health of our students and staff is of the utmost importance.”

Raymond Rolak is a veteran sports broadcaster who writes on a range of sporting events, plus automotive and aviation topics of interest.