The former military pilot, who shouldn’t have been certified for this Cessna, allowed the plane to be overloaded by 445 pounds, and the center of gravity was 4 inches beyond maximum aft limit.
Death in plane crash 
Along with eleven others, Green died on July 28, 1982, when the Robertson STOL-modified Cessna 414 leased by Last Days Ministries crashed after takeoff from the private airstrip located on the LDM property. The small two-engine plane was carrying eleven passengers and the pilot [in 8 seats – ed.], Don Burmeister, for an aerial tour of the LDM property and the surrounding area. Green and two of his children, three-year-old Josiah and two-year-old Bethany, were on board the plane, along with visiting church planters, John and Dede Smalley and their six children. Green’s wife Melody was at home with one-year-old Rebekah and six weeks pregnant with their fourth child, Rachel, born in March 1983.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the crash was caused by the pilot in command (PIC) allowing the aircraft to be loaded beyond its operating limitations. The required pre-flight weight and balance computations responsibility of civilian pilots would have shown it was dangerously overloaded and also outside its weight and balance operating envelope. This responsibility with military pilots is the responsibility of the military loadmaster, and thus he may have, by force of habit, overlooked this responsibility. Don Alan Burmeister was a former United States Marine Corps aviator, but FAA records show he had very limited experience / training in flying conventional (vs. centerline thrust) twin engine aircraft. Records show it was only a short time prior to the accident (6/9/82) that he completed a check-ride to remove the “centerline thrust” restriction from his pilot’s certificate. This check-ride should have fully evaluated his ability to fly a conventional multi-engine aircraft throughout its designed range of operations, but the flight examiner was decertified the next month (7/10/82) by the FAA due to a “history of incomplete or substandard check-rides”. Additionally, the insurance carrier (Ideal Mutual Insurance Co.) required Burmeister to log 1,045 hrs of flying time, attend a Cessna ground and flight training course, as well as log 15 hours in a Cessna 414 (C-414) prior to acting as the PIC of the leased aircraft. The NTSB record shows he failed to accomplish all of these requirements. With pilot and eleven passengers, the aircraft was overloaded by an estimated 445 pounds (202 kg), and the location of the center of gravity was found to be 4.26 inches (108 mm) beyond the maximum aft limit. Combined with an air temperature of 90 °F (32 °C), creating a condition known as “hot and high” (high density altitude, producing a lower climb rate on takeoff and greater danger of stalling), the C-414 could do little but struggle into the air within ground effect, and once airborne was left virtually uncontrollable. These factors prevented the aircraft from ever attaining sufficient altitude, and it crashed into trees less than a mile from the airport.
Keith Gordon Green, Josiah David Green (September 18, 1978 – July 28, 1982), and Bethany Grace Green (February 5, 1980 – July 28, 1982) are interred in the same coffin at Garden Valley Cemetery behind the Garden Valley Baptist Church, less than a half-mile from the LDM property. He was survived by his wife and two daughters, Rebekah Joy Green (b. 1981) and Rachel Hope Green (b. March 1983, eight months after Green’s death).
3 thoughts on “Why Keith Green’s airplane crashed in 1982. Keith was only age-28 (born 1953)”
Back in 2021, a Christian film maker, Dan Millican, who has an aviation channel on You Tube and 56,000 subscribers—mostly small plane pilots, produced a documentary in 2021 about the Keith Green plane crash (viewed by 85,000). This July he came to St. Louis to learn more about my brother, the pilot of that crash, so he could release a short follow-up video.
God is still using that 1982 tragedy to grow His Kingdom. The follow-up piece, in which we talked about God’s unending grace, faith and eternity was posted on You Tube a week ago, and has already been seen by nearly 4,000, many of whom do not yet know the Lord: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eUEuQhvzZk
(also accessible on You Tube by searching “Keith Green Pilot”).
Thanks for sharing! Very interesting to find out more of what happened. Such a tragic loss!
I posted both videos.
Thank you so much, Jan. After finding your comments here, I watched both stories on Dan Millican’s YT channel. So thoughtfully and compassionately done. Thank you for sharing about your dear brother, Don. God bless you.