Thursday, December 1, 2016

Cessna 340, Weather Modification LLC, N123KK: Fatal accident occurred December 01, 2016 near Hector International Airport (KFAR), Fargo, Cass County, North Dakota

Hans Peter Ahlness

FARGO — Hans Peter Ahlness, 55, Fargo, died Dec. 1, 2016, when the aircraft he was piloting crashed near Fargo. Services will be held at 11 a.m. MST Wednesday, Dec. 7, at Bowman Lutheran Church. A celebration of life will be held at 11 a.m. CST Saturday, Dec. 10, at Fargo Jet Center.

Hans was born April 18, 1961, in Bowman, the son of Dr. Paul and Peg (Jock) Ahlness. He grew up in Bowman and graduated in 1979 from Bowman High School. While in high school, he participated in sports and music.

He met the love of his life, Jane Folske, while in high school. He proudly referred to Jane as his trophy wife. Hans and Jane were married at St. Charles Catholic Church in Bowman, on Dec. 28, 1984. Their two wonderful children; daughter, Alex and son, Sean, completed their family.

Hans’ love affair with aviation began at an early age. Encouraged by his close neighbor, Wilbur Brewer, Hans was often seen at the Bowman County Airport, learning whatever he could (bugging whomever he could) about all things aviation-related, as he aspired to take wing himself.

Hans attended the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks from 1979-83, earning his bachelor of business administration in aviation administration while pursuing a pilot’s license. He held his Commercial Aviation License with his Single-/Multi-Engine Instrument rating, as well as his Certified Flight Instructor licenses (CFI, CFII, MEI). In addition to those many ratings, Hans was an Airframe and Powerplant mechanic with his Inspection Authorization, which he earned at Dakota Aero Tech in Fargo.

Hans’ flying career seemed preordained as flying emerged early as the focus of his professional life. His career flying cloud seeding missions began in the summer of aught ’82, when he flew as a UND intern co-pilot on the Bowman-based turbo Twin Comanche. In subsequent summers, he flew as a captain on the project, eventually accruing 35 seasons on the North Dakota project. In the earlier years, he worked as both aircraft mechanic and project pilot! In 1985, Hans became a full-time employee at Weather Modification, Inc., where he remained employed as vice president of operations until his death.

He was active in the weather modification field first as a radar operator on the Brewer Farm, then as pilot, instructor, mechanic and manager. Over his nearly 40 years working in the field he mentored and trained hundreds of pilots (and many field meteorologists!) while flying charter flights intermittently. He was a Weather Modification Association Certified Operator — the first pilot to be so certified — and recently served the WMA as its president.

Hans was notorious for his spontaneous dry humor, smile and good nature, yet he remained a tireless professional who thought nothing of a long day or extended participation in 24/7 field projects. He was very well known in the industry and a dear friend to many.

Hans was a devoted husband, father and friend. He loved his family — even more than aviation, changing his work position so as not to miss Allie’s concerts or Sean’s cross country and track meets. Watching UND hockey brought him much joy and tinkering on the family vehicles kept him out of trouble. In recent years, he began restoring a 1952 Packard (The Grey Ghost) in earnest. Since the early 2000s, he highly anticipated the annual trip to Cancun with Jane and often some combination of their children, their parents, or close friends.

He is remembered as a great story-teller, inventive mechanic and the loyal friend who could be called on in any situation. He would assist, advise (if asked, as he often was), teach and listen as needed. We all feel Hans’ absence greatly. His professional expertise cannot be replicated. Nor can his humor, though we will do our best impressions, which he would have heartily enjoyed. His laugh will echo through the hangar and house, while his smile lives on through his children.

Hans is survived by his wife of 32 years, Jane; his daughter, Alexandra; his son, Sean; his mother, Peg Ahlness; his sister, the Rev. Lisa Ahlness (the Rev. VanVechten Crane); his mother-in-law, Dora Folske; eight nieces and nephews; 12 grand-nieces/nephews; and his aunts, uncles, numerous cousins and many dear friends.

Hans was preceded in death by his father, Dr. Paul Ahlness; and his father-in-law, Robert “Bob” Folske.

A scholarship fund in Hans’ name has been established at the University of North Dakota Alumni Association Foundation, 3501 University Ave. Stop 8157, Grand Forks, N.D. 58202. (Krebsbach and Kulseth Funeral Services, Bowman)

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident. 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:


FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Fargo FSDO-21

NTSB Identification: CEN17FA045
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, December 01, 2016 in Fargo, ND
Aircraft: CESSNA 340, registration: N123KK
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 1, 2016, at 1629 central standard time, a Cessna 340, N123KK, impacted terrain about 10 miles south of Hector International Airport (FAR), Fargo, North Dakota. The pilot, the sole occupant on board, was fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by Weather Modification, LLC, Fargo, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a business flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed. The local flight originated from FAR about 1430.

Under contract with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the pilot had taken air samples at various altitudes over Carrington, North Dakota, and was returning to FAR when the accident occurred. The pilot was being vectored towards but overshot the runway 36 localizer. Shortly thereafter, the pilot reported an onboard fire. The airplane, which was at 1,700 feet, lost altitude rapidly and radar contact was lost.

Examination of the accident site revealed evidence consistent with the airplane striking the ground at a high velocity-low angle of impact in a left wing slightly low attitude. There was a ground fire after impact

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email,  and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

FARGO—An executive board member of Weather Modification has been identified as the victim in Thursday's fatal plane crash south of Fargo.

Hans Ahlness, 55, was the lone passenger of the 1973 Cessna aircraft that crashed Thursday, Dec. 1.

Ahlness is the vice president of operations for Weather Modification in Fargo, and he first started his career with the company in 1977. According to the company's website Ahlness had "extensive experience in both operation and research flights in all seasons."

Weather Modification says Ahlness majored in aviation administration, earning his bachelor's degree from the University of North Dakota in 1983. He held a commercial pilot license and was also a flight instructor. In 2003, Ahlness was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the Weather Modification Association.

The aircraft "crashed and burned under unknown circumstances," according to a Friday, Dec. 2 incident notification from the Federal Aviation Administration. The plane was destroyed in the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board just arrived at the scene of the incident Friday afternoon, said Vance Emerson, assistant manager with the Flight Standards District Office in Fargo.

"This is going to take a while to figure this one out. We still don't know anything yet," Emerson said of the cause of the crash.

The plane was in flight for about 2 hours and 20 minutes, according to FlightAware, a flight tracking data company. It left Fargo Hector International Airport around 2:20 p.m. and headed west for Wells County where the aircraft circled the area at points furthest north near the James River before traveling back toward Fargo.

Weather Modification, Inc., maintains and operates a fleet of more than 35 twin-engine aircrafts for cloud seeding and atmospheric research operations. The company was founded in 1961.




Authorities have identified the pilot who was killed in a plane crash east of I-29 near the Wild Rice River Thursday.

They say 55-year-old Hans Ahlness died when the Cessna 340 N123KK had an in-flight emergency shortly after taking off from Hector International Airport at about 4:30pm and crashed in a field.

Ahlness was the only person in the plane.


One man is dead after a plane crashed east of I-29 near the Wild Rice River.

Highway Patrol said the 55-year-old pilot had no other passengers on board the 1973 Cessna 340 at the time.

Police were called to the crash just after 4:30 p.m., hearing it may have landed in the interstate.

They said the plane was in several pieces when they showed up.

It was found next to the Wild Rice River a half mile east of I-29 near mile marker 54, south of County Road 14.

"There was a pilot in the plane, he is deceased. At this point in time, I am not releasing a name," said Captain Bryan Niewind with the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

The pilot was pronounced dead at the scene.

"The plane became fully engulfed in flames and he suffered fatal injuries because of the crash and of the fire," said Captain Niewind.

Highway Patrol believes the plane went through trees before landing on private property in the field.

There were no reports of other injuries to those living near the site.

"We believe it had just taken off from the Fargo airport, suffered an inflight emergency, and attempted to set itself down and crashed out here," said Captain Niewind.

Another small plane crashed in Moorhead the day before Thanksgiving.

The pilot missed the runway on a night filled with dense fog.

All seven passengers were able to walk away with minor injuries.

But this one was different.

Authorities do not know the exact cause of the crash but will use radio conversations to learn more.

"The pilot was in contact with the radio tower and I will be getting that information on what kind of traffic they had back and forth prior to the crash," said Captain Niewind.

At this time, they do not know if the plane was privately owned.

The tail number has not been released.

The FAA is there now investigating the crash.


Authorities have confirmed with KVRR's Nick Broadway that the pilot of the plane that crashed between Horace and I-29 has died.

The pilot was the only person on board the small plane.


A small plane crashed around 4:30 this afternoon off of I-29 near Cass County 14.

Authorities have confirmed that a plane is down.

We do not know the exact size of the plane and we do not know how many people were on it at the time.

Authorities have not confirmed with details whether or not anyone is injured or whether or not anyone has survived the crash.

We are just south of County Road 14.

The crash is not near a road or on a road, it is in a field and some trees, according to authorities.

Authorities have also said they received a call from Hector International Airport just after 4:30pm.

They say the pilot was attempting to land somewhere on I-29 and that is all we know at this time.


Rescue Units are responding to a plane crash just south of I-29 near Horace.

A call came into dispatch from Hector Airport saying a pilot was having trouble on board and was attempting to land on the the interstate.

The crash was reported just after 4:30pm two miles south of 52nd Avenue and one mile east of I-29.


FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) Authorities have identified the pilot killed in a plane crash south of Fargo on Thursday. Hans Ahlness, 55, was the lone occupant of the aircraft.

Ahlness was the, Vice President of Operations for Weather Modification, Inc. in Fargo.

Weather Modification Incorporated describes Alhness's position as, "Oversee(ing) the operation of domestic and international projects."

The website also says, "Ahlness started his career with Weather Modification, Inc., in 1977, and has been with Weather Modification, Inc. full time since 1985. He has extensive experience in both operational and research flights in all seasons."

His bio on the website adds, "He holds a commercial pilots license with single-/multi-engine and instrument ratings and is a multi-engine/instrument flight instructor, FAA airframe & powerplant mechanic, and an authorized maintenance inspector."

Ahlness was a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and the Professional Aviation Mechanics Association, according to Weather Modification.

The crash happened just after 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Officials say Ahlness was in contact with the air traffic control tower and he attempted to set the plane down after an in-flight emergency.

The plane was a 1973 Cessna 340, with tail number N123KK.


FARGO – The 55-year-old pilot of a Weather Modification plane died in a crash south of Fargo on Thursday, Dec. 1, North Dakota Highway Patrol Cpt. Bryan Niewind said.

The Cessna 340 plane crashed about 4:30 p.m. about a mile north of Cass County 16 in a field about a half mile east of Interstate 29 near a stand of trees along the bank of the Wild Rice River. Niewind said the crash site was east of mile marker 55 on the interstate.

Neil Brackin, president of Weather Modification Inc., confirmed Thursday night that it was one of the company’s planes. He said there were no further details at this time.

The pilot's name will be released Friday afternoon, pending notification of relatives.

Fargo-based Weather Modification Inc. is one of the world’s largest private aerial cloud-seeding companies.

The pilot was southbound after taking off from Fargo’s Hector International Airport when there was some sort of in-flight emergency, Niewind said.

He said the pilot was in contact with the air traffic control tower and investigators would be examining the communications. Niewind said he could not confirm that the pilot reported smoke or flames on the aircraft.

The Red River Regional Dispatch Center originally indicated the plane crashed on Interstate 29, Niewind said.

The pilot was dead when first responders arrived and the plane was on fire and scattered in several pieces on the ground, Niewind said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is in charge of the investigation and an investigator is on the scene, Niewind said. The FAA has asked any witnesses to the crash to contact them at (701) 492-5800

In addition to the Highway Patrol, the Cass County Sheriff’s Department, Fargo Police Department, Kindred Ambulance and Horace Fire Department were among the agencies responding to the scene of the crash.

Thursday’s crash comes a week after a pilot crash-landed in a field near the Moorhead airport about 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 23. The crash caused minor injuries to the pilot and one of the six passengers.

The National Transportation Safety Board recently reported that the landing in a field occurred because the pilot lost sight of the runway.

The pilot initiated a “missed approach” and ended up landing in a dirt field about a half-mile short of the runway. It caused substantial damage to the plane, according to an initial report by the NTSB.

That airplane was operated by Flight Development, a Moorhead-based firm that offers charter flights and flight lessons, the NTSB said. The plane, which was on an “on-demand passenger flight,” had departed from Baudette, Minn., the NTSB said.


FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - UPDATE

Capt. Bryan Niewind with the North Dakota Highway Patrol confirms one person is dead after a plane crash South of Fargo. He says the male pilot was alone in the plane.

The FAA tells Valley News Live that the crash involved a Cessna 340.

The pilot was in contact with air traffic control tower and attempted to set the plane down after suffering an in-flight emergency, according to officials.

Elizabeth Isham Cory, with FAA External Communications says the crash happened 10 miles south of Hector Int'l Airport around 4:40pm on Thursday night.

The plane was discovered in pieces in a field after crashing into trees along the Wild Rice River. The plane became fully engulfed in flames, and was in pieces.

The Federal Aviation Administration will be conducting the investigation along with NTSB.


Multiple agencies are responding after a plane crashed south of Fargo Thursday afternoon.

Emergency crews tell us it's east of Interstate-29 at mile marker 55, which is south of 52nd Avenue South.

The crash site is near the Wild Rice River, in a field between County Road 14 and County Road 16.

Officials ask that you stay away from the area.

The Cass County Sheriff's Office, North Dakota Highway Patrol, Fargo Police, several fire departments, and the FAA are on scene.


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