Thursday, December 01, 2016

Pilots received thousands of dollars worth of unauthorized discounts at Steamboat Springs Airport/Bob Adams Field (KSBS)

Steamboat Springs — A personal injury lawyer who has secured seven-figure verdicts for his clients and a principal scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden are among the pilots who got thousands of dollars worth of unauthorized discounts on their hangar rentals last year at Steamboat Springs Airport.

A Steamboat Today review of short-term airport hangar rentals at the city’s taxpayer-funded airport dating back to 2011 found several irregularities, including a few cases where the airport staff charged some pilots significantly less for their stays at Bob Adams Field than other pilots of the same type of aircraft who rented the same hangar at the same time of year.

In February of 2015, a pilot of an AC-90 was charged $200 for a night in the J-1 hangar.

The very next day, records show a different pilot of another AC-90 was charged the normal $400-a-night rate for the same space in the same hangar.

Records show a similar situation occurred back in 2011.

In a four-month period last year, a series of unauthorized discounts given to seven pilots totaled $6,340.

The discounts were never approved by the city manager, and emails show they were a cause for concern at City Hall.

Steamboat Today requested the airport rental records after emails the paper obtained in a seperate open records request this summer showed that inconsistencies in the rental records had created friction between former airport manager Adam Kittinger and Public Works Director Chuck Anderson.

When the invoices for the seven unauthorized discounts in 2015 were flagged internally and questioned by the city administration, Kittinger acknowledged the administration would not like the justifications given for the discounts.

"I understand that the 'reasons' (for the discounts) I highlighted on the receipts are not what you or I want to see, but I assure you we will get this resolved, corrected and updated," Kittinger wrote to Anderson in a March email.

The personal injury lawyer from Florida received the biggest discount.

Records show he paid $1,065 to keep his Cessna in a hangar for 45 nights starting in July 2015.

The emails show he was given a “summer rate” that doesn’t officially exist in the city’s approved list of rental fees.

Under the city’s hangar rental rates that were approved by the Steamboat Springs City Council and city manager, the pilot should have paid an additional $3,510, or 77 percent more.

In another email from the records request, Kittinger labeled the discount that FBO manager Mike Gagnebin gave to the lawyer as a “handshake deal.”

In other emails, Kittinger backed up the FBO employees and suggested they had made good business decisions. But he claimed the deals had been going on for years at the airport.

The other flagged transactions showed a pilot paid $400 to keep a PA-46 in a hangar for two weeks in July 2015, when the city’s rates called for a bill that should have totaled $1,475.

Other discounts ranged from $100 to $855.

Discounts defended

Airport staff defended the discounted rates, saying the hangars were sitting vacant, the hangar owners endorsed the deals and the pilots would not have paid the higher rates set out in the city’s budget book.

The FBO staff ultimately felt the discounts were necessary to make the airport more competitive.

They also wanted to secure more revenue for the airport and ward off potential “bad press” they felt they could get from disgruntled pilots.

In the spring, the administration initially cracked down on the discounts and ordered the airport manager to hold staff members who were giving them accountable.

“As we have discussed previously, fees are set by the City Manager and any authority to add/change/delete lies with the City Manager, not me nor you or airport employees,” Anderson wrote in an email to Kittinger after several discounts were discovered.

Kittinger was eventually fired in June after butting heads with the city administration over airport operations.

The emails show he was working on ways to improve the hangar rental process before his departure.

He also had expressed frustration that he was taking flak from Anderson for the hangar rental discrepancies because he thought the handshake had been going on for years before he arrived.

Even after the anomalies were presented to City Hall, Anderson and City Manager Gary Suiter approved a $1,660 discount for a pilot of a citation 5 jet in April.

The city is also letting the airport continue to offer almost all pilots at the airport a 25-cent-a-gallon discount that has not been officially approved by the City Council.

Kittinger had raised concerns about this discount, saying he couldn't find any documented policy on it.

All pilots at the airport get it unless they pilot a government aircraft or an emergency aircraft not based at the airport.

Airport staff say government and emergency aircraft rarely fuel up at the airport.

The city was unable to provide Steamboat Today with the value of the discount on an annual basis.

With 109,463 gallons of aviation and jet fuel sold at Bob Adams Field last year, the discount could have totaled as much as $27,365.

Changes considered

Asked last month about the inconsistencies in the rental records, Suiter and Anderson said steps were being taken to ensure no more unauthorized discounts are being offered at the airport.

Suiter, who himself has served as an airport manager in the past, said he felt the airport had been “under-managed” in the past.

“The only consistencies I’ve found at airports are inconsistencies,” he said.

Suiter said he is looking to new airport manager Stacie Fein to bring consistency to the airport and make improvements.

Asked if he regularly monitors the invoices for hangar rentals to check for inconsistencies, Anderson said he reviews them off and on.

Fein said Thursday she is working with consultants to study the airport’s hangar rental rates and fees. She said changes could be proposed in the future.

Fein said airport employees who offered the discounts were trying to provide the best customer service.

Gagnebin said one of the discounted hangar rates was given to a pilot who was stranded here.

Fein said the lack of flexibility in the hangar rentals is an issue, and hangars should be viewed similarly to a hotel room or airline seat, with values that increase and decrease depending on demand and the time of year.

Read more here:

Hearing for former Foothills Regional Airport manager set

The former operations manager at Foothills Regional Airport who is accused of violating terms of his probation will be back in federal court this month.

Bradley Dale Adkins is scheduled for a final hearing on a revocation of supervised release at 2:50 p.m. on Dec. 13 in courtroom 2 at the federal courthouse in Asheville, according to court documents.

Adkins has been held under no bond in the McDowell County Jail since federal officials started the process of revoking his probation in October.

Adkins was arrested on Oct. 17 and an initial appearance on proceedings to revoke his probation was held Oct. 18, according to federal court documents.

A warrant for Adkins was executed but has been sealed by the court.

However, federal court documents say probable cause was found for the action. Federal documents say Adkins failed to report for a substance abuse test he was scheduled for on April 25 and on July 30.

On June 18, Adkins did submit a diluted urine specimen for testing, court documents say.

Adkins, the former operations manager at the airport, pleaded guilty in September 2012 to public corruption conspiracy and embezzlement, aid and abet. He faced a maximum sentence of 15 years.

Adkins was sentenced in June 2014 to time served and four months of house arrest. He also was given a 3-year term of supervised release on each count. In addition, Adkins is expected to notify probation if he changes address or his name, and he is supposed to refrain from using drugs unless prescribed by a doctor, as well as submit to drug testing.

No sentencing date has been set for Randy Hullette, former chairman of the board of Foothills Regional Airport, who pleaded guilty to embezzlement and witness tampering Aug. 21, 2013. He faces a total maximum sentence of 30 years.

His sentencing has been continued at least three times.

The FBI raided the airport in June 2012, seizing files, records, computers, log books and other information. The warrant included records from the airport involving Hullette, Adkins and Alex Nelson, the former airport manager, who defrauded the airport of at least $100,000, according to federal officials. Nelson was sentenced in February 2014 to three years in federal prison and three years supervised probation. He served his time in federal prison and is in his probationary period, according to federal records.


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

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:


The airplane was equipped with an air sampling system used to collect air samples at various altitudes. The accident occurred when the pilot was returning to the airport after taking air samples at various altitudes over oil fields. As he was being vectored for an instrument approach, the airplane overshot the runway's extended centerline. The pilot then reported that he had a fire on board. The airplane lost altitude rapidly, and radar contact was lost. Examination of the accident site indicated that the airplane struck the ground at high velocity and a low impact angle.

One piece of the airplane's shattered Plexiglas windshield exhibited soot streaking on its exterior surface. This soot streaking did not extend onto the piece's fracture surface, indicative of the smoke source being upstream of the windshield and the smoke exposure occurring before windshield breakup at impact.

Both nose baggage compartment doors were found about 2 miles south of the main wreckage, which indicative that they came off at nearly the same time and most likely before the pilot's distress call. Although there was no soot deposits, thermal damage, or deformation to the doors consistent with a "high energy explosion," the separation of the luggage compartment doors could have occurred due to an overpressure caused by the ignition of a fuel air mixture within the nose portion of the airplane. The ignition of fuel air mixtures can create overpressure events when they occur in confinement. An overpressure in the nose baggage compartment may have stretched the airframe enough to allow the doors to push open without deforming the latches. If it was a lean fuel air mixture, it would likely leave no soot residue.

Post-accident examination revealed no evidence that the air sampling system, which was strapped to the seat tracks behind the copilot's seat, was the cause of the fire. The combustion heater, which was mounted in the right front section of the nose baggage compartment, bore no evidence of fuel leakage, but a fuel fitting was found loose. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The loose fuel fitting on the combustion heater that leaked a lean fuel-air mixture into the nose baggage compartment. The mixture was most likely ignited by the combustion heater, blowing off the nose baggage compartment doors and starting an in-flight fire. 


Heating system - Damaged/degraded (Cause)
Fuel - Not specified (Cause)
Flight compartment windows - Damaged/degraded
Cargo/baggage doors - Capability exceeded

Factual Information

History of Flight

Fire/smoke (non-impact) (Defining event)

Uncontrolled descent
Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

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

Additional Participating Entities:  

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Fargo, North Dakota
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas
Teledyne Continental Motors; Mobile, Alabama
Fargo Jet Center; Fargo, North Dakota
University of Colorado / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Boulder, Colorado
Department of Commerce / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Boulder, Colorado

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Weather Modification LLC:

Hans Peter Ahlness

Location: Fargo, ND
Accident Number: CEN17FA045
Date & Time: 12/01/2016, 1629 MST
Registration: N123KK
Aircraft: CESSNA 340
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Fire/smoke (non-impact)
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Other Work Use

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, after the pilot reported an in-flight fire. The pilot was fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by Weather Modification, LLC, of Fargo, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as an "other work use" 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 oil fields near Carrington, North Dakota, and was returning to FAR. According to radar data and voice communications transcripts, the pilot was being vectored towards, but overshot, the FAR runway 36 localizer. Shortly thereafter, when the airplane was at 1,700 feet mean sea level (msl), he reported an onboard fire. The airplane then lost altitude and radar contact was lost shortly thereafter. 

Hans Peter Ahlness

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 55, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Lap Only
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane Multi-engine; Airplane Single-engine; Instrument Airplane
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 1 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 05/05/2016
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 03/01/2016
Flight Time:  7898 hours (Total, all aircraft), 7771 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 11 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft) 

The 55-year-old pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single- and multi-engine land ratings, and a Beech 300 type rating. He also held a flight instructor certificate with airplane single-engine, multi-engine, and instrument ratings. In addition, he held a mechanic's certificate with airframe and powerplant ratings. His most recent first-class airman medical certificate, dated May 5, 2016, contained the restriction: "Must possess glasses for near and intermediate vision."

Weather Modification, LLC, personnel made available the pilot's logbooks. The most recent logbook (logbook 4) contained flight time entries from February 20, 2002, to November 16, 2016. According to this logbook, the pilot had accumulated the following flight hours:

Total time, 7,897.6
Multiengine, 6,920.0
Turbine, 1,998.8
Actual instruments, 1,637.7
Simulated (hood) instruments, 108.3
Flight simulator, 79.0

The pilot's last flight review was conducted on March 1, 2016, in the airplane. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: CESSNA
Registration: N123KK
Model/Series: 340
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1973
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Restricted; Normal
Serial Number: 340-0251
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 3
Date/Type of Last Inspection:
Certified Max Gross Wt.:  5975 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 2 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer:  Continental
ELT:  Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series:  TSIO-520-JB
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 0 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held:  Pilot School (141); On-demand Air Taxi (135)
Operator Does Business As:
Operator Designator Code:  CTUA 

The airplane, serial number 340-0251, was manufactured in 1973 by the Cessna Aircraft Company, Wichita Kansas. It was powered by two Continental TSIO-520-JB engines (serial numbers 275386-R, left; 183304R, right), driving two Hartzell 3-blade, all-metal, constant speed propellers (model number 3AF32C87-N; serial number 767923, left; 786086, right). Both engines had a 1,400-hour time-between-overhaul limitation.

The last annual inspection of the airplane occurred on July 27, 2016, at a total time of 7,012.6 hours. The last 100-hour inspections of both engines and propellers were also on July 27, 2016. At that time, the left and right engines had accrued 6,676.4 hours and 7,134.6 hours total time, respectively. The left engine had been overhauled on March 25, 2014, and the right engine had been overhauled on September 25, 2012.

The airplane was last certified for flight in instrument meteorological conditions on August 2, 2016.

The airplane was equipped with a Stewart Warner combustion heater, sometimes referred to as a Janitrol heater, that was used to provide cabin heat. The heater was mounted in the right front section of the nose baggage compartment.

The airplane carried a NOAA air sampling system manufactured by High Precision Devices, which was stored in two plastic boxes. One box was filled with glass jars for holding air samples. The remains of this box were found melted to the top forward fuselage. The second box contained the compressor package, which consisted of a rechargeable battery pack, two compressors, circuit boards wiring, and air tubing. The boxes were strapped to the seat tracks behind the copilot's seat.

NOAA representatives reported that the system had been in use for 12 years at 14 different locations. They said that there had never been any reports of fire with the air sampling system. They pointed out that the system does not operate all the time, only when the pilot pushes a button on the remote control attached to the glare shield. A typical mission would be for the airplane to climb to 25,000 feet and the pilot would then activate the system. The system would operate for 2 to 2.5 minutes taking air samples, and then shut off automatically when the sample collection was complete. The pilot would descend to the next sampling altitude and repeat the process. 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KFAR, 901 ft msl
Observation Time: 1646 CST
Distance from Accident Site: 10 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 360°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Temperature/Dew Point: 0°C / -2°C
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 1500 ft agl
Visibility:  9 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 12 knots, 340°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 29.99 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration:
Departure Point:  Fargo, ND (KFAR)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Destination: Fargo, ND (KFAR)
Type of Clearance: IFR
Departure Time:  1430 CST
Type of Airspace: Class C 

Weather recorded at FAR at 1646, about 16 minutes after the accident, indicated that the wind was from 340° at 12 knots, visibility was 9 miles, the ceiling was 1,500 feet overcast, the temperature and dew point were 0°C. and -2°C., respectively, and the altimeter setting was 29.99 inches of mercury. 

Airport Information

Airport: Hector International (KFAR)
Runway Surface Type: Concrete
Airport Elevation: 901 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 36
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 9001 ft / 150 ft
VFR Approach/Landing:  None 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: Both
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: On-Ground
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  46.920556, -96.815833 (est) 

The accident site was in an open field about 10 miles south of FAR at an estimated elevation of 900 feet msl. It was bordered by trees and a ravine to the east. The location of the accident site was 46°43.727' north latitude, and 96°49.686' west longitude. All components of the airplane were identified at the accident site except for the nose baggage compartment doors, which were found about 2 miles south of the main wreckage.

The wreckage path at the accident site was on a magnetic heading of 197° degrees. Ground scars and impact damage were consistent with the airplane striking the ground at high velocity with a low angle of impact and in a left-wing-slightly-low and nose-up attitude. The first evidence of ground contact was multiple propeller slash marks consistent with the left propeller contacting the ground, which was followed by ground scars consistent with the fuselage contacting the ground. Continuing along the wreckage path, there were multiple slash marks consistent with the right propeller contacting the ground. Both upper engine cowlings, the propellers, and the upper nose skin separated from the airplane. Ground scars were consistent with the airplane becoming airborne for a short distance before sliding down an embankment and impacting trees in a wooded area along a creek bed to the east. The right wing, from the engine nacelle outboard, and the empennage separated as the airplane travelled forward. No soot or molten metal was observed on the separated empennage. The fuselage came to rest inverted about 550 feet from the initial point of impact.

The primary flight control cables were connected to their associated flight control surfaces and cockpit controls. All the cables exhibited either tension overload separations or had been cut by first responders. The mid-fuselage aileron bellcrank and the flap motor were consumed by fire. The flap sprockets were engaged in the right flap chain, and the chain was in a non-standard position. The left flap chain had separated from the flap drive motor. Both fuel selector handles were consumed by fire. The left fuel selector valve was in an undetermined position. The right fuel selector valve was in the "OFF" position. No smoke streaking or heat damage was noted at the heater connection in the nose baggage compartment.

The combustion heater was found on the ground next to the cabin area. The heater was intact, impact-damaged, sooted, and showed no signs of explosion. All flight instruments and switches were either damaged or consumed by the post-impact fire. The main circuit breaker bus bars did not exhibit evidence of hot spots. The engine fuel and oil pressure lines did not exhibit evidence of pre-impact fire. 

Medical And Pathological Information

The University of North Dakota's School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Department of Pathology, Forensic and Autopsy Service, Grand Forks, North Dakota, performed an autopsy on the pilot. According to their report, death was attributed to "multiple injuries." Their toxicological analysis of blood obtained at autopsy was negative for ethanol, drugs, and cyanide. A small amount of carbon monoxide (6% saturation} was detected in blood.

The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, also performed a toxicological analysis. According to their report, no carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, or drugs were detected in heart blood. No tests were conducted for the presence of halon or halotron.

Tests And Research

The wreckage was transported to a Weather Modification hangar in FAR, where it was laid out and re-examined.

On December 13, 2017, the compressor package from the airplane's NOAA air sampling system was examined at the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) Materials Laboratory in Washington, DC. The examination determined that all smoke and heat damage had originated externally. There was no evidence to indicate the air sampling system was the cause of the inflight fire.
The Stewart Warner (Janitrol) combustion heater was also examined by NTSB's Materials Laboratory. The body of the heater exhibited thermal discoloration and soot staining, consistent with exposure to a fire environment. There was no evidence of fuel leaks in the combustion heater body or the air blower assembly. One fuel fitting on the combustion heater body was found to be loose.

Plexiglas windshield pieces and the nose baggage compartment doors were also examined. One piece of Plexiglas exhibited soot streak stains on the outside of the windshield that did not extend into the fracture surface, indicative of the smoke source being upstream of the windshield and occurring prior to the windshield breakup. The other Plexiglas pieces had no significant accumulation of soot or thermal damage and had about the same amount of particulate buildup, consistent with no prolonged exposure to a smoke-filled cockpit condition.

The nose baggage compartment doors did not exhibit any soot deposits, thermal damage, or deformation consistent with a "high energy explosion." The latches on one of the doors were not deformed.

Additional Information

According to Weather Modification, LLC, the airplane was equipped with two hand-held fire extinguishers mounted in the cabin: one was halon, the other was halotron. Both extinguishers held about 5.4 pounds of agent. One had been discharged, the other showed signs consistent with exploding. It is not known which extinguisher had been discharged and which one had exploded. According to Textron Aviation, the Cessna 340 has a pressurized volume of 250 cubic feet plus or minus 50 cubic feet.

According to FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, "Halon does not displace oxygen in its use like [carbon dioxide] does. Low concentrations of halon (less than 8% concentration by volume) are required for any given fire. The result is plenty of air for pilots and passengers to breathe, even during a fire incident . . . very high concentrations . . . could affect the pilot."

According to FAA's William J. Hughes Technical Center's Fire Safety Group, "The inhalation of halon 1211 and/or halotron may have affected [the pilot], depending on how much of each agent was released prior to the crash. All halons and halon replacements are cardiotoxic (have the potential to induce a heart attack) at high concentrations. Halon 1211 and many halon replacements also have narcotic effects at even higher concentrations. The cadiotoxic concentration threshold is lower than the incapacitation concentration threshold. A total release of 5.4 pounds of agent significantly exceeds the recommended agent weight for [the] stated volume of 250 cubic feet plus or minus 50 feet."

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

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)

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.


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.



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.

Louis Armstrong International Airport names interim aviation director

Mark Reis has been named interim director of aviation at Louis Armstrong International Airport, the New Orleans Aviation Board announced Thursday.

Reis will take over the duties of former airport director Iftikhar Ahmad, who left in October to manage six airports in Rhode Island.

Walter Krygowski, who has served as acting director of aviation since Ahmad’s departure, will return to his post of deputy director and chief operations officer.

Reis joins the airport after serving as managing director for the Port of Seattle’s aviation division, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac), the largest airport in the Pacific Northwest.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to serve as interim director of aviation and look forward to providing guidance as we search for a permanent director of aviation,” Reis said in a news release. “During my interim tenure, I’m committed to continuing the progressive work spearheaded by the current team at the airport, while ensuring that the tremendous growth the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport experienced under this administration continues.”

The airport board is in the process of hiring a search firm to find candidates for the permanent position.

The search comes amid construction of the airport’s new multimillion-dollar North Terminal, which has a tentative construction completion date of October 2018.