Saturday, October 14, 2017

Cessna 172M Skyhawk, N7CF: Fatal accident occurred October 13, 2017 in Ramsey, Anoka County, Minnesota

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Minneapolis, Minnesota
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Chad J. Rygwall: 

NTSB Identification: CEN18FA011
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, October 13, 2017 in Ramsey, MN
Aircraft: CESSNA 172M, registration: N7CF
Injuries: 2 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 October 13, 2017, at 1734 central daylight time, a Cessna 172M airplane, N7CF, was destroyed during an in-flight collision with power lines and the Mississippi River near Ramsey, Minnesota. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by private individuals as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The flight was not operated on a flight plan. The local flight originated from the Princeton Municipal Airport (PNM), Princeton, Minnesota, about 1700.

Ground-based video footage depicted the airplane flying at a low altitude over the Mississippi River about 200 yards east of the accident site. The airplane appeared to be near treetop level proceeding northwest along the river. It appeared to be intact and in a shallow left turn apparently to follow a bend in the river at that location.

Witnesses reported observing the airplane strike power lines as it was flying along the river. Several witnesses noted that the airplane was below the level of the trees, which lined both sides of the river. One witness initially thought that the pilot intended to fly under the power lines due to the low altitude of the airplane. Several witnesses also noted that the sound of the engine seemed normal and steady before the accident.

The airplane impacted a set of four power lines installed horizontally across the river. The lines were installed with dual-pole supports on each shoreline. The supports did not appear to extend above the height of trees along either river bank. According to witness statements, the lines were equipped with red aerial marker balls.

The river was about 190 yards wide in the vicinity of the accident site and was bordered by wooded areas on both sides. The accident site was located near a bend in the river. The video footage and witness statements indicted that the airplane approached from the southeast. The section of the river approaching the bend was oriented to the northwest (about 300 degrees), while the section past the bend was oriented to the southwest (about 250 degrees), requiring an approximate 50-degree left turn to navigate the river. The power lines were located about 200 yards beyond the bend as the airplane proceeded northwest along the river.

According to data obtained from the U.S. Naval Observatory, at the time of the accident, the sun was approximately 9 degrees above the horizon to the west-southwest (249 deg). Sunset was at 1831 on the day of the accident.

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 

Chad Rygwall loved flying his plane, family members said.

Jill Rygwall
Princeton, Minn., School District

Chad Rygwall on the day he got his pilot’s license.

Flying over obstacles
June 1, 2015 

To fly… to soar over the treetops, looking down at lakes and streams, roofs and roads – that is the dream of many young boys.  Chad Rygwall, of Princeton, was no exception.

Chad was lucky enough to have an uncle who was a pilot, so he was able to get a taste of his dream at a young age. He accompanied his uncle Jim on trips to the North Shore, Mille Lacs, and all over Minnesota. His favorite trip with his uncle was going to the North Shore, especially in the fall, when the leaves turned to golds and fiery reds and the blue of Lake Superior stretched out below. Chad looked forward to the day when he could be the one at the controls, and hoped for a career as a commercial pilot.

But a high school diagnosis of color blindness dashed Chad’s dreams before he could begin training for his pilot’s license. Becoming a commercial pilot when you are color blind is an unlikely outcome – most folks would say it is impossible. (The term color blindness is misleading – it does not mean being blind to all colors, but rather having difficulty distinguishing between colors.  So people who are color blind may see reds as pinks or browns, and may not be able to distinguish between different colors of green.  Since airports use colored lights to signal planes, it is important that pilots be able to tell the difference between colors.)  Chad gave up his dream of being a pilot, instead going to school for HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and building maintenance.

Many years later, with his career in full swing, Chad began to think again about flying.  When uncle Jim’s son, Brian, got his pilot’s license, Chad accompanied him a number of times on short flights around Minnesota. But a family and job kept him busy; for many years he didn’t find time to go flying.  Finally, when a health issue cropped up around Chad’s 40th birthday, he began to think again about flying.

According to Chad, his health concerns definitely influenced his decision.  “It was kind of like a bucket list,” he said.

Another flight with his cousin, Brian, cemented the idea.  “That was when I decided to go for it,” said Chad, and he began to do some research into getting his pilot’s license.

It didn’t take long before Chad found that, although color blindness may prevent a person from getting a commercial pilot’s license, a private license is not quite as restrictive.

“You do have to pass another test through the Federal Aviation Administration.  You have to learn a different way to know which color is which,” explained Chad.  The FAA also has your license flagged based on your degree of color blindness, so you might not be able to fly at night or under certain conditions.

The health issues were also something he had to contend with.  Chad had to have a medical exam, including blood tests, and has to complete a “stress test” every two years.  A medical certificate from an FAA-approved doctor every two years is a requirement.

Chad soon discovered that a friend of his cousin’s is a flight instructor.   Jason Erickson, Brian’s friend, is not just a certified flight instructor; he is the owner of Ascend Aviation, a flight school with locations in both Princeton and Maple Lake.  In fact, the Princeton location is just a few miles from Chad’s home.

Soon Chad was taking lessons from Jason at Ascend Aviation, who commutes by air between the Princeton and Maple Lake locations.

“He takes you up; you do maneuvers, steep turns, stalls, circles, all kinds of things.  After about 10 hours you learn how to take off and land.  Then there is more practice,” said Chad.  A minimum of 40 hours flight time is required in order to get a private pilot’s license.

“You also have to do a certain amount of hours of ground school and pass written tests.  And you have to do two solo cross-country trips – flying by maps,” said Chad.

The entire process took 13 months.  Then there was the test – a 2 ½ – 3 hour ordeal including a written test, an oral test, and then an air test – going up in the air with the examiner.

“You show them all your maneuvers – turns, stalls, steep turns, and emergency landings,” remembered Chad, “and if you pass, they sign off.”

Chad was thrilled that he was able to pass the first time.  He got his license on Nov. 19, 2012, and has been flying ever since.  Soon after Chad got his pilot’s license he purchased a Cessna 172 Taildragger, which, he explains, is like a bush plane. It has big tires and can land on grass, on the beach, on tundra, wherever you want to.

Chad flies now about two to three days a week, depending on the weather.  His wife, Jill, and son, Andrew, have gone with him on short trips throughout Minnesota.  They have attended festivals and “fly-ins” and have even taken trips just to go to lunch somewhere.  Since he can land anywhere with the Taildragger, he has visited neighbors and friends, even landing in a field behind his house (by permission, of course).

But Chad’s favorite trip is still heading to the North Shore in the fall – flying above the trees and along the shore, with the blue lake and the gorgeous reds and yellows of the leaves painting a beautiful and varied palette below him.

Original article  ➤

The two people killed Friday night when a small plane nose-dived into the Mississippi River in Ramsey have been identified as a couple from Princeton, Minn., who shared a love of flying.

They were on a low-altitude scenic flight over the rain-swollen river around 5:30 p.m. Friday when their single-engine Cessna struck power lines over the river near the 6400 block of Riverdale Drive NW., Lt. Brent Erickson of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office said Saturday.

“Just a husband and wife out for a flight and, unfortunately, tragedy,” he said. “He was flying upriver … in a westerly direction. The skies were clear last night. … He may have been blinded by the sun. That may have played a part in him not being able to see the power lines.”

No one else was on board.

A salvage crew worked the river Saturday after sonar scans found the fuselage and one of the wings about 300 yards downriver from the power lines. High, swift water full of swirling debris prevented divers from entering the water.

The body of the presumed passenger, Jill M. Rygwall, 48, of Princeton, was found in the river shortly after the crash. The body of her husband, whose name has not been released by authorities, is believed to be in the underwater wreckage, Erickson said.

Public records identify him as Chad J. Rygwall, 47, and confirm that he has had a private pilot’s license for five years. A single-engine Cessna is registered in his name.

A 2005 article on the Senior Perspective magazine website said that Rygwall was colorblind but had dreamed of being a pilot like his relatives. It said Federal Aviation Administration rules restricted him from flying at night and he had to receive special medical certification every two years to retain his license.

Chad Rygwall became enamored with flying as a child when his uncle flew him over the forests of the North Shore, but he didn’t get his license until after a severe heart attack a few years ago, said his cousin, Brian Rygwall, who also is a pilot. “I mean, he took every chance he could to fly. He took Jill, his wife, up all the time, and I’m assuming they just went up and were having a joy ride like they always do.”

Brian Rygwall was flying back from Los Angeles when he heard air traffic radio transmissions about the crash, but he didn’t know who it was until someone called him at home.

Jill Rygwall worked in special education in the Princeton School District. She graduated in 1991 from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn.

“Jill was very kind in her work with special needs students, helping them to meet their goals,” Princeton Superintendent Julia Espe said. “She will be greatly missed.”

The Rygwalls have a son, Andrew, 13, who is with his grandparents.

The plane flew out of the small Princeton airport. National Transportation Safety Board officials are participating in the investigation.

Lora Hamilton, 83, of Ramsey, said Friday that she was dining at her home near the river when she saw the plane. “It was below tree height,” she said. Then she heard the crash.

Chad and Jill Rygwall were married for 23 years. Their deaths have devastated the family, Brian Rygwall said. “As happy as the two of them were, they were the model couple.”

Original article can be found here ➤

Chad Rygwall’s small plane was pulled from the Mississippi River in Anoka County on Sunday afternoon and, as expected, the body of the 47-year-old Princeton, Minn., man was found inside, sheriff’s officials said. 

Anoka County sheriff’s deputies solemnly packed away gear and wrapped up their efforts on the river as Lt. Brent Erickson talked to the media Sunday afternoon in Mississippi Point Park in Champlin.

Erickson said the Anoka and Hennepin County dive teams and a local salvage company tried to recover the plane Saturday evening but the swift current and swirling debris made it too dangerous.

A commercial diving company was contacted and a diver was in the water by noon Sunday. The diver reached the wreckage, attached lines and the plane was pulled from the water about 12:45 p.m. on the Dayton side of the river, Erickson said.

Rygwall’s body was taken to the Midwest Medical Examiner’s office in Ramsey about 1:40 p.m., Erickson said.

The body of his wife, Jill Rygwall, 48, had been found in the river shortly after the crash Friday in the late afternoon. The couple, both flying enthusiasts, were on a sightseeing flight, flying low to see the fall colors.

Chad Rygwall, the pilot, hit power lines that stretched across the river and the plane nose-dived into the water. The wreckage was found by sonar about 300 yards downriver from the power lines.

The National Transportation Safety Board was expected to arrive at the scene Sunday afternoon; the FAA was on the scene and helping with the investigation, Erickson said.

Erickson said the water was about 12 feet deep and about 52 degrees.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen [the river] this high in the fall,” he said. “This is more indicative of spring levels.”

The Rygwalls’ flight originated from the Princeton airport. 

Rygwall had had a private pilot’s license for five years and the single-engine Cessna was registered in his name.

Original article can be found here ➤

It will be some time, of course, before federal investigators release the cause of the plane crash near Ramsey last evening, in which a Cessna plunged into the Mississippi River, the fourth fatal plane crash in Minnesota in 2017.

But the Star Tribune’s report from a witness provides a possibility.

Witnesses who called 911 reported the plane was flying low — at or below the treetops — and heading upriver when it hit power lines stretched across the river and “did a nose-dive into the river,” he said. According to witness statements, the plane did not appear to have engine trouble.

“Why the pilot didn’t see the power lines or why he was flying low … we are unsure,” Erickson said.

The Mississippi River — any winding river, really — has always been inviting to pilots to fly low along its winding course. The scenery is beautiful, the sense of speed of an airplane is enhanced, and the perspective is unmatched.

It’s also exceedingly dangerous.

“Those lured by low flying often do not consider the possibility of tangling with wires or striking birds, the likelihood of which increases as one gets closer to the ground,” Barry Schiff, an airline pilot and columnist for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, writes. “Another problem is that low-flying pilots do not allow sufficient time and altitude to cope with mechanical problems that can develop. Inadvertently running a fuel tank dry might only be an annoyance at altitude, but the same experience at 100 feet can force a landing with little or no choice of landing sites.”

But some pilots do it anyway.

Power lines across a river are indicated on pilot navigation maps, but a lot of pilots no longer use the maps or pay attention to much detail, depending on a GPS instead.

I had a friend a few years ago who posted a video of his flight down the Mississippi south of St. Paul, skimming the surface no more than a foot or two above the water. He was lucky because there aren’t many power lines across the river in that area once you get past the Wakota Bridge. I doubt whether he knew it one way or the other.

We urged him to stop doing it and, at the very least, take the video down so the Federal Aviation Administration wouldn’t see it.

One problem is the Federal Aviation Administration regulations are vaguely defined. Pilots are required to fly at least 1,000 feet higher than the tallest structure over “congested” areas and fly at least 500 feet high over “other than congested areas.” The rules allow them to fly lower as long as they don’t come any closer than 500 feet of any person, vehicle, or structure.

The Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t define what constitutes a structure. Is a power line a structure?

In the absence of such detail, it expects pilots to use common sense, fly safely, and listen to the old-timers’ admonishments that just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

Original article and videos ➤

A couple from Princeton was in a Cessna 172M Skyhawk that crashed into the Mississippi River in Anoka Friday evening, according to the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office.

Jill Marie Rygwall, 48, was found Friday night and pulled from the water by witnesses. Resuscitation efforts failed and Rygwall was pronounced dead at the scene. Her husband, believed to be the pilot, has not been found or identified, the sheriff’s office said Saturday. The couple has a 13-year-old son who is currently in the custody of his grandparents.

Police responded to a call around 5:30 Friday night about a plane down two miles northwest of the Ferry Street bridge over the Mississippi. Witnesses reported the plane had hit a power line before going down into the Mississippi. There were no indications of mechanical issues with the airplane prior to the crash, according to the sheriff’s office.

The plane took off from the Princeton Airport Friday afternoon, but because the airport is unregulated, the sheriff’s office does not know the exact time of takeoff or the destination.

Recovery efforts have been limited by the high water level and extreme current conditions, the sheriff’s office said. Divers arrived to help, but reported it was unsafe for them to enter the water. Sonar equipment was used to locate the fuselage and one wing of the plane.

“Rescue efforts are really being hampered by the fast current. The location of the wreckage is in about 12 feet of water, so that hampers the efforts as well. It’s not shallow,” Anoka County Lieutenant Brent Erickson said Saturday.

Erickson said the recovery efforts may last several days.

Original article can be found here ➤

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looking at the public history of N7CF, that N-Number has now been assigned to three aircraft involved in fatal accidents. This accident, and another in 1976 (Cessna 337), and another in 1984 (Bell 206B).