Thursday, February 22, 2018

Cessna 441 Conquest II, N771XW: Fatal accident occurred February 22, 2018 in Rossville, Clinton County, Indiana

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Indianapolis, Indiana
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas
Honeywell; Phoenix, Arizona

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Ponderosa Aviation LLC:

Location: Rossville, IN
Accident Number: CEN18FA107
Date & Time: 02/22/2018, 1939 EST
Registration: N771XW
Aircraft: CESSNA 441
Injuries: 3 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Business 

On February 22, 2018, at 1939 eastern standard time, A Cessna 441 Conquest II airplane, N771XW, impacted terrain following a loss of control in Rossville, Indiana. The airline transport rated pilot and two passengers were fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by Ponderosa Aviation LLC under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a business flight. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was operating on an instrument flight plan. The flight originated from the Eagle Creek Airpark (EYE), Indianapolis, Indiana, about 1920, with an intended destination of the Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport (GRB), Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Shortly after takeoff the pilot deviated from the assigned heading and altitude. When questioned by the Indianapolis departure controller, the pilot replied that the airplane was out of control. The pilot then turned the airplane to a heading 90° and explained to the controller that he had a trim problem and difficulty controlling the airplane, but that he had the airplane back to straight and level. The pilot was issued a turn to a heading of 310°, followed by a clearance to climb and maintain 13,000 ft. The pilot was then instructed to contact the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZAU). The pilot checked in with ZAU57 sector stating that he was climbing from 10,600 ft to 13,000 ft. The pilot was cleared to climb to FL200 (20,000 ft) followed by a climb to FL230. The pilot was instructed to change frequencies to ZAU46 sector. The pilot then transmitted that he needed a minute to get control of the airplane and that he was having difficulty with the trim. Communication and radar contact was then lost.

Several witnesses reported hearing the airplane flying overhead. They all described the airplane as being very loud and that the engine sound was steady up until they heard the impact.

The airplane impacted the terrain in a plowed field (upper field) which was soft and muddy. A shallow disruption of the dirt was present which was about 250 ft in length. The impact mark was visible up to the crest of a slight incline where the main pieces of wreckage began. Trees bordered the east end of the field and just beyond the treeline was a tree-covered hill which descended about 50 ft at a slope of about 50°. The trees on the hillside were about 80 to 100 ft tall. At the bottom of the hill was an 8 - 10 ft wide creek. The east bank of the creek was treelined and beyond the trees were to more open fields (lower fields) which were divided by a row of small trees and brush. The wreckage was scattered in the upper field, down the hillside, and into the lower fields. The entire wreckage path was about ¼ mile in length.

Recorded weather conditions present 17 miles west of the accident site were overcast at 1,500 ft with 10 miles visibility. The witnesses reported similar conditions in at the accident site. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: CESSNA
Registration: N771XW
Model/Series: 441 NO SERIES
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument Conditions
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: LAF, 606 ft msl
Observation Time: 1954 EST
Distance from Accident Site: 17 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 7°C / 5°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 3 knots, 120°
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 1500 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.38 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Departure Point: Indianapolis, IN (EYE)
Destination: Green Bay, WI (GRB)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 2 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 40.464722, -86.612778

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

Nathan Saari was the pilot in the deadly plane crash.

CARROLL COUNTY, Ind. (WSAW) -- We're learning new information in the Indiana plane crash that killed three people, including a prominent Wisconsin dairy farmer and business owner.

The crash happened Thursday night when a Cessna 441 Conquest crashed in a muddy field in Carroll County, Indiana. Indiana State Police say there were no survivors.

The victims were John Pagel, his son-in-law Steve Witcpalek, and the pilot of their plane, Nathan Saari. Pagel was president of Edge - a dairy farmer cooperative. Saari's family and Jamie Mara, the director of public relations for the Dairy Business Association and Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, says Saari was originally from Marquette, Michigan, and had been living in Bellevue, Wisconsin - near Green Bay - for the past two months.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, which is standard procedure for aircraft accidents and incidents.

Original article can be found here ➤

Federal investigators continue to look into what lead to the crash that claimed the three men from Northeast Wisconsin last thursday night.

Killed in the crash was John Pagel, owner of Pagel's Ponderosa. His son-in-law Steve Witcpalek who worked with him at the farm and pilot Nathan Saari.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are looking for clues to what may have contributed to the crash.
As of right now - investigators are saying nothing other- than they are continuing to investigate. 
Local Five was contacted by an aviation expert out of Dallas - Robert Katz who has been a pilot for nearly 37 years..
Mr. Katz says he has studied what's publicly available on the the incident- including audio between the pilot and air traffic control and another website that tracks the movements of aircraft.
Mr. Katz believes the aircraft may have had a mechanical issue, "The last radar hit on Flight Aware indicates that the airplane was climbing at six thousand feet a minute that is not normal for that particular airplane to be climbing at that rate and that sounds to me like a stuck trim tab or a runaway autopilot or trim system that the pilot cannot disengage either by pulling circuit breakers or pushing buttons -  something is jammed at this point and now he has no control over the airplane," said Robert Katz, commercial pilot, small flight instructor.

FAA investigations like this generally take months or longer before a final report is released.

Original article ➤

John Pagel 

Pagel's Ponderosa Dairy is seen in Kewaunee County, February 23, 2018. 

CARROLL COUNTY, Ind. -- There were no survivors from a plane crash Thursday night in Carroll County, according to Indiana State Police. 

The Cessna 441 went down around 7:30 p.m. in a field near Carroll County Roads 500 West and 600 South, just north of Rossville.

The plane took off from Eagle Creek Airport in Indianapolis at 7:21 p.m., according to flight records. It was headed to Green Bay-Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The plane flew from Green Bay to Indiana Thursday morning.

At 7:39 p.m., data shows that the plane was between 18,000 feet and 28,000 feet when it disappeared off radar, according to Call 6 sources. Shortly after, multiple people called 911 in Carroll County, reporting a plane down. People who live in the area who heard the crash say it sounded like thunder.

First responders had trouble finding the wreckage at first because it was so dark and far back in a field. They eventually used ATVs and other off-road vehicles to access the area. 

Two of the victims are John Pagel and Steve Witcpalek, Pagel's family told WGBA in Green Bay. Witcpalek is Pagel's son-in-law. The third victim is pilot Nathan Saari.

 The Pagel family released this statement Friday afternoon:

"Many of you heard our family and extended family is grieving the loss of owner, father, person and friend, John T. Pagel, as well as John’s son-in-law, Steven Witcpalek, and pilot Nathan Saari. We appreciate the outpouring of the communities thoughts and prayers and request your respect for the privacy of the family as we wait for additional information. As we know more details we will keep you informed."  There is no word on what caused the plane to go down.   Officials with the FAA and NTSB are expected to arrive on the scene Friday morning to begin their investigation.

Original article can be found here ➤

John Pagel, left and Steve Witcpalek

ROSSVILLE, Ind. (AP/WLUK) -- The owner of a large Kewaunee County dairy farm, his son-in-law and the pilot were killed in a plane crash in Indiana.

Accoridng to a family statement, John Pagel, his son-in-law Steve Witcpalek and pilot Nathan Saari died in the crash.

State Police say the plane was a Cessna 441 Conquest Turboprop. It had taken off from the Eagle Creek Airport in Indianapolis and was headed to Green Bay. Carroll County, Indiana, Sheriff Tobe Leazenby says the plane crashed Thursday night just north of Rossville. The rural area is about 60 miles northwest of Indianapolis.

The family's statement Friday afternoon read:

The Pagel and Witcpalek families are heartbroken over this tragic loss. John and Steve were wonderful family men and dedicated dairymen who brought joy to the lives of so many people. They valued their community, loved their neighbors and lived life to the fullest. Although it’s unimaginable to think of a future without them, we know that their loving spirit will guide us. We sincerely thank the countless people who have showered us with love and support. We also grieve for the loved ones of the pilot who was lost, Nathan Saari, as they try to bear the terrible pain of this tragedy. We appreciate your respect for our privacy as we wait for additional information.

Pagel and his family own Pagel's Ponderosa Dairy in Kewaunee County and The Cannery Public Market in downtown Green Bay.

The Edge Dairy Cooperative, of which Pagel was board president, released this statement:

This is a tremendous personal and professional loss for the Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative family. John was a cherished friend and visionary leader who helped create the cooperative and its sister organization, the Dairy Business Association. John was a champion for the dairy community who worked tirelessly to put farmers in a position to succeed.

As president of Edge since its beginning in 2010, John led with enthusiasm and commitment. Under his guidance, the cooperative grew to the sixth-largest in the country, representing hundreds of farmers throughout the Midwest. In recent years, Edge has strengthened its advocacy in Washington, D.C., where John often traveled to talk to members of Congress about the impact of federal actions on farmers back home.

John was a pioneer and entrepreneur who built a thriving multifaceted business and inspired others in the industry to try new approaches. The Edge board and staff will deeply miss John’s friendship and energy, but his vision and spirit will continue to inspire and guide us.

Original article can be found here ➤

John Pagel 

Prominent Kewaunee County businessman John Pagel and his son-in-law were among those killed Thursday night when a Green Bay-bound plane crashed in Indiana, the Journal Sentinel has confirmed.

The son-in-law was identified as Steve Witcpalek.

Pagel, the CEO of Pagel's Ponderosa Dairy, also represented the Town of Casco on the Kewaunee County Board.

Indiana State Police said there were at least three people on the plane and that all were killed.

WISH-TV in Indianapolis reported that a Cessna 441 Conquest II crashed in Carroll County, Ind., after having taken off from Indianapolis.

he plane crashed in a field near Rossville, about 60 miles northwest of Indianapolis.

The plane had flown from Green Bay to Indianapolis Tuesday morning, WISH-TV reported.

The crash, which occurred about 7:30 p.m., killed all on board, according to the Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier. Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby confirmed the casualties at 10 p.m. but said investigators had not yet determined how many people were on the plane, the Journal & Courier said.

The plane was bound for Green Bay-Austin Straubel International Airport, according to WISH-TV sister station WFRV in Green Bay. WISH-TV said federal aviation records showed the plane's owner is Ponderosa Aviation, which has the same address as Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy in Kewaunee.

According to the website Business Jet Traveler, the Cessna Conquest II is a twin turboprop business jet that was last built in 1986. It can seat up to nine passengers.

The Pagel family manages about 8,500 acres and milks 5,300 cows. They also have a farm in Kansas that milks about 4,500 cows.

The family operation began in Wisconsin 72 years ago with fewer than 10 cows, a handful of hogs and some chickens.

Now, it has a 72-stall rotary milking parlor that produces about 500,000 pounds of milk a day. The business also has a cheese plant and a restaurant called The Cannery Public Market in Green Bay.

Pagel’s four children all returned to the family business that now employs more than 100 people.

Pagel was president of Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, the nation’s sixth-largest dairy cooperative. 

In 2017, that group, then called Dairy Business Milk Marketing Cooperative, helped dozens of dairy farmers find a home for their milk after their buyer, Grassland Dairy Products, dropped them in a trade dispute with Canada.

“The work is not done,” Pagel said at the time, “until each and every one of these farmers has a buyer for their milk and long-term solutions are in place.”

In 2003, Pagel's Ponderosa Dairy was named Innovative Dairy Farm of the Year by the International Dairy Foods Association and Dairy Herd Management.

Every year, the farm hosts middle-school students who spend a week learning about agriculture.

“John is revered in the industry,” Thomas Wilson, a vice president at Green Stone Farm Credit Services in Sturgeon Bay told the publication AgWeb last fall.

“He has the ears of many national dairy industry leaders and representatives and is influencing dairy policy,” Wilson said.

Original article can be found here ➤

OWASCO, Ind. (WISH) — Indiana State Police say no one survived a small-plane crash in southern Carroll County on Thursday night.

The plane was on its way from Indianapolis to Green Bay, Wisconsin, according to its flight plan. It had flown from Green Bay to Indianapolis this morning, arriving at 9:30 a.m.

Police say the crash of the Cessna Conquest II twin-turboprop happened about 7:35 p.m. near the intersection of county roads 600 South and 450 West, about 3 miles north of the town of Rossville and less than a mile east of the unincorporated community of Owasco.

State police said they don’t know how many people were on board.

The plane was headed to Green Bay-Austin Straubel International Airport, according to Nexstar partner station WFRV. Federal aviation records show the plane is owned by Ponderosa Aviation, which shares an address with Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy in Kewaunee, Wisconsin.

State police said the plane left Indianapolis from Eagle Creek Airpark on the city’s northwest side.

Police said the crash is in a rural, remote area. Communications were being hampered by the remoteness. Mud was hampering the investigation.

Witnesses told police they heard a race car sound before the crash.

Emergency radio traffic indicated a large debris field.

Wayne Township Fire Department in Indianapolis tweeted it was providing assistance with an unmanned aerial system.

Original article can be found here ➤

CARROLL COUNTY, Ind. – Authorities are investigating a small plane crash in Carroll County.

Indiana State Police say the scene of the crash is near the intersection of County Road 600 S and 500 W, north of the town of Rossville.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says authorities have located the wreckage of a Cessna 441 Conquest II in the area.

The FAA says the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be in charge of the investigation.

Indiana State Police believe there are no survivors. At this time, they do not know how many occupants were on board.

Original article can be found here ➤

CARROLL COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI/WISH) — Indiana State Police say a small plane crashed in southern Carroll County on Thursday night.

According to Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby, around 8:00 p.m. a Cessna 441 Conquest II crashed about 3 miles north of Rossville near the intersection of county roads 600 South and 500 West. There are reports of one fatality. 

State police said the crash is in a rural, remote area, and communications were being hampered by the remoteness.

Emergency radio traffic indicated a large debris field.

Wayne Township Fire Department in Indianapolis tweeted it was providing assistance with an unmanned aerial system.

The Indiana State Police and the FAA will be taking over the investigation.

Original article can be found here ➤

CARROLL COUNTY, Ind. (WTHR) - Indiana State Police confirms to Eyewitness News the investigation of a crash involving a Cessna 441 Conquest II in Carroll County.

A spokesperson for ISP's Lafayette Post said there's little information available about the incident but that officers were investigating a small plane down near the intersection of County Roads 600 South and 500 West. The location is north and west of Rossville.

Police couldn't provide any information about passengers, but said late Thursday that there were no survivors.

Carroll County E911 reports 600 South is closed to all traffic between Prince William Rd. and 500 West.

An FAA spokesperson told Eyewitness News that first responders had arrived at the wreckage of a Cessna 441 Conquest II.

FAA investigators are responding to the crash site. 

The NTSB has been notified and will be in charge of the investigation.

Original article can be found here ➤


mr said...

I listened to the tape and the controller questioned heading and altitude several times because it was erratic. The pilot reported back that he had a trim issue but recovered. He received then vectors next a waypoint to proceed his flight.

Anonymous said...

Trim locked up or Autopilot not disengaging is certainly a scary situation. Sounds like they were climbing at a very fast rate (6,000 fpm), to get in those flight levels! Prayers to all of the family!

Anonymous said...

It damnear sounds like spatial disorientation.

SMurphy said...

Get on the ground , don't continue flight, just because things seem normal again.