Sunday, June 17, 2018

Cessna 172N Skyhawk, N734BS, registered to and operated by Aero Photo: Fatal accident occurred June 15, 2018 in Rotan, Fisher County, Texas

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Lubbock, Texas
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas
Lycoming; Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Rotan, TX
Accident Number: CEN18FA227
Date & Time: 06/15/2018, 1800 CDT
Registration: N734BS
Aircraft: CESSNA 172N
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Business 

On June 15, 2018, at 1538 central daylight time, a Cessna 172N, N734BS, was destroyed when it impacted a power lines and terrain near Rotan, Texas. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The aircraft was registered to and operated by Aero Photo under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a business flight. Visual meteorological conditions existed at the time of the accident. The flight was not on a flight plan. The flight originated from the Midland Airpark (MDD), Midland, Texas, about 1331, and the Spicewood Airport (88R), Spicewood, Texas was the intended destination.

The airplane had departed 88R earlier in the day to perform aerial photography missions. After completing several missions the airplane landed at MDD, reportedly to refuel. After departing MDD on the accident flight, the airplane flew photography missions near Midland, Texas, Odessa, Texas, and Lubbock, Texas. After completing the missions near Lubbock the airplane traveled southeast to return to 88R.

The airplane impacted a non-electrified power lines that crossed a canyon near Rotan, Texas. The power line that was struck was suspended from wooden poles about 20 ft tall that were on the peaks of the adjacent ridges forming the canyon. The power lines were estimated to be about 130 ft above the floor of the canyon. The airplane came to rest inverted about 900 feet from the power lines and the direction from the center of the canyon where the power line crossed to the accident site was about 50°. The aft fuselage was broken near the baggage compartment and the entire aft fuselage and tail were bent over the inverted fuselage. Both wings appeared intact and still attached to the fuselage and wing struts. The ailerons and flaps remained attached to the wings. The tail surfaces were intact and the rudder and elevator remained attached. The engine was separated with the prop still attached to the engine. A portion of power line cable was wrapped around the crankshaft aft of the propeller an estimated 15 turns. Access to the site was limited due to the topography and the position of the wreckage was not suitable for a detailed on-scene examination. For these reasons, the examination was limited until the recovery of the airplane from the accident scene. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: CESSNA
Registration: N734BS
Model/Series: 172N N
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: AERO PHOTO
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: SWW
Observation Time: 2035 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 30 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 34°C / 13°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 7000 ft agl
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 12 knots/ 23 knots, 140°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.91 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Midland, TX (MDD)
Destination: Spicewood, TX (88R)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 32.911944, -100.540833

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

Dallas Lee McMahan

A former Corpus Christi photographer and surfer was the pilot of a plane that crashed Friday in West Texas, state authorities said.

Dallas Lee McMahon, 33, of Austin and Jay Robert Leibson, 38, of Burnet, were both killed when the plane crashed in Fisher County, according to Department of Public Safety officials.

McMahon was a professional photographer and graphic designer.

He specialized in aerial photography and also had a following for his talents capturing surfing, which is prominently featured on his website.

Ethan Thompson, a professor of Media Arts at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, said McMahon was his student 10 years ago.

"Dallas was a kind and creative person who loved being outside, doing things and making things," Thompson wrote the Caller-Times in a Facebook message. "He was a very talented photographer, and he turned it into his profession. He loved surfing and the outdoors, and sharing those things with his friend and through his photography."

Before moving to Austin, McMahon worked for New Wave Photography. Ryan Graham, New Wave's owner, said McMahon was an employee of the company before Graham bought it in 2014.

"He was instrumental in the foundation of New Wave Photography," Graham said. "It's special to me to have purchased what he was a part of."

McMahon's work varied from skateboarding and surfing to landscape and weddings.

"He had the skills for photography, web design ... he was like a jack of all trades," Graham said. "His artistic style and presentation made his work stand out. Just looking at his work it was clear — his style was unique."

Graham said McMahon was always helpful to other photographers and enthusiasts, offering tips and exchanging ideas.

"He would always talk shop with anyone. He's responsible for my jump into professional photography. He convinced me to take what I was doing on the side and turn it into a career. He showed me what was possible," he said.

McMahon's photography was often displayed at Texas Surf Museum alongside that of Jon Steele, a professional photographer from California.

"He was amazingly outgoing and always stoked," Steele told the Caller-Times. "We were friends forever."

Steele said McMahon had a passion for art and music. He played a mandolin.

"He was always so fired up. He never said 'no' to anything. He was excited about any opportunity. His new job with aerial photography was amazing. He was taking some beautiful shots."

McMahon is listed an employee at Aero Photo, an aerial photography company based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Aero Photo has an operational base near Austin.

"He doing exactly was he loved to do," Steele said. "For him to go this way ... you can't be bummed that he left that way. He was doing what he loves — making art. That's how we all want to go."

Leibson also worked for Aero Photo; the company's website lists him as one of its pilots.

Federal Aviation Administration records show Leibson has had a commercial pilot license since December 2013. He was also a certified flight instructor and was qualified to fly single- and multi-engine aircraft. 

DPS reported the Cessna 172N they were flying apparently struck power lines Friday afternoon, about 10 miles northwest of Rotan. The plane crashed at the bottom of a canyon just before 4:30 p.m., according to DPS.

Weather conditions were clear. The crash is under investigation.

Fisher County is a rural and has a small population — estimated at 3,880 in 2017, according to census figures. 

While the county has some flat terrain, there are remote sections with gullies and brush, making access difficult. 

A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise $15,000 for McMahon's memorial fund. As of Monday, nearly $10,000 had been raised.

McMahon, a Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi graduate, had his own photography business in Corpus Christi and also worked at the Texas Surf Museum, according to the GoFundMe page.

Original article can be found here:

Dallas McMahon Memorial Fund

ROTAN, TX — A Cessna 172 aircraft crashed 10 miles northwest of Rotan in Fisher County Saturday afternoon and both pilot and his only passenger were killed.

According to the Texas DPS, Dallas Lee McMahon 33, of Austin, was piloting a Cessna 172N and hit a power line before crashing and then plunging into a canyon below.

Fisher County Sheriff Alan Arnwine told KTXS that the plane came to a rest in rough terrain. It took rescuers two hours in ATV off-road vehicles to reach the crash site. KTXS reported the crash was on the Hawks Double Mountain Ranch in northwest Fisher County. The ranch is a hunting resort. Unknown is if the pilot and passenger were headed to or from the ranch.

DPS reported the plane hit the power lines and then crashed into the bottom of a canyon.

Pilot McMahon’s only passenger was Jay Robert Liebson, 38, of Burnet.

Once first responders arrived at the scene, both occupants were pronounced dead and the bodies taken to a funeral home in Rotan.

The crash happened Saturday afternoon, June 15, 2018, at 4:24 p.m., according to DPS. The weather was clear with clouds, DPS reported.

The Cessna 172 is a single-engine, four-seat (including the pilot) aircraft with a “high” wing. A high wing means the wing is mounted above the pilots’ heads. High wing aircraft allow for better visibility below, which makes these kinds of planes great platforms for aerial photography. The 172 that crashed was registered to Aero Photo out of Saint Petersburg, Florida since 2006. The plane was first registered as airworthy in 1977. Aero Photo initially called KTXS asking about any reported crashes, looking for their airplane and pilots.

The last two flights tracked by of this 172 were a 3:45 hour flight from Texas Gulf Coast Regional near Houston to the Giddings-Lee County Airport on June 8; and on June 7, a 3-hour, 56-minute flight from Burnet Muni to Houston Executive Airport.

Not all flights are tracked on FlightAware, particularly flights flown under Visual Flight Rules, or VFR, where filing a flight plan is optional.

Original article can be found here:

Cessna 172N Skyhawk II, N734BS

FISHER COUNTY, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) - The two people killed in a Friday afternoon plane crash near Rotan have been identified, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. 

The pilot was 33-year-old Dallas Lee McMahan of Austin. The passenger was 38-year-old Jay Robert Liebson of Burnet. Both were pronounced dead at the scene. 

The crash happened at about 4:30 p.m., Friday 10 miles northwest of Rotan in Fisher County. 

DPS said the plane was a Cessna 172N. It appeared to have struck power lines before crashing into the bottom of a canyon, DPS said. 

Original article:


Two men were killed after their small plane crashed Friday evening.

The single engine plane crashed at Hawks Double Mountain Ranch, northwest of Fisher County.

According to Fisher County Sheriff Alan Arnwine, the plane hit a power line.

The Fishers County Sheriff's Office received the call around 4:20 p.m.

However, due to rough terrain they couldn't reach the two men until nearly two hours later. They needed an ATV to reach the scene.

The crash is still under investigation.


The Fisher County Sheriff's Office confirmed that a plane went down in Fisher County on Friday.

The plane went down around 5:15 p.m.

Fire personnel and rescue crews have set up a staging area near FM 611 and County Road 2832 in Rotan.

The exact location of where the plane went down has not been released and the Fisher County Sheriff's Office has not provided any further details.

However, the owner of Aero Photo, an aerial photography company based out of St. Petersburg, Florida with an operational base near Austin, contacted KTXS to ask about the fate of her company's plane and the crew.

The aircraft that went down is believed to be a Cessna 172N Skyhawk. The single engine plane was built in 1977 and can seat up to four people.

Original article can be found here:


Anonymous said...

Apparently no Dallas Lee McMahon or McMahan in the FAA Airman database.

Jim B said...

Unfortunately, another tally to a long list of preventable aviation deaths.

Respects to the deceased and their families.

Bryan D said...

No McMahon in the FAA database because the pilot was Jay Bob Leibson. The DPS was mistaken in their initial report to the media that McMahon was the pilot. McMahon was the photographer on board. He has plenty of photos of himself in the right seat of the Cessna, there, but was not a pilot or pilot in training.

Anonymous said...

FYI....You can request to NOT have your name listed in the FAA public database search.

Bryan D said...

That's incorrect. You can request to have your ADDRESS unlisted, but your name and certificate information cannot be withheld from the public search.