Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Cessna 152, registered to Arbach Enterprises Inc and was operated by the pilot, N24515: Fatal accident occurred July 17, 2018 in Fort Rice, Morton County, North Dakota

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 
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania 
Arbach Enterprises; Watertown, South Dakota 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Fort Rice, ND
Accident Number: CEN18FA277
Date & Time: 07/17/2018, 1423 CDT
Registration: N24515
Aircraft: Cessna 152
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Aerial Observation 

On July 17, 2018, about 1423 central daylight time, a Cessna 152 II airplane, N24515, impacted the Missouri River while maneuvering about one mile east of Fort Rice, North Dakota. The left seat commercial pilot and sole occupant sustained fatal injuries. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to Arbach Enterprises, Inc., Watertown, South Dakota and was operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as a visual flight rules commercial aerial photography flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated from the Mandan Municipal Airport (Y19), Mandan, North Dakota about 1330.

Arbach Enterprises, Inc. leased the airplane to Morning Star Air, LLC, Watertown, on a per tachometer hour basis to conduct 14 CFR Part 91 commercial aerial photography of farms and ranches. Morning Star Air, LLC leased the airplane and contracted aerial photographs with the pilot on a per photograph basis. The pilot was compensated per photograph taken. Morning Star Air, LLC worked in conjunction with Morning Star Photography, Inc., Watertown to sell photographs of the farms and ranches to the individual property owner. Prior to the accident, Arbach Enterprises, Inc. consisted of five high-wing single engine airplanes along with several pilots that contracted with the company for commercial aerial photography operations.

The purpose of the flight was for the pilot to conduct aerial photography of farms and ranches in Morton County, North Dakota. The pilot conducted aerial photography operations using a handheld Canon EOS 6D digital camera with a Canon Ultrasonic EF lens (70-200 millimeter focal length with a 1:2.8 maximum aperture), with the left window of the high-wing airplane opened while referencing a kneeboard-based county map of the target areas. Each square on the map is equivalent to one mile.

On July 16, the pilot landed at Y19 after conducting aerial photography operations and to refuel the airplane. A mechanic who is based out of Y19, provided the pilot a ride to his hotel in Mandan. The mechanic agreed to pick up the pilot on the morning of July 17, to transport him to the airport for his flight activities that day. The mechanic sent the pilot a text message via cellular phone on July 17, about 0705 inquiring if he was ready and the pilot was picked up about 0720. The pilot conducted the preflight of the airplane and reported to the mechanic that he would return around lunch time and departed from the airport about 0845. About 1325, the mechanic and pilot refueled the airplane with about 19.5 gallons of fuel. The pilot departed for the flight about 1330.

About 1442, the Morton County Sheriff's Office received notification that a witness observed the airplane located in the Missouri River. The airplane was discovered nose down at a 65 degree angle, in about five feet of water, and about 75 feet to the west of a northwest to southwest running sandbar located in the middle of the river. The front of the airplane was found oriented about 190 degrees. At the time of the accident, the sandbar area was flooded. The Missouri River, a freshwater river that flows from north to south in North Dakota, originates in Montana and the mouth of the river is located in Missouri joining the Mississippi River.

Photograph 1 - View of the airplane in the Missouri River 
(courtesy of The Bismarck Tribune).

On July 18, the airplane was recovered from the Missouri River and transported to a secure hangar at Y19. On July 19, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspector from the Fargo Flight Standards District Office, and air safety investigators from Textron Aviation and Lycoming Engines traveled to Y19 to conduct an examination of the airframe and engine.

During the examination, no preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane were noted. An examination of the maintenance records revealed no evidence of uncorrected mechanical discrepancies with the airplane. The Canon EOS 6D digital camera, a Garmin Aera 660 global positioning system unit, an Apple iPhone cellular phone, and an Apple iPad tablet computer were recovered from the airplane. The four electronic items were secured and transported to the NTSB Vehicle Recorder Laboratory in Washington, District of Columbia, for examination and download.

Photograph 2 - View of the recovered airplane 
(courtesy of

On July 20, the investigative team conducted an interview with the owner of Arbach Enterprises, Inc. The team also traveled to the west bank of the Missouri River by Fort Rice with a deputy of the Morton County Sheriff's Office to study the accident site.

The accident airplane was automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast (ADS-B) equipped at the time of the accident and a request for the airplane's ADS-B data was submitted to the FAA, along with any radar data captured for the airplane.

The two-seat capacity airplane, serial number 15280303, was manufactured in 1977. The airplane was equipped with a 115 horsepower Lycoming O-235-L2C carbureted engine, serial number L-14884-15. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N24515
Model/Series: 152 II
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KBIS, 1660 ft msl
Observation Time: 1952 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 17 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 30°C / 17°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 4900 ft agl
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 4 knots / , 20°
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.08 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Mandan, ND (Y19)
Destination: Mandan, ND (Y19) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  46.528333, -100.567222 (est)

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


Age 35 of Baden, formerly of Hawaii, unexpectedly on Tuesday, July 17, 2018. Beloved husband of Brenda Malchano Miller; loving father of Kamaka, Meleana, and Kainoa; dear son of Elizabeth and Walter Miller; brother of Naomi Traveller, Michael and Samuel Miller; son-in-law of Kathy Malchano and Mark Malchano; brother-in-law of Kristine Malchano. Family and friends received Monday 1-3 and 6-8 p.m., at the GEORGE A THOMA FUNERAL HOME, INC.,  10418 Perry Hwy.,  Wexford. Funeral services Tuesday at 10 a.m., in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2210 Reis Run Rd., (Franklin Park). Pittsburgh, 15237. The family respectfully requests no flowers please.

A dive team with the Morton County Sheriff's Department worked on Wednesday to retrieve a downed plane in the Missouri River, near the Fort Rice Recreation Area.

Recovery efforts were halted Tuesday night as darkness settled in, but restarted at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday, according to Maxine Herr, a public information officer with the sheriff's department.

The body of Daniel Matsuo Miller, 35, of Pittsburgh, Pa., was retrieved from the plane Tuesday afternoon.

Miller was a certified commercial pilot, Federal Aviation Administration records show.

Miller was flying in the area, taking low-altitude photographs when the single-engine Cessna 152 crashed into the Missouri River, according to a statement issued by the sheriff's department. The crash was reported to 911 at 2:30 p.m.

The plane is registered to Arbach Enterprises Inc., of Watertown, S.D., according to FAA records. Filings with the South Dakota secretary of state indicate it is an aerial photography business.

A phone number for the business was disconnected.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the cause of the crash.

The sheriff department's dive team on Wednesday placed airbags under the plane's wings to lift it from an underwater sandbar. The crew then dragged it to the Fort Rice boat ramp, and it was picked up out of the water by a crane and brought to the Mandan Airport.

"We had the right crew and the right resources to make this a successful mission today," said Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said Wednesday.

FORT RICE, N.D. - The Federal Aviation Administration says the investigation into what caused a small plane to crash into the Missouri River on Tuesday near Ft. Rice will take at least a year to complete.

According to a spokesperson from the Federal Aviation Administration it is the standard amount of time to investigate a crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation, and the FAA is assisting.

A preliminary report is expected in a couple of weeks, but the findings of the probable cause of the accident that killed 35-year-old Daniel Miller won’t be available for at least 12 months according to officials.

On Tuesday, Miller was flying a Cessna 152, taking low altitude pictures, when his plane went into the water in southern Morton County. Miller’s body was found in the cockpit, and the plane was recovered from the river the next day.

FORT RICE, N.D. - UPDATE 8:45 PM: One man is dead after the plane he was flying crashed into the Missouri River Tuesday afternoon.

Authorities were able to recover the body of the 35-year-old pilot after the plane went down near Fort Rice in southern Morton County. The 911 call came in before 3 p.m. Tuesday, reporting a low flying plane that dove into the river. But as officials raced to get to the aircraft, they were slowed down working to figure out where exactly it was.

“That was a little bit of a delay until we were starting to figure out, until we got eyewitnesses here to be able to observe the scene and let us know what was going on,” Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said.

According to Federal Aviation Administration records, the plane was a Cessna 152 and is registered to a company in Watertown, S.D., and the pilot was from out of state.

“From talking to the FAA they did not have a flight plan for this individual, and they did not have him on their radar,” Kirchmeier said.

Burleigh and Morton County dive teams responded to the scene, however they weren't deployed.

“The plane is in a position to where we could reach it and the depth is not that deep to where a diver was necessary,” Kirchmeier said.

Authorities say they're working to notify family before releasing the pilot's name or why he was in the area.

Morton County officials say they're assembling a team to go out in the morning and try to float the plane back to the boat ramp.

UPDATE: The Morton County Sheriff's Office says the body of a 35-year old man that died in a plane crash on the Missouri River Tuesday has been recovered.

Morton County is now working with the FAA to remove the plane.

UPDATE: A 35-year-old man is dead after crashing a small plane into the Missouri River near Fort Rice Tuesday afternoon. Dive teams are planning to enter the water to investigate.

ORIGINAL STORY: An aircraft, possibly a crop duster, has crashed into the Missouri river near Fort Rice according to the Burleigh County Sheriff's Office.

Major Kelly Leben says Burleigh County and Morton County dive teams are headed to an area near the Fort Rice and Hazelton boat ramps.

Leben says the Emmons County Sheriff's Office and Emmons County

Emergency management requested assistance after a call to state radio reported an aircraft in the water.

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