Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Piper PA-28-236 Dakota, N8353T: Accident occurred September 27, 2019 in Modesto, Stanislaus County, California

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Long Beach, California

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Modesto, CA
Accident Number: WPR19LA267
Date & Time: 09/27/2019, 1945 PDT
Registration: N8353T
Aircraft: Piper PA28
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

On September 27, 2019, about 1945 Pacific daylight time, a Piper PA-28-236 airplane, N8353T, was destroyed when it impacted terrain following a complete loss of engine power near Modesto, California. The pilot was not injured. The airplane was registered to Positive Dynamic Aviation and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. A flight plan was filed but not activated. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the cross-country flight that originated from Truckee-Tahoe Airport, Truckee, California at 1850. The pilot's planned destination was San Martin Airport (E16), San Martin, California.

The pilot reported that he was about 20 minutes from E16 at 5,500 ft when he experienced a momentary partial loss of engine power. As a precaution, the pilot switched fuel tanks, turned on the fuel pump and carburetor heat and verified that all instrumentations indicated "green." Less than a minute later, he experienced a complete loss of engine power. The Air Traffic Control services offered to vector him to Modesto City-County Airport-Harry Sham Field, but the pilot realized he would not make it, so he elected to land on highway 99. To avoid a collision with ground vehicles, the pilot tried to land to the right of the highway but, during the landing sequence, the right wing contacted the light pole and separated from the fuselage. The airplane came to rest inverted and a postcrash fire ensued shortly after. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N8353T
Model/Series: PA28 236
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built:No 
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site:
Condition of Light:
Observation Facility, Elevation: KMOD, 73 ft msl
Observation Time: 0153 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 24°C / 13°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 9 knots / , 330°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.75 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point:

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries:N/A 
Aircraft Explosion:None
Total Injuries: 1 None
Latitude, Longitude: 37.625833, -120.954444 (est)

SANTA CRUZ — A pilot who walked away after crash-landing a plane Friday on a Modesto highway has been identified as Dirk Kanngiesser, a 59-year-old resident of Santa Cruz.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman, the single-engine aircraft was flying Friday night from Truckee to San Martin when its pilot reported a “rough-running” engine and attempted to divert to the Modesto airport.

The plane, a Piper PA28, crash landed on Highway 99 in Modesto and caught fire, according to FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer. Local authorities said the crash was reported at 7:48 p.m. Friday.

The pilot walked away from the crash with minor injuries, according to the California Highway Patrol. No other injuries were reported. All lanes of southbound Highway 99 were temporarily blocked by the burning wreckage. 

Kanngiesser identified himself as the pilot in a Facebook post Sunday, apologizing to Modesto residents for the “scare.”

Kanngiesser said he tried to glide to the Modesto airport after his plane lost power. But the airport was too far away.

“The highway was the only other option, keeping in mind, that we pilots in these situations focus on not hurting anyone else. This was accomplished,” Kanngiesser said.

“I am so glad that no one got hurt on 99,” he added. “Myself I was just able to get out before the plane exploded. Sorry to all of you who got caught in the freeway backup.”

Kanngiesser could not be reached for additional comment Monday. But he shared new details about the fiery crash in an interview with news channel KSBW 8 — saying the plane crashed “very hard,” ending up on fire and upside down on the highway.

“That it happened the way it happened was purely a miracle,” he said in the interview. “The odds were absolutely against me.”

Kanngiesser, who reportedly has been flying planes for more than two decades, is the CEO and co-founder of a Silicon Valley blockchain startup.

According to his LinkedIn page, Kanngiesser has volunteered as a pilot with Angel Flight West since 2014. The nonprofit arranges free flights for people with serious but non-emergency medical conditions and other “compelling needs,” its website states.

Story and video ➤


  1. Could not have ended better given the situation.

  2. Agree! Not only did a great job handling the “engine out” but did great public relations (considering the situation) for GA as well! BZ.

  3. Did ATC direct him to the closest AP? Flight path suggests KTCY would have close enough to have made the difference.

  4. Sometimes a sudden rough running engine is caused by the changed timing of a bad or "slipped" magneto. If so, how many pilots would then attempt to switch from both to either single magneto so to seek a smoother running engine again?

  5. Does anyone else find it sort of amazing that the aluminum structure seemingly melted, but the three tires are still apparently "round" on their wheels- and the plane was upside down burning after the accident?

  6. @Anon from 10/4 - look at the smoke blowing away from the tires. Fires and what they choose to consume as fuel are as unpredictable as how a tornado can destroy one home then leave the home next door practically untouched.

  7. He forgot to turn on the carb heat. Guarantee you! 15,000 down to close to sea level in the evening...he froze up.

  8. Oops... I have more than 500 hours in a Dakota and it is highly unlikely to be carb ice related. It could be lots of other things - stuck valve, broken magneto drive shaft (Dakota's have a single drive, dual mag system), but I'd be very surprised if it is carb related on this model of aircraft.