Sunday, November 08, 2020

Piper PA-22-135 Tri-Pacer, N3606A: Fatal accident occurred November 07, 2020 in Dunn Center, Dunn County, North Dakota

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.

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

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Fargo, North Dakota

Location: Dunn Center, ND
Accident Number: CEN21LA044
Date & Time: November 7, 2020, 19:18 Local
Registration: N3606A
Aircraft: Piper PA-22-135
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On November 8, 2020, about 1918 mountain standard time, a Piper PA-22-135, N3606A, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Dunn Center, North Dakota. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot had landed at a friend’s private airstrip for a visit. He told his friend that he was going to return to Fargo, North Dakota, but would first fly to Dickinson, North Dakota, “where the weather was better.” The friend pleaded with the pilot not to go, but the pilot departed anyway. The airplane struck a hill about eight miles southeast of Dunn Center.

The friend told the responding Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector that the pilot was nervous about the weather conditions and checked the weather every 30 minutes two hours before he departed. He offered the pilot his vehicle to take home, but the pilot declined. He further stated that he followed the airplane during take-off using his headlights to illuminate the runway. He lost the airplane lights in the overcast and fog within seconds after departure. He said he could hear the airplane in the overcast and it sounded like it was turning back toward the runway. He heard the airplane engine running at high RPM and then heard a loud “crack”. It was then he knew the airplane had crashed.

The wreckage was located on top of a hill about ¼ mile southwest of the airstrip. Ground scar analysis, impact signatures, and wreckage fragmentation patterns were consistent with the airplane impacting terrain in a near 90-degree bank angle with high forward velocity. Fragments of the right wing along with transfer evidence indicate the right wing tip impacted a fence post. This was the first point of impact. A large ground scar was found 30 ft from the right wing impact point. This ground scar was the consistent with the right side fuselage as evidenced by the remaining right wing material torn off at this impact location. The right landing gear was also located at this point. A third ground scar was located 50 ft beyond the second ground scar. At this point widening debris field continued with the remaining parts of the fuselage about 180 ft beyond the initial point of impact. The engine was located 260 ft beyond the initial point of impact. The firewall and engine mount could not be located. The empennage separated from the fuselage and the control surfaces were destroyed.

Low ceiling, light drizzle, thick fog, and night conditions prevailed. The pilot was not instrument rated, and the airplane was not instrument flight rules (IFR) equipped or certified.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper 
Registration: N3606A
Model/Series: PA-22-135
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: 
Condition of Light:
Observation Facility, Elevation:
Observation Time:
Distance from Accident Site: 
Temperature/Dew Point:
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: 
Altimeter Setting:
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point:

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 47.227222,-102.51666 

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

Christopher Hans
December 21, 1976 - November 07, 2020

Fargo Scheel’s lost its best customer when Christopher Russel Hans died suddenly in an airplane accident on Saturday, November 7th, 2020.

Chris was born on December 21st, 1976 to Jerome and Barbara (Bakkerud) Hans, rural Davenport, North Dakota.

Chris grew up on the family farm where he learned to aster the art of fixing things from following his Dad around all day. He attended and was confirmed at Canaan Moravian Church, Davenport ND.

He attended Kindred High School and graduated in 1995. He wasn’t much of an athlete but he did have the coolest car (so we’re told).

Chris graduated from WyoTech in Laramie, Wyoming. While living there he was an avid rock climber, hunter, fisher and snowmobiler.

In 1998, Chris became a Dad to his first daughter Rayne, that he loved from the start and always talked about her. In 2000, he returned to the family farm and worked for Glasow Farms on and off for the next several years, he couldn’t resist helping out at harvest time.

It was in September of 2000, he met the love of his life, Michelle. They were married on June 7, 2003 and lived in Wahpeton where they both worked at the Circle of Nations School.

In 2005, their daughter Rylee was born. Chris was an amazing Dad and she soon became a Daddy’s girl and had him wrapped around her finger, which was still true till his last day. Chris attended NDSCS, Wahpeton, ND and graduated in 2010 from NDSU with a degree in Civil Engineering.

He worked at Ulteig Engineers until joining Bolton and Menk, Inc., in June of 2019, where he was excited to be doing strictly aviation projects.

He will deeply missed by: his wife, Michelle (Fargo), daughters Rayne Benson (Laramie, WY), Rylee Hans (Fargo), his parents Jerome and Barbara (Bakkerud) Hans (Fargo), mother-in- law, Linda Bartnick (Wahpeton).

He was preceded in death by his infant son Drake (2013), father-in-law, James Bartnick, and paternal and maternal grandparents.

In lieu of flowers a donation can be given to the Fargo Air Museum ( in memory of Chris.

DUNN CENTER, North Dakota — A Fargo pilot was killed Saturday, November 7th, in an airplane crash in rural Dunn County, 8 miles southeast of Dunn Center.

The pilot, Christopher Russel Hans, 43, took off in the dark shortly before 7:30 p.m. MST from a private runway in a heavy fog and moments later crashed into the side of an adjacent hill. The pilot was declared dead at the scene and his identity is being withheld pending family notification.

Recovery and salvage operations are expected to continue throughout the day Sunday and this week as multiple agencies secure the scene.

Parts of the  Piper PA-22-135 Tri-Pacer will be examined by investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board to determine if the accident can be attributed to pilot error or aircraft performance.

Dunn Center is about 40 miles north of Dickinson.

Emergency responders with the North Dakota Highway Patrol, Dunn County Sheriff’s Office and Dunn County Fire and Rescue worked throughout the night Saturday at the scene of a fatal  Piper PA-22-135 Tri-Pacer crash in rural Dunn County, eight miles southeast of Dunn Center.

The pilot, an unidentified 43 year-old Fargo resident, took off in the dark from a private runway in a heavy fog and moments later collided into the side of an adjacent hill. The pilot was declared deceased at the scene due to injuries sustained in the crash and his identity is being withheld until notification of next of kin.

Recover and salvage operations are expected to continue throughout the day Sunday and into the early portion of the week as multiple agencies secure the scene while a full investigation into the matter is handled by the NDHP.

Investigators will collect portions of the four-place, strut braced, high-wing light aircraft that will be taken and examined by investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board to determine if the accident can be attributed to pilot error or aircraft performance.

This fatal airplane crash is the first in the state, according to the NTSB since a plane crash by Mandan in July 2020 killed 1.


  1. "took off in the dark from a private runway in a heavy fog".... IN A TRI PACER. $500 says the deceased did not have an instrument rating, the airplane was not appropriately equipped or certified for flight in IMC conditions, and that he had done this before.

    That Darwin, he's a heartless bugger.

    1. I'll go one beyond: was the pilot even rated for a PPL. We've read many a story here on KR about rural non-rated pilots killing themselves (and a few urban non-rated who kill others with them).

    2. no self respecting life loving instrument rated pilot would have flown under those conditions with a tri pacer's era panel!

    3. gretnabear, we have seven Tri-Pacers and Pacers in our group near Portland OR, two of those have good IFR panels (no icing of course)
      But it's a fact that a freshly-minted pilot with low hours departing in a single engine plane after dark, in the fog, from a rural strip amongst the hills is a really bad idea.
      If you cannot see the ground as you depart you don't get to choose where you put it down when the engine fails on climb out.
      I feel very badly for the CFI and examiner who gave him his license.

  2. N3606A, 1953 PA-22-135 was registered to his name on 04/23/2019.

    Airmen Registry has him:

    Medical Information:
    Medical Class: Third Medical Date: 12/2019
    Certificate: PRIVATE PILOT
    Date of Issue: 6/13/2020


    1. Freshly minted. Apparently his instructor forgot to include ADM in the syllabus. Very sad.

    2. Yeah come on ADM,more like "A Dumb Move"..sorry but true and it cost this guy his life

    3. Don't know if he was freshly minted or not. You can't trust the Airmen Cert link on the FAA website. I rec'd my ticket in 1996 and when I paid the $2 for the new credit card size license, it came with an issue date of 11 March 2019. So if you go by the website, I'm a "freshly minted" pilot after 24 years at the controls.

  3. At least he didn't take anyone else with him.

    I'm curious to see if the autopsy will show if anything contributed to his extremely bad judgement.

  4. Bad Judgement & Newbie is the Key word here....

  5. Checking maps rather sure I spotted the small grass runway near Emerson where he took off which even that is a head scratcher to try in the dark. The hills are fairly low around there looking at the terrain which makes me wonder if why he didn't get much altitude, not that he should have been flying in the first place.

    So many questions on this one. Where was he going? Why was he going? Did he have some type of impairment that clouded judgment this would be a good idea? Apparently the fog or low visibility was notable on the ground that evening which would mean he knew he wouldn't be able to see far, did he think it'd thin out further up?

    It's a textbook inexperienced pilot move which led to a textbook ending as such.