Saturday, December 12, 2020

Van's RV-8, N836JC: Fatal accident occurred June 13, 2020 at Mandan Municipal Airport (Y19), Morton 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 Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Fargo, North Dakota 
Van's Aircraft; Aurora, Oregon


Location: Mandan, ND 
Accident Number: CEN20LA227
Date & Time: June 13, 2020, 14:00 Local
Registration: N836JC
Aircraft: Vans RV8 
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On June 13, 2020, about 1400 central daylight time, a Vans RV8 airplane, N836JC, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Mandan, North Dakota. The pilot sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. 

According to initial information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a witness observed the airplane on the ramp prior to the flight and advised the pilot that the rear seat belt was securing the rear control stick. The pilot subsequently departed in the airplane on runway 13 at the Mandan Municipal Airport (Y19), near Mandan, North Dakota. The takeoff was a 3-point takeoff and the airplane subsequently had a steep climb. The airplane descended, impacted terrain, and a ground fire occurred.

The pilot held an FAA private pilot certificate and a third-class medical certificate.

N836JC was a two-seat, low-wing, tailwheel airplane with fixed-gear. The airplane was equipped with tandem seats and tandem flight controls.

FAA inspectors subsequently examined and documented the wreckage site. Sections of the inboard left wing, inboard right wing, the engine, and sections of the fuselage were thermally damaged consistent with a ground fire. The left side of the airplane was more thermally damaged than the right side and the nearby windsock indicated the wind present was blowing across the airplane to its left. The trim tab on the left elevator was displaced downward, which is consistent with nose up trim. The interior in the cockpit was discolored, deformed, and charred. Webbing for the seat belts was not identified in the charred cockpit.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Vans 
Registration: N836JC
Model/Series: RV8 Undesignated
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: Yes
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KY19,1946 ft msl 
Observation Time: 13:55 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 27°C /17°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 18 knots / , 130°
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Mandan, ND (Y19) 
Destination: Stanton, ND (PVT)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: On-ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 46.768054,-100.894447 (est)

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email eyewitnessreport@ntsb.gov, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email assistance@ntsb.gov.


Joel Todd Pfliger, 57, Hazen, was born March 3, 1963, to Clem and Betty Pfliger, joining his sister, Kari, to complete the family. His life came to an abrupt end on Saturday, June 13, 2020. His plane crashed during routine take off and he died instantly.

Joel always loved farming and spent many hours with his farm toys, making fields in the front yard. When he went off to college at UND, his most cherished picture was of dad, the dog and the Versatile tractor. He was a member of the Phi Delta fraternity. Joel graduated as a mechanical engineer and worked at Dakota Gasification Company north of Beulah for 24 years until he retired in 2012.

Besides his engineering career, Joel was a full time farmer and took the reins at the family farm in the 90s. With all that work, Joel did not have a lot of time for socializing, but he followed his passion for planes and flying, getting his pilot's license shortly after he started working at the gas plant. He was part owner of a couple different planes during that time. His first mission was to get recertified and buy his Cetabria. He flew constantly, taking great delight in giving rides and exploring the area from the sky. Through flying, Joel made many new friends, attending fly-ins around the area and having coffee nearly every Saturday with his pilot friends at what he lovingly referred to as OGC – Old Guy Coffee.

Hunting was always a big part of Joel's life, hunting with his dad, uncles and cousins as he grew up and then with his many friends. His lifelong love of wildlife and the outdoors led him to make many new friends and renew old friendships after he retired. His friend, Stan, drug him out of hiding and he never went back. One of Joel's favorite activities was gathering with friends at Swanny's shop, playing bags and making memories. Everyone knows you can't hunt pheasants without a great dog, so along came Buddy, who was the best dog ever. Rocko came along last fall and gave Joel tremendous pleasure with his antics and bright personality.

Joel's love of travel really kicked into high gear in the last ten years, taking him on numerous trips with his nephew, Ross, and cousins Al and Peg Sutherland, and his nearly annual trip to Oshkosh with cousin Scott Sutherland. Travels included trips to Ireland, Scotland and Norway, as well as Canada and the US and a memorable trip to New Orleans with Steve, Kari and Ross. He had an ongoing list of places he planned to visit.

Family always came first for Joel and he seldom missed a chance to spend time with aunts, uncles and cousins, talking, laughing and frying fleishkuechle. Joel was well known for his warmth and caring and his ability to see a need and volunteer to help in any way he could, whether it be assisting an ailing neighbor with harvest or helping a young farmer get on his feet or blowing snow. He was honored to mentor young people and foster their own love of farming, hunting or flying.

Leaving behind those who loved him best, his sister, Kari and her husband, Steve Huber; nephews, Scott, Ross and Trevor Huber; as well as his uncle, Jim (Lee) Pfliger; aunt, Dorothy Lang; and numerous cousins and friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents; three infant brothers; as well as his grandparents and many other dear family members.

Memorials can be directed to the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot or to the charity of your choice.

Arrangements conducted by Barbot Funeral Home, Beulah and Hazen.


Federal officials investigating a fatal plane crash at the Mandan Municipal Airport on June 13th say a witness noticed before takeoff that a seat belt was securing the small plane’s rear control stick.

The preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board does not speculate on whether that might have contributed to the June 13th crash, but aviation experts say the setup would have been problematic if the pilot didn’t address it.

Joel Pfliger, 57, a Stanton-area farmer and former gas plant worker, died when his homebuilt plane crashed after takeoff that Saturday afternoon. He was flying home, in clear conditions, according to the report.

The Van's RV-8 plane burned and was destroyed, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The plane is a two-seat, single-engine aircraft made for aerobatics that is built from a kit, according to the Van's Aircraft website. Pfliger was alone in the plane and died at the scene.

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into the crash. The agency recently issued its preliminary report, which is essentially a statement of facts about the crash. A final report that will include details about the suspected cause will come later. Such investigations typically take months and sometimes years.

The preliminary report states that “a witness observed the airplane on the ramp prior to the flight and advised the pilot that the rear seat belt was securing the rear control stick. The pilot subsequently departed in the airplane ... and the airplane subsequently had a steep climb. The airplane descended, impacted terrain, and a ground fire occurred.”

Securing a control stick with a seat belt in such planes is not uncommon.

“Some airplanes have control locks that lock the flight controls in place when the plane is parked in order to prevent wind damage. In some airplanes that lack control locks, it is common to use the seat belts to hold the flight controls in place for this purpose,” University of North Dakota professor and Aviation Department Chairman Brett Venhuizen told the Tribune. “The control lock, or the seat belt if used as a control lock, must be removed/released prior to flight.”

The NTSB report does not answer if Pfliger did so, and the report states "webbing for the seat belts was not identified in the charred cockpit."

The report does not identify the witness. Mandan Municipal Airport Manager Jim Lawler said he did not know who it was. Lawler said it was not him, and that about a dozen people work at the facility.

The Van's RV-8 has a front seat and a rear seat, with a set of controls that can be operated from either seat.

“If you were to depart with the rear control stick secured like that, that would cause an accident,” said Torin Walhood, a UND-trained airline pilot who also has worked as a flight instructor.

Pfliger was an experienced pilot -- he had been flying for about two dozen years and "flew constantly," according to an obituary published by the family. Family did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the NTSB report.


The pilot who died in the crash of a small airplane at the Mandan Municipal Airport last weekend was a Stanton-area farmer and former gas plant worker. 

Police on Thursday identified the victim as Joel Pfliger, 57. He died about 1:45 p.m. Saturday when his homebuilt aircraft crashed after takeoff. The Van's RV-8 experimental aircraft burned and was destroyed in the incident, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Pfliger was alone in the Van's RV-8 and died at the scene.

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into the crash. The agency had not yet issued a preliminary report as of Thursday evening.

Pfliger was a full-time farmer and a mechanical engineer who worked at Dakota Gasification Co. north of Beulah for 24 years until retiring in 2012, according to an obituary published by the family.

He was a University of North Dakota graduate and a hunting enthusiast. He got his pilot's license shortly after he started working at the gas plant and "flew constantly," according to the family. He attended fly-ins around the area, went on numerous trips with family members and made a nearly annual trip to Oshkosh, Wis., which hosts a yearly air show that draws thousands of planes and hundreds of thousands of people.

No comments:

Post a Comment