FARGO – The 55-year-old pilot of a Weather Modification plane died in a crash south of Fargo on Thursday North Dakota Highway Patrol Cpt. Bryan Niewind said.
The twin-engine, Cessna Model 340 plane crash-landed about 4:30 p.m. about a mile north of Cass County 16 in a field about a half mile east of Interstate 29 near a stand a trees along the bank of the Wild Rice River.
Neil Brackin, president of Weather Modification Inc., confirmed Thursday night that it was one of the company’s planes. He said there were no further details at this time.
The pilot’s name will be released Friday afternoon, pending notification of his family.
Fargo-based Weather Modification Inc. is one of the world’s largest private aerial cloud-seeding companies.
The pilot was southbound after taking off from Fargo’s Hector International Airport when there was some sort of in-flight emergency, Niewind said.
He said the pilot was in contact with the air traffic control tower and investigators would be examining the communications. Niewind said he could not confirm that the pilot reported smoke or flames on the aircraft.
The Red River Regional Dispatch Center originally indicated the plane crashed on Interstate 29, Niewind said.
The pilot was dead when first responders arrived and the plane was on fire and scattered in several pieces on the ground, Niewind said.
The Federal Aviation Administration is in charge of the investigation and an investigator is on the scene, Niewind said. The FAA has asked any witnesses to the crash to contact them at (701) 492-5800.
In addition to the Highway Patrol, the Cass County Sheriff’s Department, Fargo Police Department, Kindred Ambulance and Horace Fire Department were among the agencies responding to the scene of the crash.
Thursday’s crash comes a week after a pilot crash-landed in a field near the Moorhead airport about 6 p.m. on Nov. 23. The crash caused minor injuries to the pilot and one of the six passengers.
The National Transportation Safety Board recently reported that the landing in a field occurred because the pilot lost sight of the runway.
The pilot initiated a “missed approach” and ended up landing in a dirt field about a half-mile short of the runway. It caused substantial damage to the plane, according to an initial report by the NTSB.
That airplane was operated by Flight Development, a Moorhead-based firm that offers charter flights and flight lessons, the NTSB said. The plane, which was on an “on-demand passenger flight,” had departed from Baudette, Minn., the NTSB said.