Early Ice Fishing Bid Dunks 172


A Minnesota pilot is paying a hefty price for pushing the season. According to the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office the pilot landed a Cessna 172 on Upper Red Lake on the morning of Dec. 19 and the plane went through thin ice. The pilot and a passenger were able to get out of the partially submerged airplane and were wet but not hurt. The lake was their destination and they had planned to go ice fishing. The flight originated in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

The pilot told authorities he flew over the lake to identify a safe area to land. The landing was successful but the absence of snow on the ice meant he couldn’t slow the aircraft down and it slid to an area where the ice was less than two inches thick. The aircraft was about a half-mile from shore when it broke through. “The pilot had already made contact with a recovery operation and made arrangements to extricate the plane,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. DEI = Diversity Equity Inclusion but not sure what that has to do with anything. Glad they’re OK but what I’d really like to know is how was the fishing?

  2. It would be nice to see an uncropped photo of the airplane breaking through the ice. The photo on the article is too “tight”–one can hardly see the ice/water.

    As a Minnesotan, who regularly lands on ice (with wheels or skis) there may be something to be learned–what the ice looked like, and snow cover. Curious on how the airplane was extricated from the ice.

    Curious–was is privately owned, or a rental?

  3. There’s a video on Lakeland Public TV at lptv.org. It has a wider shot, but unfortunately the N-number is obscured by the horizontal stablizer/elevator, so we can’t look it up. The video is of a news report and has a still shot, but it shows the ice around the airplane. Living where I do, I don’t know anything about ice conditions, except that I shouldn’t put my canoe in it.

  4. Living in MN for 19 years stories abound about how deadly early ice-trekking is. This isn’t like a surprise to anyone from MN. This case seems like a matter of ‘it won’t happen to me’.

  5. The western two thirds of Red Lake is part of the Indian reservation. Every once in a while some uninformed pilot lands a float plane on the wrong side of the line to go fishing and the plane gets confiscated by the tribe.

    • Somebody ought to put the line on the popular online maps before there’s bloodshed. It’s not like there’s not a good bit of history on disagreements over proper behavior between the two cultures involved.
      We got a visit from a First Nation authority while kayaking in BC. Great guy. Whole thing was educational, and left everyone in the group with a good appreciation of the local culture. Had he decided our boats were forfeit, I don’t think it would have come out the same.

    • In answering my own question, it seems that at Upper Red River Lake, the primary consideration is following recommended ice thicknesses for the weight of the vehicle plus live load, say +50%, and I would estimate it should be no less than 17 inches.

    • “Regulation for landings on frozen lakes”–same as for landing on SKIS on frozen lakes–same as for DRIVING on frozen lakes–same as “landing on unfrozen lakes” (floats). Unless it is within an Indian Reservation, or a prohibited area (we have those in Minnesota alongside the border and National Parks–you’re free to use them at pilot’s discretion.

      Minnesota pilots feel better when flying on wheels over “The land of 10,000 lakes” (the actual number is 11,842, according to Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources) in winter time because they make good emergency landing fields.

      The local police shrugged it off–“Let us know when it is removed.”

  6. Just talked to a friend who lives in the area. He says the pilot is a great guy. The owner used an experienced salvage company to extract the aircraft from the ice. The aircraft has been removed from the lake with minimal damage.

    Merry Christmas everyone, and Merry Christmas to Ole and Lena!

  7. The problem with ice fishing is you’re too worn out from chopping a hole in the ice to float your boat. This may be a solution, just need floats on the airplane…

  8. Thank you Jim Hanson. Could not find regulations on Beltrami County’s Upper Red Lake, but here is more info on other lakes that to some extent limit or allow operations.

    State Regulations
    Subpart 1. Scope.
    This part covers only seaplane operations on all public waters within the following counties: Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington. This part does not apply to aircraft equipped with either skis or wheels when public waters are frozen.

    Subp. 2. Permissible operations.
    Seaplane operations are permitted only on the following public waters within the seven-county metropolitan area.

    A. Anoka County: Centerville Lake; Coon Lake; George Watch Lake; Ham Lake; Howard Lake; Lake George; Linwood Lake; Martin Lake; Mississippi River; Mud Lake; Otter Lake; Peltier Lake; Pickerel Lake; Reshenau Lake; Rice Lake; and Round Lake.
    B. Carver County: Goose Lake; Hazeltine Lake; Lake Minnewashta; Lake Pettersen; Lake Riley; Lake Waconia; Lunsten Lake; Mud Lake; Oak Lake; Parley Lake; Pierson Lake; and Tiger Lake.
    C. Dakota County: Alimagnet; Byllesby Reservoir; Crystal Lake; Lake Marion; Mississippi River; Orchard Lake; and St. Croix River.
    D. Hennepin County: Bryant Lake; Diamond Lake; Eagle Lake; Fish Lake; French Lake; Lake Independence; Lake Sarah; Medicine Lake; Mississippi River; Ox Yoke Lake; Schmidt Lake; Whaletail Lake; and Lake Minnetonka, except for the following lakes and bays within or adjacent to Lake Minnetonka: Black Lake, Emerald Lake, French Lake, Forest Lake, Gray’s Bay, Libb’s Lake, Peavy Lake, Seton Lake, and Tanager Lake.
    E. Ramsey County: Bald Eagle Lake; Lake Owasso; Long Lake; Mississippi River; Turtle Lake; and White Bear Lake.
    F. Scott County: Cedar Lake; Geis Lake; Pleasant Lake; Prior Lake East; Prior Lake West; and Spring Lake.
    G. Washington County: Big Carnelian Lake; Big Marine Lake; Clear Lake; Forest Lake; Lake Elmo; Mississippi River; Oneka Lake; and St. Croix River.
    Subp. 3. Prohibited operations.
    Seaplane operations are prohibited on all public waters within the seven-county metropolitan area not listed in subpart 2; also see subpart 5.

    Subp. 4. Further restrictions.
    All seaplane operations are prohibited from 11 a.m. (CDST) to 6 p.m. (CDST) on Saturdays, Sundays, and national legal holidays between June 1 and September 15 on the following public waters: Lake Minnetonka and all bays and lakes therein; White Bear Lake and all bays and lakes therein; and Lake Owasso and all bays and lakes therein.

    However, this restriction does not apply to the holder of a private or personal-use seaplane base license issued under parts 8800.2000 and 8800.2200 while operating to and from the holder’s licensed base, subject to the following conditions: such operations are limited to a maximum of one takeoff and one landing during these restricted hours and are authorized only when lake traffic and use permit operations to be conducted in a safe and reasonable manner.

    Subp. 5. Emergency use.
    Nothing in this part shall be construed to prohibit the landing or taking off of a seaplane in case of a bona fide emergency.

    Subp. 6. Ski-equipped aircraft.
    When lakes are frozen, aircraft equipped with either wheels or skis may operate on the lakes if such operations can be conducted in a safe and reasonable manner relative to lake traffic and use.

    Minn. R. 8800.2800
    13 SR 1154; 17 SR 1279; 30 SR 215
    Statutory Authority: MS s 360.015; 360.018; 360.03; 360.90

    • Yep–yet another case of local municipalities trying to “regulate” aircraft. Most of the “listed lakes” are nothing more than prairie potholes–too small to reasonably accommodate seaplanes.
      As mentioned in the “attempt to regulate”, those mentioned are part of the “Metropolitan Area”–nobody wants to operate a seaplane within those areas anyway (though the “regulation” DOES provide for “licensed seaplane bases).” I know of no successful prosecutions on this attempt to regulate–those that HAVE been challenged are defeated on the basis of “If you are going to regulate, it is your duty to make the proposed regulations available to users”–which the “Metropolitan Council” has never attempted (HOW would you disseminate this attempt to “control”?). It is the very basis for FEDERAL regulation of the airspace–not local–How would a pilot KNOW if every little burg, County, or Township had adopted a “regulation” prohibiting aircraft operation within or above the City limits?

      At the time, one of the larger local radio stations joked and added it to their list of “Minnesota–the State where NOTHING is legal!” Those of us in Minnesota who live outside of the urban-induced disease of advocating “MORE REGULATION!” disparage the would-be “control freaks”–and would gladly cede the Metro area to Wisconsin! (smile)

  9. Go to: jasonblair.net/?p=2055

    I never knew all this.

    Landing Where Seaplanes Go…but on Wheels (or Skis)
    Posted on January 16, 2018 by Jason Blair
    ‘Tiz the season for cold weather flying, and in a few cases, pilots may find the opportunity presents itself to do a few landings on a frozen lake or two!

    For pilots from the further north, the question of whether to do this is not a matter of if, it’s just a when each season these landings become a part of normal general aviation operations. Sometimes, the ice is in better condition than the runways! Southern pilots who have never done this may think we are crazy, and those of us that live in the middle zone of the country (I happen to live in Michigan), find that we get lucky enough with the right conditions to be able to do this some years and not others. With that said, under the right conditions, there is no reason it can’t be done safely.

    Now, there are a bunch of precautions that I obviously must recommend, but when the conditions are right, it can be a unique and pretty fun way to spend an afternoon of general aviation flying.

    First question, is the ice thick enough?

    Go to: jasonblair.net/?p=2055