FARGO-The pilot who died in a plane crash south of Fargo Thursday afternoon, Dec. 1, reported an onboard fire shortly before the crash, according to a preliminary investigative report released by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Hans Ahlness, 55, was the lone occupant of the Cessna 340 that crashed near the Wild Rice River about 10 miles south of Fargo's Hector International Airport.

The NTSB's preliminary report states that Ahlness, who was vice president of operations for Fargo-based Weather Modification Inc., was under contract with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and was taking air samples at various altitudes over Carrington, N.D., before the crash.

Ahlness was returning to the Fargo airport when the Cessna "overshot the runway 36 localizer," the NTSB report states.

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Shortly thereafter, Ahlness reported an onboard fire and the plane, which was at 1,700 feet above the ground, quickly lost altitude and radar contact was lost, according to the report. Evidence at the crash site was consistent with a plane striking the ground at high speed, the report stated.

There was also a ground fire after impact, the report stated.

Ahlness began his flight at 2:30 p.m. and the crash happened at 4:29 p.m., the report stated.