Five minutes after calling his sister-in-law on the phone, a pilot crashed an airplane outside her Wisconsin home and died, investigators said in a recently released report.
Aaron Mika, 29, took off from Ashland on Oct. 23 in a small, two-seat, single-propeller plane, with his 21-year-old sister, Aleah Miller, riding along with him, according to the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary investigation report.
Though an engineer by education, Mika worked in California and Alaska as a float plane pilot and flight instructor beginning in 2020, his obituary read. He was “kind, generous” and an “avid investigator of all his world had to offer.”
Fresh out of high school, Aleah Miller joined the National Guard before pursuing further education in Eau Claire, followed by an 18-month church mission in Utah, according to her obituary. She returned home to Wisconsin in May and married her husband, Kenneth, on Oct. 8, two weeks before the crash.
It was a little after 2:30 p.m. when Mika called his sister-in-law, telling her to step outside her house in Marengo, to see him buzz overhead, she told NTSB investigators.
“The airplane overflew her position multiple times at a low altitude,” the report says, and then went into a “loop maneuver,” which was captured on video taken by an unidentified witness.
The plane climbed, flying upside down toward the top of the loop, and righting itself as it descended.
But there wasn’t enough clearance to complete the loop, the report states, and during the descent, the right wing clipped the roof of a nearby house, and the plane crashed “nose-down” into the ground.
Both wings were torn off by the impact and found 20 feet from where the fuselage — the body of the plane — came to rest. A photo from the crash site shows what’s left: a jumbled metallic heap, hardly recognizable but for a red-and-white tail section, starkly intact.
NTSB investigators sorted through the pieces and found no problems with the plane itself, nothing that would have caused or contributed to the crash, the report said.
Mika and Miller were pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Ashland County Sheriff’s Office. No one on the ground was hurt.