EAA Chapter 54

St. Paul, MN. (Lake Elmo)

Two chapter members killed in Afton plane crash

by Bob Collins, EAA Chapter 54

Mitch Zahler and Pat Moore were killed in a plane crash in Afton on March 2, 2024

EAA Chapter 54 members  Mitch Zahler (left above) and Pat Moore (right above)  were killed Saturday March 2 when Moore's Globe Swift went down in Afton, shortly after taking off from Lake Elmo Airport. Moore, 85, of White Bear Lake, and Zahler, 68, of Baytown Township, were enroute to the Fagen Fighters Aviation Museum in Granite Falls with a group of other aviators, according to an email from member Bill Schanks Jr., who had departed the airport just before the Swift. The County Sheriff's office made the identification of the victims official on Monday afternoon.

The Washington County Sheriff's office said it received several 911 calls from neighbors near the 15000 block of Afton Hills Blvd S. reporting what sounded like a small explosion. Emergency crews arrived and located Moore's Globe Swift, fully engulfed in the yard of a residence near the attached garage. Vicky Moore told KSTP Pat and a friend left Lake Elmo airport around 9:37 a.m.

Data from FlightRadar 24 did not reveal any outward indication of a problem prior to the crash; the plane was at 2400 feet indicated (about 1000 feet AGL) at 90 knots groundspeed when it suddenly entered a steep climb and then descended quickly.

"Pat gave me a 'thumbs up' and I gave him the 'thumbs' back," chapter member Gregg Adler told KARE 11 about the last time he saw the pair before launching their planes for Granite Falls. “These things happen, and we don’t always know why,” Adler said.

Pat and Vicky Moore' Globe Swift, which crashed on March 2, 2024

“That plane was his baby and that was his enjoyment, being up in the clouds, and he would tell us how he felt,” longtime friend Bob Rodriguez told KSTP.

"I used to race sailboats with Pat on White Bear, listening to him talk about wind and weather was a master class. Stellar guy, what a loss," another acquaintance, Jess Wolney, posted on X.

"Pat Moore and Mitch Zahler were both engaged chapter members, generous with their time and talent for the good of the chapter and the community," EAA Chapter 54 President Marlon Gunderson said. "We extend our heartfelt condolences to their families, particularly to Pat's wife, Vicky, who is also a pilot and chapter member and most recent chapter Young Eagles coordinator.  Pat and Mitch were accomplished and careful pilots. We each end our days on this earth hoping to have neither risked too much, nor risked too little, and knowing that fate as often takes the timid as well as the bold."

Vicky and Pat Moore in their happy place

Moore, a commercial artist, was a Young Eagles regular, providing ground support and assisting Vicky, who was the chairperson of the chapter's Young Eagles program.  Hundreds of kids owe their chance to experience flight to the Moores.

Zahler, who grew up on a dairy farm in Withrow, worked at Andersen Windows until his retirement in 2011.

One of the more active members of the chapter, Zahler enthralled it at an October 2021 meeting in which he described a dead-stick landing he made into Fort McCoy while returning from Oshkosh in August.

"He was just an amazing person,” his sister, Melanie Zahler, told the Pioneer Press. “He didn’t have a mean bone in his body. He was the nicest guy. My brother was one who couldn’t say ‘No.’ He was always helping somebody else.”

Mitch Zahler working in the hangar

Pat Moore, getting into his Globe Swift

(Photos of Mitch Zahler courtesy of Bill Schanks Jr. Photo of Pat Moore courtesy of Vicky Moore )

Saturday's fatalities are the first involving Chapter 54 members since Ray Wyland, 50, was killed in June 1985. He was a passenger in a Republic Seabee amphib that crashed into an unoccupied home when taking off from Ely Lake in Eveleth during a fishing trip. At the time of his death, Wyland, an executive with Weber & Troseth fire protection services in St. Paul, was the vice president of Chapter 54

The FAA and NTSB are investigating the latest crash. The accident number is CEN24FA125

A celebration of life for Pat Moore was held on March 15, 2024.  (see obituary).

Funeral services for Mitch Zahler were held on April 5, 2024.  (See obituary).


Related links:

NTSB preliminary report (Downloads file)

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