Minnesota businessman killed in WWII plane crash

A Minnesota businessman was killed Tuesday morning in a plane crash in Montana while flying a World War II-era plane.

Paul Ehlen, founder of Precision Lens in Bloomington, was flying a vintage World War II P-40 Warhawk, when it suffered a mechanical failure shortly after takeoff from the Ravalli County Airport in far western Montana.

The plane isn't just any aircraft. It's a vintage model made famous by Claire Chennault's Flying Tiger's Squadron in China. Not many of these planes are left, with possibly the only other one in Minnesota located at the Fagen Fighters Museum in Granite Falls.

Ehlen and his company were the subjects of a recent federal court case in Minnesota. Last month, a federal judge ordered them to pay a judgment of $487 million for paying kickbacks to doctors in violation of the False Claims Act.

Ehlen's company, Precision Lens, issued a statement this afternoon: "Paul was an innovative and courageous man, and his entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to helping others will continue. Above all else, Paul was a family man, and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and children whom he loved so dearly."

The Ravalli County Sheriff has notified the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the crash. Precision Lens, in its statement, said Ehlen was flying his plane back to Minnesota when it suffered a mechanical failure upon takeoff.