NTSB Identification: CEN15LA059
On November 24, 2014, about 1245 mountain standard time, N625ZH, an experimental-homebuilt Ross Vans Aircraft RV-3, sustained substantial damage shortly after takeoff from Las Cruces International Airport (LRU), Las Cruces, New Mexico. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that was destined for Dona Ana County Airport (5T6), Santa Teresa, New Mexico. No flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
Two Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors performed an on-scene examination of the airplane and interviewed numerous witnesses. The witnesses provided similar accounts as to what they observed. One witness stated that he watched the pilot from the time he entered the airplane up until the accident. He said the pilot performed an engine run-up before takeoff and everything was normal. The pilot then taxied onto the runway, stopped, added full power and lifted off in about 800 feet. The witness said the pilot immediately started a steep angle of climb and the airplane's wings began "shuttering." The airplane made a 90-degree left turn onto crosswind. When the pilot rolled level, the wings were "wobbling" and the airplane was in a nose high attitude and not climbing. The pilot then made another 90 degree turn onto downwind, and the wings were again still "wobbling." The witness said he thought that the pilot was making another left turn and was going to fly over the terminal when the airplane stalled. The pilot was able to recover, and got the wings level. The witness said the pilot entered another left turn and that is when the airplane's left wing "dropped into a spin and impacted the ground." He said that when the airplane was in the 90 degree bank turns, he could see that the controls were being moved. The airplane was traveling about 65 knots from takeoff through the last turn and the engine sounded normal from takeoff to impact.
Another witness said that when the airplane began to spin, it made 1 to 1.5 rotations before it impacted a road in front of the airport's terminal building. There was no post-impact fire.
A friend of the pilot stated that the pilot had purchased the airplane two days before the accident and had no previous flight experience in an RV-3. The friend estimated that from the time the pilot purchased the airplane up until the time of the accident, he had flown the airplane about 4.0 hours.
Weather reported at the airport at 1335 was reported as wind from 290 degrees at 7 knots variable between 240 degrees and 300 degree, 10 miles visibility, and clear skies.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate for airplane single and multi-engine land and instrument airplane. His last Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Second Class medical certificate was issued on August 28, 2014. At that time, the pilot reported a total of 1,000 flight hours.
Toxicological testing was conducted by the FAA Accident Research Laboratory in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The specimens tested positive for the following:
Tetrahydrocannabinol (Marihuana) detected in Lung
Tetrahydrocannabinol (Marihuana) detected in Liver
Tetrahydrocannabinol (Marihuana) NOT detected in Blood
0.1325 (ug/ml, ug/g) Tetrahydrocannabinol Carboxylic Acid (Marihuana) detected in Liver
0.0144 (ug/ml, ug/g) Tetrahydrocannabinol Carboxylic Acid (Marihuana) detected in Lung
0.003 (ug/ml, ug/g) Tetrahydrocannabinol Carboxylic Acid (Marihuana) detected in Blood
An autopsy was conducted on the pilot by the University of New Mexico Health Science Center, Office of the Medical Investigator on November 25, 2014. The cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma.