Several witnesses reported they observed the RV-3 make a steep climb shortly after takeoff from the airport in Las Cruces, N.M., and then make two 90° left bank turns to enter the downwind leg of the traffic pattern.
During the turns, the wings were rocking back and forth, the airplane was in a nose-high attitude and not climbing, and the flight control surfaces were moving.
The airplane then began another left turn, the left wing dropped, and the airplane spun toward the ground. The pilot died in the crash.
One witness reported that the engine sounded normal throughout the flight.
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 the airplane make and model. He estimated that the pilot had only flown the airplane about four hours before the accident.
Based on witness accounts, there were no preaccident anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. Therefore, it is likely the pilot lost control of the airplane while maneuvering in the traffic pattern, which resulted in a stall/spin.
It is also likely that the pilot’s lack of experience in the airplane type contributed to his failure to maintain airplane control during the turns.
Although postaccident toxicology tests detected a low level of marijuana in the pilot’s blood, liver, and lung, it is unlikely that it impaired his performance on the day of the accident.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s failure to maintain airplane control, which resulted in a stall/spin. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to obtain adequate familiarization in the accident airplane type before the accident.
NTSB Identification: CEN15LA059
This November 2014 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.