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N3664Z accident description

New Mexico map... New Mexico list
Crash location 35.486944°N, 104.593611°W
Reported location is a long distance from the NTSB's reported nearest city. This often means that the location has a typo, or is incorrect.
Nearest city Las Vegas, NM
35.593933°N, 105.223897°W
36.2 miles away
Tail number N3664Z
Accident date 09 Aug 2017
Aircraft type Piper Pa 22-150
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On August 9, 2017, about 1025 mountain daylight time, a Piper PA-22-150 airplane, N3664Z, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain near Las Vegas, New Mexico. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was privately owned and was operated by the pilot as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed in the area, and no flight plan was filed for the flight, which departed Dalhart Municipal Airport (DHT), Dalhart, Texas, at 0640, and was en route to Santa Fe Municipal Airport (SAF), Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The pilot had recently purchased the accident airplane and took possession of it in Tennessee. On August 3 and 4, the pilot received 1.5 hours of local instruction in the accident airplane. According to personnel at the DHT fixed base operator, the pilot departed DHT for SAF the day before the accident but returned due to weather. The pilot again departed for SAF the morning of the accident.

The pilot was not in contact with air traffic control during the flight; however, a search of radar data found targets correlated to the accident airplane. The data captured the airplane as it departed from DHT and flew southwest until it passed Obar, New Mexico, when it turned west. After passing Bell Ranch, New Mexico, the airplane continued west, then northwest. The airplane made several large s-turns and flew east of San Miguel Ranch Airport (NM53) before turning north and continuing a right turn until radar contact was lost. The last radar return was about 1.4 miles southwest of runway 4 at NM53. A search was initiated after the airplane was reported overdue, and the wreckage was located on August 11.


The pilot's logbook was found in the wreckage. His most recent flight review was completed on May 22, 2017, in a Cessna 172. The pilot did not hold a current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical certificate and was operating under the provisions of BasicMed. His most recent BasicMed medical examination was conducted on May 9, 2017. The pilot's previous FAA medical certificate was issued on May 17, 2012.


A review of the airplane's logbooks did not find any record of significant maintenance issues. Notes found in the wreckage indicated that the pilot departed on the accident flight with full fuel at a tachometer time of 2509.08 hours.


No significant weather was recorded in the vicinity of the accident.


NM53 was a private airfield located about 73 miles west of SAF and had no services available.


The wreckage came to rest inverted in a wooded area in mountainous terrain. Portions of the right wing suspended in a tree; near the tree's base was a small crater filled with rain water, and the airplane's propeller was located in the crater. Areas of the cockpit contained an odor of fuel.

Examination of the flight controls did not identify any preimpact anomalies. Both propeller blades displayed leading edge damage and polishing. One blade displayed s-bending and curling, and its leading edge displayed gouges and deformation.

The airplane was recovered to a secure facility in Phoenix, Arizona. An examination of the engine did not reveal any preimpact anomalies.


The State of New Mexico, Office of the Medical Investigator, Albuquerque, New Mexico, performed an autopsy of the pilot. The pilot's heart was enlarged and weighed 470 grams (average heart weight given the pilot's weight is 387 grams) with mild four chamber dilation. The proximal left anterior descending coronary artery had 90% stenosis, and both the circumflex and right coronary arteries had 50% stenosis. Fibrosis was identified on the left ventricular free wall. Left concentric ventricular hypertrophy was mentioned, but the recorded wall thicknesses were average. Microscopy demonstrated a focus of increased fibrosis with cardiac myocyte dropout consistent with a scar. The remaining heart had increased interstitial and perivascular fibrosis. Due to the severity of injuries, a detailed examination of the brain could not be conducted. The autopsy noted chemical burns on the pilot consistent with exposure to aviation fuel. The report listed the cause of death as blunt force injuries.

The FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology testing on specimens of the pilot. Testing identified ethanol at 0.151 gm/hg in muscle, and 0.037 gm/hg in liver tissue. Another alcohol commonly produced in tissues after death, N-propanol, was detected in muscle. In addition, metoprolol was found in lung and muscle. Specimens were marked as putrefied.

Ethanol is the intoxicant commonly found in beer, wine, and liquor. It acts as a central nervous system depressant. Because ingested alcohol is distributed throughout the body, levels from different postmortem tissues are usually similar. Ethanol may also be produced in body tissues by microbial activity after death. In these cases, levels among different tissues tend to vary considerably. The alcohol levels in the pilot's tissues are consistent with postmortem production.

Metoprolol, doxazosin, and losartan were found among the pilot's belongings at the accident site. Metoprolol is a blood pressure medication that can also help prevent recurrent heart attacks. It is not generally considered impairing and is commonly sold with the names Lopressor and Toprol.

Doxazosin and losartan were not detected in the toxicology. Both medications are used in the treatment of high blood pressure.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's impairment or incapacitation by symptoms of an acute cardiac event, which resulted in a loss of control.

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