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N93971 accident description

New Mexico map... New Mexico list
Crash location 34.752500°N, 106.735833°W
Nearest city Los Lunas, NM
34.806166°N, 106.733360°W
3.7 miles away
Tail number N93971
Accident date 25 May 2003
Aircraft type Ercoupe (Eng & Research Corp.) 415D
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On May 25, 2003, at 1448 mountain daylight time, an Ercoupe (Engineering and Research Corporation, or ERCO) 415D, N93971, was destroyed when it struck power lines and impacted terrain 1/2-half mile west of Mid-Valley Airpark (E98), Los Lunas, New Mexico. The private pilot and his passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the personal cross-country flight being conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated at Artesia, New Mexico, at 1245.

The pilot and his passenger arrived at Artesia on May 24 and, according to the lineman, "the main wing tanks were filled to within 1/2-half inch of the top." The pilot and passenger were present during the refueling operation, and made no mention of filling the fuselage fuel tank. The lineman said he was unaware that a fuselage fuel tank existed. According to the fuel receipt, the airplane was serviced at 1608 with 13.3 gallons of 100LL fuel. The lineman said that airplane departed Artesia on May 25 at 1245.

According to the owner of Rio Grande Aero, a repair facility at Mid-Valley Airpark, the airplane passed over the field and entered a left downwind leg for runway 36. When it turned onto final approach, he saw the airplane crabbing about 45 degrees into a strong, gusty, right crosswind. The wings were "wobbling." He called the pilot on the radio and suggested that he abandon the approach and maneuver to land on the closed crosswind runway (it was closed because it was used only as a taxiway). The pilot acknowledged. The owner did not witness the accident.

Two other witnesses saw the airplane descending on its approach and "swerving all over the place." The airplane's nose then rose, it made a tight left-hand turn onto the crosswind leg, and collided with the power lines. According to Public Service Company of New Mexico, power was interrupted in the area at 14:47:52.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating. His third class airman medical certificate, dated April 23, 2003, contained the limitation "Must wear lenses for distant and possess glasses for near vision." When the pilot applied for medical certification, he estimated his total flying time at 255 hours, 15 hours of which were accrued during the previous 6 months. The pilot's personal logbook was never located.


N93971, originally certified as a model 415C (s/n 1294), was manufactured by the Engineering and Research Corporation (ERCO) of College Park, Maryland, in 1946. On October 25, 1974, a 200 horsepower Continental O-200-A-16 engine (s/n 5884-9-A-R), driving a McCauley 71-48 2-blade all-metal fixed-pitch propeller, was installed. The pilot purchased the airplane on November 24, 2000. Although the airplane's maintenance records were never located, the airplane reportedly underwent an annual inspection on June 25, 2002, at a tachometer time of 3,335.0 hours.


The following METAR (routine aviation meteorological) report was recorded at 1556 at Albuquerque International Sunport, located approximately 20 miles north of Los Lunas: Wind, 090 degrees at 19 knots, gusting to 31 knots; visibility 10 statute miles (or greater); few clouds at 5,000 feet; ceiling 20,000 feet overcast; temperature 21 degrees C; dew point 9 degrees C; altimeter setting 30.00.

Witnesses in the area at the time of the accident said there were high gusty winds and rain showers, and hail "the size of a quarter."


The wreckage was located in an open field 1/2-mile west of the Mid-Valley Airpark. A north-south dirt road and power line bordered the east side of the field.

There was a ground scar, aligned on a magnetic heading of 258 degrees, that terminated at the inverted airplane. Approximately 27 feet from the beginning of this ground scar were pieces of Plexiglas. To the right of the Plexiglas was the right main landing gear, which had separated from the airplane at the wing. The intact left wing remained attached to the airplane. About 8 feet inboard from the wing tip were transfer marks and damage consistent with power line contact. Torn fabric was noted on the surface and leading edge. Approximately 21 feet west from the Plexiglas and 39 feet to the north was the right wing, which had separated from the fuselage at the root. Approximately 15 feet beyond the Plexiglas were the remains of the fuselage, left wing and empennage. The crushed empennage was aligned on a magnetic heading of 202 degrees. The nose of the airplane was aligned on a magnetic heading of 265 degrees. The propeller blades exhibited S-type bending and chordwise scratches.

The airplane hit the power lines in a left wing-low attitude and impacted terrain inverted.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the New Mexico Medical Examiner's Office on May 27th, 2003.

FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed a toxicological screen on the pilot. According to CAMI's report, there was no evidence of ethyl alcohol, drugs carbon monoxide, or hydrogen cyanide.


A Garmin GPSMAP 195 (s/n 61017402) was recovered at the accident site. It was sent to the manufacturer for examination. Damage to the unit precluded data extraction.


According to Public Service Company of New Mexico, there were six lines between pole BN 267 and pole BN 268. The top three lines were conductors, each carrying 4,600 volts. One conductor, carrying 7,200 volts, and two static lines comprised the bottom set of lines. The conductor lines were #40 ACSR (aluminum conduit steel reinforced) and 0.563 inches in diameter. The static wire was #38 EHS (stainless steel) and was 0.36 inches in diameter.

The static wire bore paint scrapes of the same color as the airplane's wing. This part of the wire was 55 feet, 10 inches above the ground.

Other than the Federal Aviation Administration, there were no other designated parties to the investigation.

The aircraft wreckage was released to the pilot's son on May 26, 2003. He did return the written release form.

NTSB Probable Cause

the pilot's failure to maintain clearance from the transmission wire. Contributing factors were the high wind, the pilot's decision to make a low-altitude turn onto the crosswind leg, and the power line.

© 2009-2020 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.