Friday, December 20, 2019

Zenith STOL CH 701, N3784A: Accident occurred October 19, 2019 near Safford Regional Airport (KSAD), Graham County, Arizona

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Scottsdale, Arizona

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Safford, AZ
Accident Number: GAA20CA039
Date & Time: 10/19/2019, 1730 MST
Registration: N3784A
Aircraft: Zenair CH 701
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Miscellaneous/other
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

The pilot reported that, while returning to the departure airport about 1,200 ft above the ground, the airplane's engine developed a severe and instantaneous vibration. He reduced power and searched for an emergency landing spot. The pilot selected a road, but the airplane landed about 40 ft short in soft, rough sand, and the main landing gear separated from the airplane.

The pilot reported that his pilot-rated passenger saw "something black streaking from the right, into the prop" before the vibration started. He suspected it was a drone but was not sure. The pilot added that there was no blood or feathers on the airplane or propeller.

The airplane sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and right wing. Additionally, a portion of one propeller blade was not located at the accident site.

The pilot further reported that, using a handheld GPS, he returned to the area of the presumed inflight propeller strike and found pieces of the propeller. He further reported that there were numerous motorcycle tracks and footprints, but no drone fragments were located.

The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical failures or malfunctions with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

The pilot reported as a safety recommendation that he suspected the airplane would have not sustained as much damage if he had landed in "one of the clear areas in the desert." He added that he "overestimated glide performance." 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 49, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land; Single-engine Sea
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s):None 
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: BasicMed
Last FAA Medical Exam: 07/13/2017
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 05/16/2018
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 2570 hours (Total, all aircraft), 104 hours (Total, this make and model), 2504 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 61 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 13 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 1 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Zenair
Registration: N3784A
Model/Series: CH 701 No Series
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental
Serial Number: 5319
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 05/17/2019, Condition
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1320 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 85 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Continental
ELT: C91A installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: O-200
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 100 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KSAD, 3176 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 2351 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 34°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 6 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 260°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 29.85 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 26°C / 0°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Safford, AZ (SAD)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Safford, AZ (SAD)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1645 MST
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 None
Latitude, Longitude: 32.693889, -109.690278 (est)


  1. Go on blame it on a drone,its the in thing to do.

  2. I fly drones. As soon as the CFI does his part I'll be a licensed drone operator (and licensed pilot). About the only comment I have for the first poster is - if you think ALL drone pilots are responsible drone pilots you aren't paying attention. There are posts all over the web about how far the pilots drone went and the distances are staggering. They are well out of visual range. Same thing with altitude. Without proof I'd put the odds at 50/50 that the aircraft was hit by a drone. If I put a tinfoil hat on I might even suggest it was a practice run.