Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Zenair CH 601 HDS Zodiac, N6402X: Fatal accident occurred June 09, 2020 near Ak-Chin Regional Airport (A39), Maricopa, Arizona

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Scottsdale, Arizona
Location: Maricopa, AZ
Accident Number: WPR20LA177
Date & Time: 06/09/2020, 2023 MST
Registration: N6402X
Aircraft: Zenair CH601
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On June 9, 2020, about 2023 mountain standard time, an experimental amateur-built Duane B Evans (Zenith) 601HDS, N6402X, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Ak-Chin Regional Airport (A39), Maricopa, Arizona. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot was based out of Phoenix Deer Valley Airport (DVT). According to the pilot's wife, he often flew at night because he enjoyed observing and photographing the night sky, and A39 was typically where he refueled the airplane.

Preliminary ADS-B data revealed that the accident airplane departed DVT about 1958 and flew directly south-southeast toward the Class B airspace of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX). The pilot then requested a transition through PHX Class B airspace, and was given clearance by air traffic controllers to enter the airspace and maintain an altitude of 4,500 ft.

By 2013, the airplane had cleared the airspace to the south, and continued on a direct track toward A39. At 2021, it reached A39 and proceeded to fly directly over the airport at an altitude of 2,000 ft msl (650 ft agl). Over the next two minutes, the airplane began a sweeping 1.25-mile radius left turn during which time it climbed to about 2,175 ft, and descended back down to 1,700 ft. The last recorded target indicated that the airplane was at an altitude of 1,700 ft, about 250 ft south of the 1,735 ft peak of an isolated butte, about 2 miles east of the approach end of runway 22.

The wreckage was located on the southeast face of the butte, about 10 ft below the peak. Video footage, recorded from a security camera 0.75 miles south of the accident site, revealed that the airplane flew directly over the camera location and toward the butte. As the airplane approached the butte, its landing lights briefly illuminated the peak, just before the airplane impacted.

A pilot flying a Piper PA28 airplane was also inbound to A39 about the time of the accident. He reported that he was just ahead of N6402X as they both transitioned through the Class B airspace, and that he could see the airplane on his ADS-B receiver, and heard the pilot talking to air traffic controllers. He stated that both he and the pilot of N6402X communicated their positions to each other throughout the approach.

The PA28 pilot stated that he overflew the airport about 300 ft above the pattern altitude, with the intention of joining the left traffic pattern for runway 22. As he joined the downwind leg, he could see N6402X fly over the runway in trail, but well below the pattern altitude. He was concerned that he needed to give N6402X space to land, so he cut the downwind leg short, and as he turned onto final, he heard the pilot of N6402X reporting he was on the base leg. He could see the lights of N6402X in the distance, and was still concerned that it was too low.

After landing, the pilot of the PA28 taxied to the fuel island in anticipation of watching N6402X land. He could not see or hear an airplane in the pattern, so became concerned and called Flight Service to report the airplane as missing. He described the conditions during the landing approach as very dark, with just a faint hint of blue on the horizon by the time he landed. He stated that the desert area surrounding the airport to the east was unpopulated, generally unlit, and ground features and terrain were not visible.

In Maricopa on the day of the accident, sunset and the end of civil twilight occurred at 1935 and 2005 respectively.

The accident pilot's wife stated that he carried a SPOT tracking device in the airplane, so she could monitor his location. On the night of the accident, he had not returned home by midnight (which was not unusual), so she checked the SPOT device, which indicated that his last location was about 2 miles east of A39, at 2022.

Image 1 – ADS-B flight track data. PA28 depicted in red, N6402X depicted in yellow. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Zenair
Registration: N6402X
Model/Series: CH601
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: Yes
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: KCGZ, 1462 ft msl
Observation Time: 0256 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 7 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 29°C / -7°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 7 knots / , 280°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.94 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: VFR
Departure Point: Phoenix, AZ (DVT)
Destination: Maricopa, AZ (A39) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 33.001667, -111.880556

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

MARICOPA, Arizona (3TV/CBS 5) -- Authorities are investigating after a plane crash left one person dead near the Ak-Chin Regional Airport near Maricopa Tuesday night. 

According to Ian Gregor with the Federal Aviation Administration, a small, single-engine plane crashed under unknown circumstances about two miles northeast of Ak-Chin Regional Airport around 8:30 p.m. Gregor said the plane burned after crashing.

The pilot was the only person on board the plane. Gila River Police Department confirmed that the pilot died in the crash. The plane was flying from Deer Valley Airport to Ak-Chin Regional Airport. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The NTSB will determine the probable cause of the accident.

The pilot has not been identified.

The landing field at Ak-Chin Regional Airport near Maricopa.

A pilot heading to Ak-Chin Regional Airport near Maricopa is dead after a plane crash on Tuesday night.

The Zenair CH 601 HDS Zodiac plane went down around 8:30 p.m. for unknown reasons about two miles northeast of the airport and went up in flames, according to Ian Gregor, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. The airport is about a mile north off Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

The pilot was alone on the aircraft, Gregor said.

The pilot, who has not been identified, was flying from Deer Valley Airport in north Phoenix to Ak-Chin Regional Airport, Gregor said.

The accident will be investigated by the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.

The NTSB, which will determine the probable cause of the accident, tweeted on Tuesday afternoon that it was not traveling to the scene of the crash at this time.

Another crash Tuesday, of a homebuilt plane, about 125 miles west of Maricopa in Safford, northeast of Tucson, is under investigation by the NTSB.


  1. Sunset was 7:37 pm, possibly a CFIT due to falling light at 8:30.

  2. I fly to Ak-Chin regularly for cheap fuel and an excellent A&P on the field. It's very dark out there but the surrounding terrain is not especially high. CFIT or maybe an engine out? Pretty sad either way.

  3. Looks like he barely hit one of the few high points around, sad.

  4. Replies
    1. No. Don't be a ghoul.
      I was ahead of him on final when he called base and then hit the hill.
      He just got too far out on downwind (probably trying to give me time to clear) and was low.


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