Saturday, December 12, 2020

Van's RV-4, N173CW: Fatal accident occurred June 09, 2020 near Safford Regional Airport (KSAD), Graham County, 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 Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Scottsdale, Arizona 
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania 

Location: Safford, AZ
Accident Number: WPR20LA176
Date & Time: June 9, 2020, 08:45 Local
Registration: N173CW
Aircraft: Vans WILSON RV4
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On June 9, 2020, about 0845 mountain standard time, an experimental amateur-built Wilson (Vans Aircraft) RV4, N173CW, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Safford Regional Airport (SAD), Safford, Arizona. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

Preliminary ADS-B data revealed the airplane departing from runway 11R at Tucson International Airport (TUS) about 0810, and initiating a climbing left turn to the northeast. The airplane continued on the same track, reaching an altitude of about 9,800 ft mean sea level (msl), about 7 minutes later. For the next 25 minutes, the airplane maintained the same general altitude and heading while traversing the mountain passes northeast of Tucson, and maintaining terrain clearance of between 4,000 and 7,000 ft above ground level.

About 0836, 28 miles southwest of SAD, the airplane began to descend at a rate of about 500 ft per minute (fpm). Seven minutes later, the airplane changed track to the north, toward SAD, with an accompanying reduction in groundspeed from 165 to 115 knots and an increase in descent rate to about 800 fpm. After arriving about 1 mile south of the approach end of runway 30, at an altitude of 4,200 ft, the airplane turned 10° to the left, and began a 4,000-fpm descent that lasted about 12 seconds.

The first identified point of impact consisted of a 25-ft long ground disruption located at an elevation of 3,090 ft, about 500 ft north of the last ADS-B target, and 1/2 mile southwest of the runway 30 threshold. The disruption was on a south-facing bluff, and projected uphill on a north heading toward the main wreckage. The ensuing 300-ft long debris field contained fragments of wing tip, main landing gear, the propeller and exhaust pipe assembly, and the left aileron.

The main wreckage came to rest 40 ft above the first point of impact, and 40 ft below the runway elevation.

Image 1 – Debris Field and Main Wreckage (Photo Courtesy of the Thatcher Police Department)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Vans 
Registration: N173CW
Model/Series: WILSON RV4 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: Yes
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VM
C Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KSAD,3176 ft msl
Observation Time: 14:51 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 19°C /-13°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 5 knots / , 180°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.14 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: VFR
Departure Point: Tucson, AZ (TUS)
Destination: Safford, AZ (SAD)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Latitude, Longitude: 32.840831,-109.623054

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

Capt. Delos E. Echlin USN (RET)
1941 - 2020

Capt. Delos E. Echlin USN (RET) passed away on June 9th, 2020 at the age of 79 doing what he loved best. Captain Echlin was a decorated Vietnam veteran who served 26 years on active duty.

Captain Echlin was born May 30, 1941 in Lexington, Kentucky to his parents, Charles and Lydia Echlin. On May 11, 1964, when he was 23 years old he enlisted in the Navy and went on to fly over 131 missions in the Vietnam War. Captain Echlin retired from the Military on July 1, 1990. Captain Echlin married in 1964 to Bonnie Chaples, they had two children. They remained married for 44 years until Bonnie passed in 2008.

Surviving are his brother, Dennis (Sheryl) and Beth (Pete); his sweetheart, Dorothy Sayer; daughter, Kimberly Taylor (Scott); son, John Echlin (Charla) and five grandchildren, Roxanne, Cody, Alexandra, Jack and Elizabeth.

A Tucson man was killed on June 9th when his experimental plane crashed just shy of the Safford airport.

The victim was identified as 79-year-old Delos "Dee" Echlin. Graham County Undersheriff Jeff McCormies said Echlin's family was notified of his death and an autopsy would be held Wednesday.

According to a Sheriff's Office report, Echlin left Tucson International Airport shortly after 8 a.m., bound for the  Safford Regional Airport. His plane went off radar around 8:50. McCormies said no mayday calls were made.

The plane hit a hillside near Sanchez Road and Airport Road, just short of the airport. A local resident called the Sheriff's Office around noon to report that the plane was on the hill.

The Safford Fire Department, which brought their "jaws of life," and Graham County Search and Rescue also responded to the crash scene, along with NTSB investigators.

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