NTSB Identification: WPR12FA059
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, December 10, 2011 in Surprise, AZ
Aircraft: Donohoe Vans RV-7A, registration: N724WD
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 10, 2011, about 1258 mountain standard time, an experimental amateur-built Donohoe Vans RV-7A, N724WD, collided with terrain near Surprise, Arizona, shortly after the pilot reported a controllability problem in flight. The airplane was substantially damaged and the private pilot, who was also the builder and owner of the airplane, was fatally injured. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight.

The pilot based the airplane at Glendale Municipal Airport (GEU), Glendale, Arizona, in a hangar that he shared with two other RV owners. According to information provided by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) personnel, the airplane departed GEU about 1226, and 4 minutes later, the GEU air traffic control tower controller instructed the pilot to contact Luke approach control, and the pilot complied. Luke Air Force Base (LUF), Glendale, was situated about 5 miles west of GEU, and Luke Approach was responsible for the airspace above and around LUF. Review of ground tracking radar data from LUF revealed that the entire flight was captured. The LUF radar first acquired the airplane at 1227:27, as it was climbing through an altitude of 1,300 feet above mean sea level (msl), and broadcasting a beacon code of 1200 on its transponder. The airplane flew about 25 miles to the northwest of GEU, maneuvered for a short time, and then began tracking back towards GEU. The flight altitude varied irregularly between about 2,700 and 3,300 feet msl.

About 1256:25, when the airplane was about 9 miles northwest of GEU at an altitude of 2,500 feet, the first 7700 beacon code return was received. The pilot transmitted a "mayday" call to Luke approach about 25 seconds later, and stated that he was unable to control the airplane. The final radar return was received at 1257:21. The wreckage was located about 800 feet north of the final radar return, on flat terrain, at an elevation of 1,330 feet. Examination of the wreckage revealed ground scars and damage consistent with a left spin. All aerodynamic surfaces and flight controls were located in the wreckage. Fuel spillage from the right wing tank was observed, but there was no fire. A handheld Garmin GPSMap 296 unit was recovered from the wreckage, and retained for data download.

FAA records indicated that the airplane was built in 2006. It was equipped with an Eggenfellner conversion of a Subaru automobile engine, a Quinti-Avio propeller hub, and a Warp Drive propeller. The hour meter in the airplane registered 340.5 hours.

According to FAA records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land rating. His flight logbook indicated a total flight experience of about 683 hours, including 270 hours in the accident airplane make and model. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued in July 2010, and his most recent flight review was completed in January 2011.

The GEU 1247 automated weather observation included wind from 080 degrees at 5 knots; visibility 20 miles; broken cloud layer at 20,000 feet; temperature 19 degrees C; dew point -7 degrees C; and an altimeter setting of 30.10 inches of mercury.

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