Payson Airport had what many believe was its first crash fatality this weekend. An 81-year-old pilot was killed attempting to land his plane.
Raymond Ruiz Martinez of Montebello, Calif., had only recently purchased the plane, a Lancair 235, an experimental aircraft.
A Lancair 235 is a "high performance plane that requires special training to fly, and if a pilot was not familiar with it, it would be hard to land," a police officer familiar with flying, said.
One theory offered about the crash by people who were working at the scene suggested Martinez was not familiar with the plane and refused instruction on flying it.
Other reports seem to indicate this could have been the case. "The plane took off from the Payson Airport and was reported to be flying erratically," according to information given to Ted Anderson, manager of the airport.
The plane had made three passes and attempted the landing on the third pass. It touched down, bounced back up, touched down again, bounced higher. The nose was high. The airplane stalled off to the left and hit the ground, an eyewitness, which police did not identify, reported.
The plane crashed in the grass between the runway and taxiway toward the west end of the runway.
Payson Police Officer Henry Thomason was the first official on the scene. He said he found Martinez ejected from the plane and suffering from very serious trauma.
The pilot was in cardiac arrest when Native Air emergency medical personnel arrived. He was transported to Payson Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
Police believe the plane had been stored at the Payson Airport, but the purchase took place elsewhere.
The plane crash occurred at approximately 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28.
While the crash is still under investigation by the National Transportation and Safety Board, the initial assessment was that it was the result of pilot error.
However, an autopsy is being conducted, because there is also a possibility the pilot could have suffered the cardiac arrest while trying to land.
The Federal Aviation Administration safety inspector on the scene, Daren P. Dufriend asked that Martinez's heart be preserved and checked for cardiac arrest.
The initial investigation of the crash was handled by the Payson Police Department, which is now working with the NTSB.
NTSB Investigator Tealeye Cornejo is reviewing the crash.
Cornejo said because the plane was an experimental aircraft, the NTSB investigation will be of a limited variety, based on photographs and telephone interviews.
She said a preliminary report will be posted on the board's website, ntsb.gov next week. However, the full investigation will not be completed for some time.
"The process takes up to nine months and we're short four investigators, so it could be longer," Cornejo said.