KGUN 9NewsLocal News


Deadly plane crash under investigation at Gila Bend Airport

The crash involved an experimental aircraft, according to the NTSB
Gila Bend plane crash
Posted at 12:53 PM, Mar 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-18 20:11:51-04

GILA BEND, AZ — One person is dead and another is seriously hurt after a plane crash Sunday morning at Gila Bend Municipal Airport.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office says the crash took place just after 9:45 a.m.

Two people were on the plane. One of the occupants was pronounced dead at the scene. The other was airlifted to the hospital with serious injuries.

The NTSB said the crash happened shortly after they took off from the airport.

The NTSB has confirmed an investigation has been launched into the crash.

They say the crash involved an "experimental, amateur-built" aircraft.

According to aviation experts ABC15 spoke with, an experimental, amateur-built aircraft is a classification under the FAA.

“There are basically factory-built aircraft and then there are aircraft built by individuals. An experimental, amateur-built aircraft is an airplane built by an individual,” said Richard Schmidt, who has years of flying experience under his belt.

Schmidt is a flight instructor, commercial pilot, and former president of the Deer Valley Pilot’s Association and is still on its board. He also helps out on the FAA safety team as a representative.

Schmidt has his own experimental, amateur-built aircraft as well. Those types of aircraft are built with kits given by the manufacturer. It is a requirement that the FAA inspects them, too.

However, Schmidt’s experimental, amateur-built aircraft is different than the one that crashed. Schmidt’s plane is enclosed, whereas the one in Gila Bend may not be. The one that crashed is also known as a trike. He says they don’t usually go too high or too fast like regular planes.

According to the Experimental Aircraft Association, trike aircrafts can go between 35 to 85 mph and typically do not go higher than 1,000 to 2,000 feet above the ground.

“They do operate very slowly, so you're not going very fast when you come back to land. It's not particularly dangerous compared to other airplanes,” Schmidt said.

Both the FAA and NTSB are investigating the crash and the NTSB said it should have a preliminary report out in the next 30 days. The NTSB asks that anyone who may have seen the crash or has surveillance video to contact them at

The NTSB investigation can take 12 to 24 months to complete.