Arnold, 62, died after the plane crashed before takeoff on the runway. Arnold, the pilot, was the only person on the plane and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Arnold was the mayor of Aztec from 1998 to 2001 and again from 2004 to 2008. He was also the manager of the airport and lived on the grounds of the airport with his wife, Patrica.
The crash occurred at about 10:45 a.m., said New Mexico State Police Sgt. Micah Doering.
“I believe he lost control of the aircraft in the crosswind,” Doering said. “By the marks on the ground, it appears a wingtip dug in ... and it rolled into the nose and rolled into the fence, just completely destroying (the plane).”
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. Doering said investigators were scheduled to arrive in Aztec Saturday afternoon or evening.
The NTSB will investigate the incident and release a series of reports about the crash. The reports should become public in the coming months.
Doering said the crash occurred about two-thirds down the length of the runway.
“He was not very far at all in his takeoff sequence,” he said.
The plane came to rest about 100 to 150 feet away from the runway, Doering said.
The plane's fuel ignited on impact, leaving behind a charred skeleton of the plane. An empty fire extinguisher was on the ground near the crash site.
The Aztec Fire Department contained the fire, and Aztec police secured the scene before state police arrived.
Doering said that Arnold's family called 911. Department of Public Safety spokesman Tony Lynn said the 911 call was made at 10:48 a.m.
“He told his wife he was going to go flying, about 10 minutes later, she or somebody else looked out the window and saw the plume of smoke,” Doering said.
“They called 911, recognizing it as the airplane.”
The charred skeleton of a single-engine plane is seen at the scene of a fatal plane crash at the Aztec Airport on Saturday, May 18, 2013. The pilot of the plane Michael Arnold, 62, lost control of the aircraft during takeoff and died on impact, according to New Mexico State Police. Arnold was the airport manager and former mayor of Aztec. (Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times)
Members of the Arnold family declined to speak to reporters on Saturday and referred to comments to family friend and former Farmington Mayor Bill Standley.
“This comes as a shock of all of us,” Standley said. “Mike loved aviation, he loved his family, his community and the state of New Mexico.”
Standley said he enjoyed working with Arnold when both men were mayors of their respective cities. He described Arnold as a person who went after what he wanted.
“He saw no barriers,” Standley said. “He overcame any illness, and he was a person who was unstoppable.”
Current Aztec Mayor Sally Burbridge was at a conference in Denver, Colo., when she received a call about Arnold's death.
“He was just a world class guy,” Burbridge said. “It's just a surprise to all of us, and everyone is saddened.”
Aztec city manager Josh Ray said Arnold's death was a devastating loss to the community of Aztec.
“In the time I've known him, he was a really cool Aztec guy,” Ray said. “It's a horrible situation, and we already miss Mike.”
Joshua Kellogg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4627. Follow him on Twitter @jkelloggdt.