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NTSB Releases Preliminary Report on April 2023 Super Cub Accident

On the Perils of Ignoring the Obvious

The NTSB has released its preliminary report on a 14 April 2023 accident in which a Piper PA-18A-150 Super Cub, registration N7278D, was substantially damaged during an off-airport emergency landing attempted by its pilot following in-flight failure of the aircraft’s engine. The pilot and his wife, the aircraft’s only occupants, escaped injury.

The pilot of the accident aircraft reported he’d purchased the Super Cub on 13 April 2023 and had undertaken the accident flight for purpose of ferrying the airplane cross-country from Paris, Texas to an airport in Tennessee. The pilot set forth that during his preflight inspection of the Super Cub at Paris, Texas’s Cox Field Airport (PRX), he observed sediment in the aircraft’s fuel, which cleared after he drained between 15 and 21 ounces of AVGAS from the Super Cub’s fuel-sump.

After departing PRX, the pilot and his wife became aware of a minor engine sputter which they deemed non-emergent. The pair continued along the flight-plan route, landing without incident after approximately 2.3-hours at Lakeview, Arkansas’ Gaston's Airport (3M0). During the flight, the pilot noted a fuel-burn of nine-to-ten gallons-per-hour.

Prior to the accident flight’s second leg, the pilot again observed sediment in the gascolator and again drained some 15 to 21 ounces of AVGAS to clear such. The pilot verified visually that the Super Cub’s fuel-tank sight gauges collectively showed slightly above one-quarter full capacity—an amount the pilot calculated would sustain the aircraft in-flight for one-hour.

The pilot and a second airplane departed 3M0 as a flight-of-two with a planned destination of Springfield, Missouri’s Downtown Airport (3DW). An uneventful takeoff and climb to altitude ensued. Approximately twenty-minutes into the flight the Super Cub’s engine sputtered, compelling the pilot to increase engine power and initiate a climb. A subsequent sputter compelled the pilot contrariwise, and he reduced the Super Cub’s engine power to idle.

Skeptical of the engine’s soundness, the pilot of the accident aircraft announced his intention to execute a forced landing, broke formation with the accompanying airplane, selected a field he deemed suitable for an off-airport landing, and commenced a 360° turn.

Rolling out of the turn, the Super Cub’s pilot applied full-flaps, and commenced his approach. In short order, however, he arrived at the disconcerting realization that he’d incorrectly gauged the wind and was, in fact, attempting to land with a tailwind.

The pilot abandoned the landing attempt and initiated a go-around.

During the subsequent climb, the Super Cub’s engine lost all power, forcing the pilot to bring the airplane to ground in a heavily wooded area. The aircraft struck thirty-foot trees on rough terrain, sustaining substantial damage to both its wings and fuselage.

The airplane and engine were recovered to a secure location for further examination.

The accident remains under investigation, ergo the antecedent information is subject to change.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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