Cold morning, hot prop

Aircraft: Cessna 182. Injuries: 1 Serious. Location: Eastsound, Wash. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot pulled the airplane out of the unheated hangar on a cold morning. He pulled the propeller through its rotation arc several times, then set the parking brake. When attempts to start the plane with the starter were unsuccessful, he determined that the battery did not have a sufficient charge to start the engine, so he decided to start the airplane by hand-propping.

He primed the engine, set the throttle to idle, turned on the master switch and magneto switches, then spun the propeller. The engine started, then quit.

He repeated the procedure, advancing the throttle to keep it running, but the engine quit again. He then applied carburetor heat, but did not reduce the throttle setting.

He hand-propped the engine once again and this time it remained running and the airplane moved forward. The pilot fell and was seriously hurt when he attempted to get to the cockpit to reduce the throttle.

The unoccupied airplane continued to roll until it smashed into a hangar.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to properly secure the airplane prior to rotating the propeller by hand, resulting in inadvertent movement of the airplane and collision with a building.

NTSB Identification: WPR11CA118

This February 2011 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.


  1. Ray Klein says

    Why in the case of handpropping do we pilots completely abandon the concept of checklists? There should be a section for handpropping procedure included in the checklist for your aircraft. This is simple stuff here. Stop the mayhem, use the lists. They WILL save your life!

  2. John Townsley says

    A quick look at the various aviation blogs, including our own that caters to PNW flyers finds several threads that discuss this and other hand prop accidents and incidents. A common theme on many of the posts is that “hand propping is really safe” and that “only an idiot” gets bit. It boils down to risk. Several pilots evidently believe that hand propping an aircraft is “safe” as you “know how”. I guess, if the risk is perceived to be acceptable, it is. I don’t condem anyone who has a different risk aversion than I do (and I don’t hand prop). I draw the line when a non-pilot is allowed to walk into a moving prop. Pilots can assess the risk (to themselves and to their wealth). Uninformed passengers, like the unfortunate mode from Texas a couple of year ago, must be protected from the hazards associated with aircraft because they are unaware, uninformed, and incapable of assessing the risks. “Safety” is a useful concept only when viewed through the lense of an informed risk assessment.

  3. Vaughn S. Price says

    Oh how typical! I, when a gas boy in the 1940’s witnessed three such capers, the funniest was an Ercoupe owner I gassed up who could not wait a couple of minutes while I gassed a J=3 cub. He cranked it himself with no chocks and no parking brake. Before he could get around the left wing the Ercoupe was heading at a fast clip across the segmented circle, 2 runways and into a block wall fence. I still blame almost all these incidences on the pilots flight instructor, who should always have a list of stupid moves to give a new private Pilot to use until common sense takes over

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