Cub crunched by downdraft

Aircraft: Piper J3C-65. Injuries: 1 Minor. Location: Shepard, Texas. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot, who was practicing touch-and-go takeoffs and landings, said the wind was blowing directly down the runway about 5 to 10 knots during the takeoff roll.

When the airplane reached an altitude of 50 feet, the pilot encountered turbulent updrafts and downdrafts, which caused him to have a difficult time controlling the airplane.

He tried to abort the takeoff, but the plane encountered an updraft and was turned almost 90° to the right, and was pushed over a heavily wooded area adjacent to the runway.

The airplane stalled and crashed in trees in a near vertical nosedown attitude, causing substantial damage to the wings and vertical stabilizer.

Probable cause: The pilot’s loss of aircraft control after encountering windshear and turbulence on takeoff.

NTSB Identification: CEN11CA406

This June 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. enrique says

    History repeats, same place, same airplane, but in august, 1950.I was a student at Shepard Air Force base, experienced the same situation, but I was lucky to control thr J3 cub, and i went around, saving myself, and the airplane.

  2. Linda S. Berl says

    Rudy, don’t be so hard on the guy…he’s already heartbroken over his broken airplane.
    I say put it back together, grab an instructor, and go flying again. The learning curve is sometimes tough! But it is well worth effort to get back into the air again…

    • fritz katz says

      Oh for chrissakes, these “downdrafts” don’t continue through a giant grate in the ground — they splay out approaching the surface. As any mountain flyer knows, so long as you don’t panic and pull back into a stall before reaching that inevitable point in the admittedly initially atention-getting uncommanded descent, you can fly out of it intact… unless you’re in a heavy, short-wingspan, high-performance aircraft whose low lift and high inertia may take more recovery room than alloted. J-3 Cub? Fly the airplane, junior and tell the story later with a happy ending. This wreck was entirely avoidable with sufficient training and composure, Leeeenda.

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