Overweight airplane, unfamiliar pilot bad combination

Aircraft: Silvaire Luscombe 8A Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious. Location: St. Petersburg, Fla. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot, who had recently purchased the airplane, which he intended to fly as a Sport Pilot, had just resumed flying after a 30-year hiatus. In the weeks before the accident he had been flying with two CFIs to regain his skills.

The CFI flying with the pilot when the accident occurred said he had made seven or eight flights with the pilot, who had flown about five hours with another instructor.

On the accident flight, the Luscombe took off from a runway intersection. According to the CFI the engine seemed to be producing full power until the plane reached an altitude of about 100 feet AGL, when the engine power dropped and the plane began to descend. The pilot applied carburetor heat and the CFI assumed control of the airplane.

There was insufficient  runway remaining on which to land and there were obstacles at the end of the runway. The CFI attempted to turn toward the ramp area adjacent to the runway. The airplane stalled, and came down hard on its nose, then flipped onto its back.

The post-accident investigation did not uncover any mechanical issues that would have led to engine failure. The CFI stated that the takeoff was initiated with the carburetor heat off, despite a placard in the airplane requiring the use of carburetor heat during takeoff and landing.

Although the weather conditions at the time of takeoff were conducive to the formation of carburetor ice at glide and cruise power at the time of the accident, it was not possible to determine whether carburetor ice was a factor in the accident.

After the accident, it was determined that the airplane was loaded about 68 pounds over its maximum allowable gross weight. In addition, the calculated density altitude at the airport about the time of the accident was more than 2,000 feet.

Despite these factors, both of which would have adversely affected both the distance required for takeoff and the airplane’s rate of climb once airborne, the pilots elected to conduct an intersection takeoff, which reduced the available runway takeoff distance by nearly 20% and also reduced the diversionary options available in the event of a loss of engine power.

Probable cause: The CFI’s and the pilot’s failure to maintain airspeed after a partial loss of engine power after takeoff for reasons that could not be determined, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall and loss of airplane control. Contributing to the accident were the decisions to operate the airplane above its maximum allowable gross weight and to perform an intersection takeoff.

NTSB Identification: ERA12FA491

This August 2012 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. john says

    As I read this I can’t imagine 68lbs over gross bringing down the 8-A. The carb heat on takeoff will cut about 200 RPM’s off the Luscombe performance which keeps a pilot from being able to bring the nose up high enough to starve it of fuel when the single 14 gallon tank behind the seat is 2/3 or more empty. Many 8-A’s had a 6 gallon header tank in the wing for takeoff to avoid the carb heat requirement on takeoff. I was not there but I suspect had the carb heat not been applied when the Luscombe reached 100 ft and the nose lowered instead the accident might have been avoided. Icing up after a good full power take off and after climbing 100 feet at full throttle, I don’t think so. Most experienced Luscombe pilots with 1/3 or less fuel in the single tank configuration are careful to restrict their climb to about 200 fpm.

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