Piper pilot flies into rising terrain

Aircraft: Piper Super Cub. Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor. Location: McNeal, Ariz. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot, who was taking a passenger on a tour of the local area, had previously conducted such flights, and had a normal route that he followed. However, on this occasion, he deviated from that route to “do something a little different” and turned up a canyon that he normally did not fly into.

He noticed that the terrain was rising and attempted to climb to clear it. Shortly after, he noticed the plane was not going to clear the terrain.

Realizing there was insufficient room to execute a course reversal, he decided to land straight ahead on the rising, vegetation-covered, desert terrain.

Immediately after touchdown, the airplane rotated sharply to the right and stopped. The outboard section of the right wing was bent and crumpled.

Probable cause: The pilot’s in-flight decision to fly at low level into an unfamiliar canyon, which resulted in an off-airport landing when the airplane’s climb capability was exceeded. Contributing to the accident was the airplane’s decreased performance due to the high density altitude.

NTSB Identification: WPR12CA342

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.Loss of control on landing


  1. says

    Poor risk management put this pilot in a situation with no real out. That said, I applaud his recognition of the circumstances in time to have a choice among the bad options available instead of simply panicking.

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