This December 2009 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.
Aircraft: Piper Super Cub. Injuries: 1 Serious. Location: Willow, Alaska. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The pilot said that he fueled the airplane just before the flight. Shortly after takeoff the engine lost power. He turned the airplane 180° in an attempt to return to the runway. During the turn, the airplane descended nose first into an area of snow-covered terrain, coming to rest inverted about 275 yards from the runway end.
The post-accident examination revealed that the airplane’s fuel valve selector handle was in the near off position. The pilot could not recall if he closed the fuel valve while fueling. He speculated that he may have inadvertently moved the fuel valve selector handle while boarding the airplane, while wearing a pair of heavy, thick, insulated overalls. In the pilot’s written statement to the NTSB, in the section of the report “Recommendation (How could this accident have been prevented?)” the pilot wrote: “Do checklist” and “Land straight ahead when the engine stops.” Given the lack of mechanical deficiencies with the engine or flight controls, in conjunction with the pilot’s statement, it is likely the pilot failed to ensure that the fuel valve was properly positioned before takeoff, and then failed to adequately maintain control of the airplane while returning to the airport after the power loss.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to ensure that the fuel selector valve was on before takeoff, resulting in a loss of engine power due to fuel starvation, and his subsequent decision to attempt a low altitude turn towards the departure airport, resulting in an aerodynamic stall and loss of control.
For more information: NTSB.gov; NTSB Identification: ANC10LA011