Monday, January 27, 2014

Piper PA-18-150 Super Cub, N9683P: Accident occurred January 25, 2014 in Willcox, Cochise County, Arizona

NTSB Identification: WPR14CA109 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, January 25, 2014 in Willcox, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/21/2014
Aircraft: PIPER PA 18-150, registration: N9683P
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot reported that he and his father had flown to the accident location to camp and hunt. They made three passes over an open area to find a suitable landing spot. The pilot stated that the grass appeared to be knee-to-hip height, but he believed it was safe to land. He set up for landing, and on the landing rollout, about 20-30 knots, the left main landing gear wheel struck an unseen, large embedded boulder that collapsed the left main landing gear. The airplane's wing sustained substantial damage. The pilot reported no preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's decision to land off airport on unsuitable terrain that resulted in a collision with hidden objects.

COCHISE COUNTY – A father and son walked out of the wilderness after crash landing their single-engine plane early Saturday evening.

Pilot John Christopher Smith and his father, Gerald K. Smith, suffered no injuries when their 1975 Piper Super Cub struck a boulder at about 5 p.m. while attempting to land in a field between the Galiuro and Winchester Mountain Ranges northwest of Willcox. John Smith told the Courier the pair had taken off from a Tucson-area airfield and were planing on camping overnight in the wilderness prior to hunting for deer the following day.

John and Gerald Smith are partners at the Smith & Smith law firm in Tucson but are familiar with the area from owning and operating the family's 660-acre Sierra Bonita Vineyards, which is located in Graham County off Ash Creek Road roughly 22 miles northwest of Willcox. The winery released its first wines to the public – 150 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon and 120 cases of Syrah – in January, 2011 after aging the wines in French oak barrels for 18 months.

John Smith, who served nine years as a command pilot in the 144th Airlift Squadron of the Alaska Air National Guard and currently serves as Aircraft Commander of the 161st Air Refueling Wing of the Arizona National Guard, said he has flown the trip from Tucson to his grassy landing strip near the family's vineyards numerous times.

After the crash in the wilderness, the pair hiked for about two hours until setting up camp for the night. The men continued their roughly 15-mile journey to their ranch house the next day, arriving in the early afternoon. Unfortunately, they had lost a key to the house and their cell phone batteries had also run out.

“Our feet are a little tender, but everything is fine,” John Smith said.

By that time an Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter had located the crash site and were on scene with the Cochise County Search and Rescue Team. With no people in sight, the Cochise County Sheriff's Office alerted the Graham County Sheriff's Office and asked for assistance.

GCSO Lt. Jerry Nelson, who also heads the Graham County Search and Rescue Team, headed out toward the area and located John Smith walking on Ash Creek Road about a half-mile west of the intersection with Fort Grant Road. Nelson drove John Smith back to his ranch house, where he and his father eventually obtained keys to a vehicle on site and drove back to Tucson.

“It's too bad the plane got crashed, but we're glad everybody was OK,” Nelson said.

As of Monday morning, the plane was still in the process of being recovered. According to John Smith, the gear collapsed when it stuck the rock, which also caused minor fabric damage to the left wing when the plane leaned on its left side.

“It will take a little while to recover it and get it fixed,” John Smith said. “It won't be too bad, and I hope the cost of getting it out (from) there won't be too bad either.”

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