Saturday, May 15, 2021

Loss of Control on Ground: Piper PA-18-105, N5478H; accident occurred May 16, 2020 in McGrath, Alaska

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Fairbanks, Alaska

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: McGrath, Alaska
Accident Number: ANC20CA047
Date & Time: May 16, 2020, 09:40 Local 
Registration: N5478H
Aircraft: Piper PA 18 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control on ground
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal


The pilot reported that during the departure roll, and as the airplane began to lift off, a gust of wind pushed the airplane to the left. The left wing contacted a tree and the airplane veered to the left and impacted a dirt embankment. The airplane sustained substantial damage to both wings. The pilot reported no preaccident mechanical failures or malfunctions that would have precluded normal operations.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's failure to maintain directional control during takeoff in gusting wind conditions, which resulted in a collision with trees and impacted with the ground.


Personnel issues Aircraft control - Pilot
Aircraft Directional control - Not attained/maintained

Factual Information

History of Flight

Takeoff Loss of control on ground (Defining event)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private 
Age: 65,Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None 
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: BasicMed Without waivers/limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: October 17, 2017
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: 698.4 hours (Total, all aircraft), 28 hours (Total, this make and model), 589 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper 
Registration: N5478H
Model/Series: PA 18
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1950
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 18-70
Landing Gear Type: 
Tailwheel Seats:
Date/Type of Last Inspection: May 2, 2020 100 hour 
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1499 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 526 Hrs as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: C126 installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: O-235 SERIES
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 150 Horsepower
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PAFS,447 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site:
Observation Time: 18:01 Local
Direction from Accident Site:
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Visibility: 6 miles
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 12000 ft AGL
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: / Turbulence Type
Forecast/Actual:  /
Wind Direction: 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:  /
Altimeter Setting: 29.95 inches Hg 
Temperature/Dew Point: 13°C / 4°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: Moderate - None - Haze
Departure Point: McGrath, AK 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: VFR
Destination: Chugiak, AK
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 None
Latitude, Longitude: 62.508888,-153.89778(est)

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