Friday, April 29, 2022

Superior Culver LFA, N37888: Accident occurred April 28, 2022 near Syracuse-Hamilton County Municipal Airport (3K3), Hamilton County, Kansas

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Wichita, Kansas

Location: Syracuse, Kansas
Accident Number: CEN22LA185
Date and Time: April 28, 2022, 10:40 Local 
Registration: N37888
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On April 28, 2022, about 1040 central daylight time, a Superior Culver LFA, N37888, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident at the Syracuse-Hamilton County Municipal Airport (3K3), Syracuse, Kansas. The pilot was seriously injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

Witnesses reported that they observed the airplane takeoff; about 150 ft above the ground, the engine started to run rough. The pilot made a hard left turn in a nose high attitude; it appeared that he was attempting to return to the runway. The engine was still running rough when the left wing dropped, and the airplane descended rapidly. It impacted the ground in a nose low attitude and a post-crash fire ensued.

The airplane was recently rebuilt, and the engine was overhauled. The purpose of the accident flight was to transport the airplane from the maintenance facility to its owner in another state.

The airplane was recovered to a secure location for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: SUPERIOR 
Registration: N37888
Model/Series: CULVER LFA
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built:
Operator: On file 
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KULS,3067 ft msl 
Observation Time: 10:35 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 30 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 19°C /13°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 16 knots / 21 knots, 220°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 1500 ft AGL
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.84 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Syracuse, KS 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 
Aircraft Fire: On-ground
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 37.99858,-101.7476

Aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances and caught on fire. 

Date: 28-APR-22
Time: 17:12:00Z
Regis#: N37888
Aircraft Make: SUPERIOR
Aircraft Model: CULVER LFA
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: SERIOUS
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
Operation: 91

SYRACUSE, Kansas (WIBW) - A Michigan man sustained serious injuries Thursday when the small plane he was piloting crashed shortly after taking off from an airport in western Kansas authorities said.

The crash was reported at 11:38 a.m. Thursday at the Hamilton County Airport, 1301 N. Main St. in Syracuse.

According to the Kansas Highway patrol, a Superior Culver LFA took off from the airport before it had a loss of engine power. Upon trying to return to the runway, the plane stalled and crashed.

The pilot, Thomas E. Glotfelty, 64, of Tecumseh, Michigan, was seriously injured in the crash.

Glotfelty was taken to Hamilton County Hospital in Syracuse for treatment.

The patrol said Glotfelty was alone in the plane.

SYRACUSE, Kansas (KAKE) - A 65-year-old pilot from Michigan suffered potentially serious injuries when his small plane crashed in southwest Kansas on Thursday.

The plane went down shortly before noon about a half-mile northeast of the Syracuse-Hamilton County Municipal Airport. The Kansas Highway Patrol says following departure, the fixed-wing Superior Culver LFA lost engine power. When the pilot attempted to return to the runway, the plane stalled.

The pilot, Thomas Glotfelty of Tecumseh, Michigan, was transported to a local hospital.


  1. I will never understand why pilots try to turn a low and slow plane back to the airport. It nearly always ends badly.

    1. Especially here with all that open terrain. Where I learned how to fly, once airborne in either direction we were surrounded by nothing but a 50-60' pine tree state forest. Even with that, if we lost an engine below a certain altitude and distance pre-determined, we didn't try to reverse to the runway. We were trained to just suck it up and go straight ahead into the trees as soft as possible with full flaps and mush it in and hope for the best on the way down to the ground.

    2. Tom was a friend and colleague and a very skilled airline pilot, I can promise you he did what he thought was best.

    3. Anonymous,
      you say Tom “was” a friend? Has he passed?

    4. One thing I’ve learned in my 12,000 hours is not to Monday morning quarterback accidents. Or be too judgie. Just learn from them and change your behavior accordingly. Tom is a dear friend and an accomplished pilot with decades of experience in everything from small home built singles and seaplanes to large transport category aircraft. Needless to say instead of judging his actions off a preliminary report mostly based off media text let’s hope and pray he pulls through this. We love you Tom and we’re praying for you buddy!

    5. Well said Ben G. Way to many "savants" on here that want to blabber on about accidents after looking at a couple distant pictures and reading a poorly written by someone who wouldn't know a Beech from a Boeing. Just sit back and learn from others mistakes. Ask how can I do better. No one cares that your dad's uncle leaned to fly "there" in 1972.

    6. Tom Glotfelty is my brother n law and the best uncle, pilot and brother n law ever. He was due to retire after 40 plus years of flying. Whoever asked him to pilot their " junk plane" ...should be ashamed.

    7. "I will never understand why pilots try to turn a low and slow plane back to the airport. It nearly always ends badly."

      This is actually reporting bias that you think it nearly always ends badly. The pilots that successfully turn back and land at the airport never make it on the pages of this website or otherwise get reported, so there is no way to know how many successfully pull it off. You only hear about the ones that failed. That being said, it's definitely not always the best option, but it can be given sufficient altitude and favorable winds.

  2. My first instructor told me that there was no more noble way for an airframe to die than when saving the lives of its occupants .

  3. Tom is a well skilled airline pilot, I had the priveledge of flying with him twice. I have the utmost respect for his skills, decision making. Great person, great sense of humor. Always calm and collected. You're in my thoughts and prayers buddy.

  4. Hold on Tom!!! Rgds Jasper your best friend from Holland!

    1. Jasper, What is your contact?

    2. Hello Jasper! I remember you from 2G4.

    3. Praying for my co-worker Tom 🙏🙏 One of my favorite Captains

  5. My heart goes out to Tom and his family. And with respect, I agree with the comments calling for respect.

    There but for the Grace of God, go I...

    After 34 years of flyin little to big, airplanes & helos, I have come to realize that you can be super careful all the time, but sooner or later, somethin can bite ya. For right now, it doesn't matter what happened. That comes later as the data becomes understood.

    I'm standin at a distance and keepin him and his family in my prayers. And yes to all who have asked the rest of us to hold our tongues.

    The man has a long path to recovery from his injuries. Get well TG!

    Sincerely...just another airplane geek and airline pilot from Michigan.

  6. Prior to a ferry flight of a Mooney Mite to a collector years ago, the owner rope-tied the Mite's tail tie down ring to the trailer hitch of his car and made a relatively long, high power ground run. The Mite had been inactive and stored for a long time after a M20 had replaced it.

    After replacing the ignition leads corrected excessive rpm drop during mag checks made during that ground run, the test hops around the field and ferry flight from Florida to N.J. went off without any engine trouble.

    Was the Kansas Culver accident takeoff the first one it had made after being inactive, or just a continuation of a trip in progress?

    The Culver accident aircraft was serial number 203. Video linked below is of s/n 269. Not very many of these examples of Mr. Mooney's design that led to the M18 "Mite" and M20 series are still flying. Trying to save the vintage aircraft may have been a big factor unduly influencing the turnback decision for N37888's pilot.



  7. AnonymousMonday, May 2, 2022 at 3:34:00 PM EDT
    Tom Glotfelty is my brother n law and the best uncle, pilot and brother n law ever. He was due to retire after 40 plus years of flying. Whoever asked him to pilot their " junk plane" ...should be ashamed.


    1. It is the pilot's fault, period. It matters not a whit that he was a great guy, a talented pilot, and hosted wonderful cookouts. This was a stupid move. I made one of those in 1971.

    2. Tom Glotfelty is a great man and a great pilot. He has taught many to fly and I am sure he made the best and safest decision he could in the moment. Please don't try to make it worse on his family, friends, coworkers, or acquaintances by stating how you would have handled it differently.

    3. Tom ferried my plane in December 2021. He was so easy going, cool, calm and just a nice person; more importantly, he was a skilled airline pilot that kept sharp flying GA aircraft. We stayed in touch because we're both from West Virginia. I was unaware of his accident and I kept sending texts wondering why he never responded. It wasn't until a friend was flying Spirit back to Michigan (near where Tom live) and asked her if Tom was the pilot. She googled Tom to see his picture and then shared the sad news. I was just heart broken... He was looking forward to retirement and so close... Ugh..

    4. I just found out about this. Tom
      A wonderful person. He ferried my Mooney from New York. I hated to
      Find out about this. He will be missed by many

  8. A stupid decision by a great guy. Stuff happens.

  9. It is irrelevant that he was a great guy, superior pilot, and hosted the best cookouts. I made a mistake flying a 727 into Tampa in 1987 that should have killed us all. My first officer saved us all. I still send him Christmas cards. The guy screwed up.

  10. As someone who knows and loves Tom. This was a ferry flight. He was bringing this donated, antique aircraft to a museum in Wisconsin. Also, the fuel tank on this "junk" plane is in a most dangerous place for a any compromised landing. Tom could have never anticipated engine failure. Not a single one of the armchair quarterback know it alls here, could have done better. God Bless you Tom.

    1. Since you are in the loop, perhaps you can answer two questions:
      Was the accident airfield the initial departure of the ferry journey or a continuation of an in-progress ferry flight?

      Registration to Woodville, WI and destination of WI museum didn't require flying through Kansas - was the aircraft being ferried from a restorer?

  11. We love the pass judgment as pilots. Yet we never ask ourselves how does a highly experience, highly trained pilot end up in a predicament like this? If you don’t think it could happen to you, you should probably check your ego and re-examine your thought process.


  12. The turnback on takeoff has been widely accepted for many years now. The FAA, Barry and Brian Schiff, AOPA Staff Pilots etc. A Vans RV4 owner pilot has an aural angle of attack system. He is making turnback's from as low as 350' AGL. It is mandatory training for glider rating. As far as the fuselage tank the Aeronca 7AC and Piper J3 have among the lowest incidence of fire following crash of any small GA aircraft. Both have fuselage tanks. Many airliners have large fuselage tanks. The ignorance in some of these comments is mind boggling.

    1. And the first sin of ignorance is people assuming the return attempt was made at low altitude immediately after the departure end of the runway.

      With no info so far as to where the turn began, it could be that power loss was at 1000' AGL, a safely executed 180 turn got made, but glide capability to get all the way back just wasn't sufficient.

      Surface terrain northeast of the field at the reported impact location is not all flatland. Any pilot could end up as he did in spite of a properly stabilized approach to the uneven terrain there.

  13. The pilot involved is a noble kind generous fellow who was quick to thank or praise folks and would be the pilot we all would want with us if the chips were down. Yes he could really fly and beyond that was the soul of tact patience and punctilious courtesy. He would be quick to forgive any who spoke ill as that is the kind of guy he is and he would also explain if he were here what the real deal is in this situation and I am darn sure he had good reason for whatever happened and so I will wait to hear from him on this directly. I hope someday that is possible.

  14. Can anyone give us an update on Toms condition?

    1. Tom remains in a coma and unresponsive to stimuli. Please keep him in your prayers.


  16. Tom was a good man, he taught my ground school at Garrett College when I was 15. I'm now based at 2G4 31 years later.