NTSB Identification: ANC96TA148.
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Accident occurred Sunday, September 08, 1996 in ELMENDORF, AK
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/31/1998
Aircraft: Piper PA-18, registration: N4372A
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this public aircraft accident report.

Initially, the instructor pilot (CFI) was seated in the front of the airplane, and the commercial certificated dual student pilot was seated in the rear. The purpose of flight was to instruct the student in glider tow operations. They performed two glider tow operations and decided to change seats. The student exited the rear of the airplane and stood outside, while the CFI climbed over the front seat into the rear. This was accomplished while the engine was running. A third glider tow operation was accomplished, then while climbing during the fourth glider tow operation, the engine lost power. The pilots selected a muskeg field for a forced landing. At about tree height, the engine surged to full power and then stopped again. The pilots missed landing the airplane in the muskeg field. They landed the wheel airplane in a small lake, and it sank. Examination of the cockpit before the airplane was raised showed the fuel selector positioned between the left and right fuel tank positions. Postaccident inspection of the airplane and its systems disclosed no evidence of a preexisting mechanical anomaly. The engine was supplied with fresh fuel and started. It ran normally. The fuel selector was moved to the position where it was discovered, while submerged. The engine then ran about two minutes and stopped.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

loss of engine power due to fuel starvation, which resulted from improper positioning of the fuel tank selector; inadequate supervision by the flight instructor (CFI); and the flight crew's improper emergency procedure.

Full narrative available

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