NTSB Identification: ANC10LA011
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, December 31, 2009 in Willow, AK
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/20/2010
Aircraft: PIPER PA-18, registration: N146T
Injuries: 1 Serious.

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

The private pilot was departing on a Title 14, CFR Part 91, personal flight. He said that shortly after takeoff, all engine power was lost, and he turned the airplane left, 180 degrees, 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. A postaccident examination revealed that the airplane's fuel valve selector handle was in the near off position. No mechanical anomalies were discovered during the wreckage examination. The pilot said that he fueled the airplane just before the accident flight, but he 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, he indicated that there were no preaccident mechanical problems with the airplane, and in the section of the report "Recommendation (How could this accident have been prevented?)" the pilot wrote, in part: "Do checklist" and "Land straight ahead when the engine stops." Given the lack of mechanical deficiencies with the airplane's engine or flight controls, in conjunction with the pilot’s statement, it is likely the pilot failed to ensure that the airplane's 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.

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

The pilot’s failure to ensure that the airplane’s 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.

Full narrative available

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