FTW95LA221
FTW95LA221

On May 27, 1995, at 1522 mountain daylight time, a Piper PA-18A- 180, N7808Z, impacted a dirt bank following an encounter with a dust devil during takeoff near Westcliffe, Colorado. The commercial pilot received minor injuries and the airplane was substantially damaged. No flight plan was filed for the glider towing flight conducted by High Flights Soaring Club, Inc., under Title 14 CFR Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight which was originating when the accident occurred.

According to the pilot, the airplane was departing on runway 31 at Silver West Airport and had reached a speed of 45 to 50 miles per hour when it "immediately veered hard right, and the left wing lifted." The pilot stated that he attempted to correct with full left aileron and rudder, but "there did not appear to be any response to my control inputs." The airplane exited the right side of the runway, impacted a dirt bank, nosed over and came to rest inverted. The glider being towed released and landed without incident.

The pilot and six witnesses reported observing dust devils moving across the airport around the time of the accident. One witness stated that during the afternoon, "gusts" passed through the area that were described as "thermals (dustdevils)." That witness also stated that "although there was no visible dust" it "tossed folding chairs and loose articles around." The glider pilot reported that after he released the tow rope and passed the tow plane he "entered strong lift and went up to 20-30 feet."

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