LAX01LA180
LAX01LA180

On May 18, 2001, at 1030 hours mountain standard time, a Piper PA18-150, N8524Y, lost power on takeoff and made a forced landing in an open field. The airplane sustained substantial damage on the landing rollout after it struck the airport perimeter fence at the El Tiro Gliderport, Tucson, Arizona. The airplane was operated by the Tucson Soaring Club, Inc., under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local flight. No flight plan had been filed.

The Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC) interviewed the pilot. The pilot stated that this was the first flight of the day prior to towing gliders, to make sure that the airplane was working properly. He conducted a preflight, which included visually verifying that the fuel selector was in the proper position. The pilot saw the fuel selector pointing towards the left, and it did not register that it was in the OFF position. No discrepancies were noted during the startup, run-up, or takeoff roll.

In the pilot's written statement to the Safety Board, he stated that when the engine quit, about 200-300 feet off the ground, he applied full flaps and attempted to "slip" the airplane down to land on the remaining runway. He also stated that he did not believe that he had enough altitude to make a turn back to land on runway 26. When he nosed the airplane down during the slip, the engine caught and "surprised" him because it was producing power. He stated that he stopped the slip "in hopes" of making it over the perimeter fence. He checked to make sure the mixture was rich and placed his hand on the fuel selector. He found that it was slightly out of position, and moved the selector into the detent with the handle facing forward. He reported that the engine quit a second time, and he attempted to glide to land on a road on the other side of the perimeter fence. He stated that he did not retract the flaps. The pilot indicated that the airplane landed just short of the perimeter fence. The left wing struck a tree and the right main landing gear collapsed and bent the right wing. The airplane stopped just past the fence near the road.

The pilot stated that he failed to ensure that the fuel selector valve was in the correct position prior to takeoff. He glanced at it as he got in the airplane and thought that it was in the correct position - handle pointing forward instead of backward so that the ARROW was pointing forward toward the correct fuel tank. He further stated that in the Cessna 140 that he had been flying, which has a similar looking fuel selector, when a tank is selected the handle points AWAY from the desired tank. He stated that this is opposite of the Piper 18-180. The pilot also indicated that the last pilot to fly the airplane placed the fuel selector in the OFF position the night before the accident. He indicated that this was not standard procedure for the company.

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