ANC09LA035
ANC09LA035

On April 25, 2009, about 1630 Alaska daylight time, a tundra tire-equipped Piper PA-18-135 airplane, N3256B, sustained substantial damage when it nosed over during landing on water-covered tidal mud flats, about 6 miles south of Palmer, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) personal flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, when the accident occurred. The sole occupant, the uncertificated pilot, was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local area flight. The flight originated at the Wolf Lake Airport, Palmer, Alaska, about 1530.

During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), on April 25, about 2030, the pilot related that after a successful landing on the mud-covered tidal flats, while he attempted to turn the airplane around for taxi, a gust of wind lifted the tail of the airplane, and it nosed over. The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical problems with the airplane. He said that the airplane sustained no damage during the nose over, and shortly after the accident he and some friends were able to right the airplane, and he flew it back to the Wolf Lake Airport. The pilot said that he was a student pilot, with a third-class medical certificate. When the NTSB IIC asked the pilot for his most recent medical exam date, he responded by saying that he did not have his wallet with him, and he did not know the date of the exam.

During a telephone conversation with the NTSB IIC on April 25, an Alaska state trooper that responded to the site said witnesses told him that just before the accident, they saw the airplane "ski" across the water, with the airplane's main wheels touching the surface of the water. The state trooper said that when he arrived on scene, the airplane had already been removed from the accident site, and had been hidden in trees and brush. The pilot was not at the accident site when the state trooper arrived.

The state trooper said that an individual at the site provided him with photos of the airplane before the airplane was recovered. The photos show substantial damage to the airplane's left wing lift strut, fuselage, and rudder.

During a telephone conversation with the NTSB IIC on April 26, a witness to the accident reported that he and family members were camped on the beach next to the tidal flats when, according to the witness, the airplane was first seen flying recklessly, and very close to the water. He said that as he and his family members watched, the airplane's large tundra tires touched down on the water, and the airplane appeared to "water-ski" across the surface of the water on the main landing gear wheels. The witness said that the accident airplane did five or six touch-and-go “ski” landings on the water. He said that on the accident touch-and-go landing, the airplane's main wheels struck a sand bar, and it nosed over in shallow water. When the witness arrived at the accident site to check on the condition of the pilot, the pilot told the witnesses, in part: "Don't call the cops." The witness said that about 45 minutes after the accident, a group of people arrived on site, and they turned the airplane over using an all terrain vehicle, then towed the airplane into the brush, out of sight, then left the area.

The witness provided the NTSB and the Alaska State Troopers with a series of short video clips of the accident airplane as its main landing gear wheels skim across the water for several hundred feet. The last video clip shows the airplane nosed over on the tidal flats in shallow water.

During a telephone conversation with the NTSB IIC on April 28, a representative from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regional flight surgeon's office, Alaska Region, reported that the accident pilot's third-class medical certificate was administratively denied on August 1, 2008, due to two previous convictions of driving while intoxicated (DWI) within the last 10 years.

According to information provided by the Alaska State Troopers on April 28, the pilot was charged and convicted of DWI in 2000, 2002, and 2004. Additionally, on August 30, 2008, the pilot was charged with a fourth DWI, which is a felony.

According to the FAA, the pilot did not possess a current medical certificate or a student pilot's certificate at the time of the accident.

The pilot did not submit an NTSB Pilot/Operator Accident Report form (6120.1) as required.

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