On December 31, 2009, about 1400 Alaska standard time, a Piper PA-18 airplane, N146T, received substantial damage when it collided with snow-covered terrain following a loss of engine power shortly after takeoff from Runway 31 at the Willow Airport, Willow, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) personal flight under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91, when the accident occurred. The sole occupant, a private pilot, sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The flight was returning to the pilot's private airstrip in Wasilla, Alaska.

During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on December 31, an Alaska state trooper that responded to the site just after the accident said when he arrived on scene, the pilot had already crawled out of the airplane to wait for arriving rescue crews. The state trooper said that the pilot told him that just after takeoff, as the airplane climbed to 200 feet agl, all engine power was lost. He then began a left turn back to the airport, which was followed by a rapid, nose and left wing low descent. The airplane collided with an area of snow-covered terrain about 275-yards west of the departure end of Runway 31. It came to rest inverted, sustaining substantial damage to the wings, fuselage, and empennage.

Witnesses reported seeing the airplane do a series of touch-and-go landings on Runway 31 prior to refueling. After the pilot refueled the airplane, it departed Runway 31 on the accident takeoff.

On January 1, 2010, two Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airworthiness inspectors from the Anchorage Flight Standards District Office, traveled to the accident airport, and examined the airplane before recovery efforts began. The FAA inspectors reported that upon their arrival, the airplane’s undamaged fuel valve selector handle was discovered near the off position. Further examination of the airplane revealed no mechanical anomalies.

Due to the pilot’s extensive injuries sustained in the accident, he was not interviewed by the NTSB IIC until after his release from the hospital and after his recovery.

During a telephone conversation with the NTSB IIC on February 2, 2010, the pilot stated that after completing a series of touch-and-go landings at the Willow Airport, he elected to purchase fuel from a local self-serve fuel vendor before returning to his private airstrip in Wasilla. After filling both of the airplane's wing-mounted fuel tanks, the pilot said he taxied the airplane to a friend's hangar, and after a short visit with his friend, he taxied the airplane to Runway 31, then immediately started his takeoff run. He said that just after takeoff all engine power was lost. Unable to restore engine power, the pilot turned the airplane left, 180 degrees, to attempt an emergency landing on Runway 13, but it continued to descend, followed by a rapid, nose low descent. He said the airplane collided with an area of snow-covered terrain, in a nose down attitude, and the airplane nosed over after impact.

The pilot stated that he could not recall if he closed the fuel valve while fueling, or while he visited with his friend, or if 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/Operator Aircraft Accident Report (NTSB Form 6120.1) submitted by the pilot, he indicated that there were no preaccident mechanical problems with the airplane. Additionally, in the section of the report labeled "Recommendation (How could this accident have been prevented?)" the pilot wrote, in part: "Do checklist" and "land straight ahead when the engine stops."

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