Super Cub Wrecks

Our review of the 100 most recent Super Cub accidents introduced us to more than the usual stupid pilot tricks we see when we do these reviews for the Used Aircraft Guide. We can’t help but wonder if the ability of the airplane to use unimproved airstrips and maneuver we’ll at low speed causes a certain percentage of pilots to shut off their aeronautical brains.

We’ll start with the more prosaic accident causes. We saw fewer runway loss of control (RLOC) accidents than we expected, 40. Of those, 13 involved the airplane flipping over in the process. Four botched go-arounds and one hard landing brought the landing-related accident total to 45—a number that is slightly below what we’ve seen for the Super Cub’s peers, the Aviat Husky, American Champion Scout and tailwheel Maules.

We noted that a number of RLOC accidents included the upwind wing being lifted in a crosswind—and two airplanes were flipped by the wind while either stopped or taxiing slowly. Properly positioning the ailerons for the wind is important in a Super Cub.

On the plus side, there were no CFIT or VFR into IMC accidents—something we cannot conveniently recall observing for any other type of airplane. It doesn’t mean Super Cub pilots aren’t scud-running, but it may mean that the good forward visibility and ability to fly slowly helps them get away with it.

Fourteen accidents involved engine problems of some sort, about half of which were undetermined. Two pilots who flipped their airplanes during botched landings on gravel bars claimed that the engine had lost power leading to a forced landing. We put those in this category although we aren’t sure the claims pass the sniff test.

Stalls and low flying combined to lead to 17 accidents. Two involved ranchers who were using their Super Cubs to herd cattle and crashed. Low altitude stalls proved fatal in four accidents. With no camber on the horizontal stabilizer, the Super Cub often rolls rapidly following a cross-control stall—and it can take several hundred feet to recover. In Alaska, those are known as “moose stalls” from fatal low-altitude stall crashes of pilots looking for game. In our review, all of the low-altitude stall/incipient spin crashes also involved severe post-crash fires.

A high proportion of Super Cub accidents involved off-airport operations. Of those, several were due to poor choices of landing sites—deeper snow than expected, rough terrain taking out landing gear or hidden ditches and fences.

Low flying escapades included one pilot who decided to buzz his neighbor’s house. He hit the neighbor’s potting shed with its right wing and then crashed into his own hangar.

A runway stunt with a motorcycle, Jeep and Super Cub went tragically wrong when the pilot hit the Jeep with his left wing, causing it to swerve. The pilot landed safely; the Jeep hit trees adjacent to the runway, killing both occupants.

Finally, a pilot who had had his medical revoked for repeated DWIs decided to “ski” his Super Cub by dragging the main gear in the water. On the fifth pass he hit a sand bar and flipped the airplane. His first words to his rescuers were, “Don’t call the cops.”