The Crashes: Takeoff and Landing

We were interested, and pleased, to see that runway loss of control (RLOC) only accounted for 21 of the most recent Taylorcraft accidents—when we do an accident scan for tailwheel airplanes we expect to see RLOC account for 50 to 60 percent of the total. Even though it appears the classic T-craft has better than average manners on the ground for a tailwheel airplane, the modest power available means that if something starts going wrong on landing, it’s wise to go-around early. We counted six blown go-around accidents; three involved hitting obstructions off to the side of the runway, and three hit obstructions off the end of the runway.

We also noted that 13 accidents involved hitting obstructions on takeoff or landing—seven were on landing and included everything from hitting power lines to snagging the tailwheel on the airport fence. The modest power and climb rate may have been a factor in the six airplanes that crashed into something, usually trees, after takeoff.

One pilot allowed only 600 feet of clearance when he tried to cross a ridge in the mountains. He hit a downdraft. Not much later, he hit the ridge and wrecked the airplane. Fortunately, he survived.

Of the 16 engine power loss accidents, five were attributed to carb ice, enough to warrant attention.

Two things got our attention during the accident sweep—one a coincidence, the other a concern.

First the coincidence—in looking at 100 accidents, we almost never see two that occur at or near the same community, yet four of the Taylorcraft accidents showed as occurring at Wasilla, Alaska. We wondered if there was some T-craft-specific form of heavy gravity in the area.

Second, the concern—we saw way too many stupid pilot tricks that killed or injured Taylorcraft owners. Not the usual things such as VFR into IMC—there was only one such crash—or running out of fuel—there were only two of those— but there were eight crashes where the pilot decided to fly low and hit something—more than double the number we usually see in 100 accidents.

What we saw was further along the “what was he thinking?” spectrum. With limited space, we can only cite a select few.

Following a precautionary landing on a road, the pilot hit a truck when he attempted to take off.

Four pilots tried to hand prop their airplanes without anyone at the controls—although one had a helper hanging on to the tail. You guessed it—the airplanes got away. One of the pilots, of a T-craft on floats, was grievously injured when he stuck his leg into the prop disk as he tried to stop the airplane from hitting a dock.

Two owners suffered engine stoppage due to debris in the fuel system—the airplanes hadn’t been annualed for five and seven years, respectively.

One pilot convinced a construction crew to move its equipment off of a NOTAMed closed runway. He took off downwind. When he returned, he landed downwind, with a crosswind, and caught a wing on one of those pieces of equipment that was parked off of the runway. It was his fourth accident in three years. One more and he’s an ace for the other side.